IGN Review of Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis
Back in May of 2006 Rockstar released Table Tennis for Xbox 360. As a switch-up from the usual crime, violence, and verbal obscenities that Rockstar is known for, Table Tennis proved a very important point for the company: It's not just about blood and guts with Rockstar. And despite some depth issues and generally basic gameplay, Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis was a success, and still remains to be one of the purest, classically oriented games on 360. Now that the Wii is in full swing it's high time for Rockstar to bring that magic to Nintendo's new system, and with Manhunt 2 launching later this year the company is again in the same situation, proving to an audience of new console owners that Rockstar isn't just about violence and destruction. And again, just like our sister site, we confirm the company's statement, as Rockstar Presents Table Tennis is a purely entertaining budget title; nothing more, nothing less.
In its transition from 360 over to Wii, Rockstar Table Tennis goes virtually unchanged. Aside from the lack of online play, players looking for the core Table Tennis experience on Wii will find exactly the same action others have already on 360. Same budget price, same unlockable characters and costumes, same strong points, and the same flaws. You'll be locked in singles competition only, as the game focuses on the fast and furious tabletop sport played across the world, but with it comes a ton of one-on-one competition, as players can manipulate spin and power in a way no other table tennis (or ping pong) game has before.
The obvious attraction this time around is the Wii controls, as it is with any "Wii-make" design originated on a traditional console. Players have a great deal of options this time around, so if you dig the original, traditional control of the 360 version you can still play in that fashion, using the analog stock to control the destination of the ball with every shot, and having button presses instead of motion. For a more Wii-centric feel, however - one that we recommend - players can set aside the nunchuk controller altogether, instead using Wii motion to put the ball anywhere on the table based on your stroke, and manipulating spin by holding the d-pad in any eight-way direction.
For the most part this control scheme works, and our only gripes with it - few they may be - revolve around the control not exactly attempting a 1:1 style, but instead going with a few motions that are simply close to a 1:1 mechanic. You won't, for instance, swing backhand and forehand to determine what your character does. You won't tilt the controller or tweak it during a hit to add spin, but instead do motions in eight specific ways to pull off different shots. A deep shot to the left, for instance, is done by swinging the controller up and to the left as you would an actual paddle. To do a shorter dropshot, however, you won't just hit the virtual ball lightly, but instead swing the controller down and to any direction. It works great, but it won't exactly have that Wii Sports feel, where you can actually miss a hit for swinging the wrong way.
In addition, the entire game is based on charging shots or waiting to add spin, as you're essentially pumping up the spin by holding a preferred d-pad direction until you hit. The longer you hold it, the more spin you'll have, so while strong players will wait until the proper time to swing anyways, the game knows to anticipate a shot as well. If you swing early, your player will still wind up and hit at the right time; it'll just be a pathetically weak shot with no spin manipulation. Again, it works just fine in its current design, but it isn't exactly as accurate as it could be with the controller. We'd rather see someone whiff a shot if they swing early, rather than returning a shot well after their real-world swing is done.
Of course this design is a matter of preference, and we're not saying that the current controls don't work; they do, and they're fun. We've had volleys rocket up into the 100s, each player physically tiring from swinging time and time again. The original game was entirely button-based, and being a huge fan and owner of the original game I personally was excited to see if Wii's control could add to the otherwise bland button-based swinging of the 360 version, and it has. We'd go as far as to say the Wii version plays better, is more entertaining, and far more intense than its 360 counterpart simply based off the motion controls, and that's a huge testament to Rockstar's design.
The game does have its downsides though. For starters, there's no online, so while 360 owners have had the chance to play countless hours of internet play the Wii version doesn't include the mode over a year after its predecessor's release. You'll also notice that while the 360 version hit the bar (if not raising it a bit) for its character models, lighting, and atmosphere, the Wii version isn't quite up to its console's pinnacle, offering models that look great, but nothing as mind-blowing or impressive as the impact the other versions had. The game doesn't look bad - far from it - but with games like Mario Galaxy, Smash Bros. Brawl, or the stylistic Zack & Wiki releasing later this year, Rockstar Table Tennis won't have that visual impact that it did when it arrived on 360. That doesn't stop it from being a solid game overall; it just lacks that graphical "wow" factor this time around.
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