Table Tennis from Rockstar was one of the strangest hits for the 360 in 2006. The mere thought of Rockstar, the rebel game developer responsible for controversial hits like the Grand Theft Auto and Manhunt series delving into the sports market was surprising enough. But bringing Table Tennis onto a console! Only Rockstar could’ve pulled it off. The games charm, along with its fantastic presentation made it a winner.
You’d think combining this with the Wii’s motion sensing technology, already proven in tennis style games (Wii Sports), would make for a knockout blow. Sadly, the games conversion to the Wii isn’t as successful
The primary reason for this is the new controls designed specifically for the Wii. The standard control scheme has you swinging the Wii-mote around like you would a normal paddle. You aim your shot by swinging the paddle left, right, up or down. Holding a direction on the D-Pad adds spin to the ball. Using this control scheme the AI moves your player and does a fairly decent job. This is by far the best control scheme. The other two options are less enjoyable. The Sharpshooter uses the analog sticks to place the ball, though it seems like the players who use this control scheme would be better suited to playing on the 360 as it defeats the purpose of the motion sensing controls somewhat. Control freak uses the nunchuk to control your player, but this option is more difficult and definitely takes some practice for little gain.
All three options do what they were intended to but there are some issues that have a drastic effect on the gameplay. Rather than having to time a swing for an optimum shot in correlation with your players’ movement, you can swing as early as you like and the computer will automatically hit the ball with perfect timing. The game even advocates swinging as early as possible, because the impact of spin is determined by the length of time the appropriate D pad button is held down. This in conjunction with the near impossibility to miss hit a ball off the table makes for a frustratingly simple game. Players can actually face in the opposite direction, swing the Wii-mote at regular intervals, and still win.
So while the single player component of the game may be a little bland, there’s certainly no denying that there’s a brilliant time to be had with your mates in multiplayer mode. The difference in the two modes is actually so substantial that it should be the main factor in deciding to buy this game. Going head to head with friends still suffers from the same simplicity involved in hitting the ball, but these long rallies bring in another external factor — fitness. When rallies get into the post-hundred region, those who haven’t done an ounce of exercise since fifth form PE class are going to genuinely struggle to swing the Wii-mote. This certainly adds an interesting dimension to the multiplayer and makes for an extremely entertaining battle.
Table Tennis on the 360 was an entertaining game, but the primary draw card was the lifelike, high definition visuals. With the limited processing power of the Wii, it’s hardly surprising that the graphics have been noticeably notched back. The game runs smoothly, but it lacks some of the distinct features that made the game such a hit on the 360. The textures are bland and there’s no fantastic centre net physics or little sweat beads appearing on your player. What developers need to realise with the Wii, is that the best-looking games rely on their bright, exuberant art style and not realistic textures. Developers need to stick to the Mario Galaxy style art and leave the photo like graphics for the more powerful platforms.
The sound is serviceable but not fantastic by any means. The game sounds authentic with crowd and table noises, but nothing that really stands out.
The developers at Rockstar Games certainly had the right idea when it comes to Table Tennis for the Wii. The game certainly has its charms, with fantastic multiplayer, but as a whole the game just isn’t as good as its 360 counterpart. That was the real problem for Rockstar, releasing Table Tennis on the 360 first because the Wii version sadly just can’t compare.