Sport season has arrived! It is time to bring out your foam fingers, prepare the big screen, and sit back to watch the excitement of…table tennis? Truth be told, this sport isn’t usually followed by many sports-loving Americans. Sports fans might be too busy watching sports Americans are actually good at… but that’s for another time.
I know what you’re thinking: “Why would I want to play table tennis?” One reason would be that it’s made by Rockstar, a.k.a. the daddy of Grand Theft Auto. They have at least earned enough for you to give this a test, right? After releasing for the Xbox 360 a year ago, it should be no shocker that Rockstar’s table tennis game came to the Wii, with the Wii Remote aspect almost too obvious a fit. It is quite a surprising shift to go from carjackers to ping pong, but happily it’s a pleasant surprise.
The graphical detail of this game isn’t razzle dazzle, but then again, table tennis is a no-nonsense sport. The player models are nicely done and look pretty realistic. Besides the players, you’ll mostly be watching a ball bounce back and forth, so graphics aren’t really the selling point anyway.
Rockstar Table Tennis is all about control, with three different control styles to choose from. Each requires plenty of movement of the Wii Remote, and two of them make use of the Nunchuk. You could go with the default Standard mode or plug in the Nunchuk for either Control Freak or Sharp Shooter mode. Control Freak lets you move your athlete with the Nunchuk and use the Wii Remote as your paddle. Sharp Shooter allows for more precise ball control and spins.
The gameplay itself is pretty addicting, to be honest. You have four players to choose from at the outset, with a few more unlocked during Tournament Mode. They all have different strengths and weaknesses, ranging from slow and strong to fast and precise. You can also unlock various outfits and tables through casual play, all of which ensure the perfectionist in you gets plenty of goals to try and accomplish.
Besides Control Freak mode, your athlete will automatically move to a position where he/she can possibly return the ball. Your job is to use that Wii Remote paddle to return the ball and, hopefully, score points. Ball control is key, and you can aim for specific spots on the table by swinging the paddle in that direction. Using the D-pad, you can add spin to the ball and cause it to move in a certain direction. Countering your opponent’s spin with the same type will knock them off balance, so fast eyes are important.
If the single-player mode doesn’t give you enough challenge, you can challenge a pal to a multiplayer match, but he’ll have to be in the same room, since online matches are unfortunately missing. Just make sure to spread out, or you’ll fall for the old “accidentally hit ’em in the face with the Wii Remote to get the match point” strategy.
The game does a great job of handling all the movement you’ll be doing, and any points scored against you are usually just too fast for you to react in time. The controls would be perfect if it were not for serving. While not a huge impediment to the game, serving can get frustrating, and quickly. You’ll usually have to swing the Wii Remote a few times to set up the serve, which can lead to hitting the net on a key point.
Another enjoyable part, at least to me, is how seriously the game takes itself sometimes. You’ll constantly be amused be fans giving you encouragement or chanting your home country if you’re really on a roll. The players will also do victory poses and dances to celebrate those tough matches, and you’ll get a chuckle or two from players attempting diving saves only to land flat on their faces, or from tired players suffering from waterfalls of sweat after those muscle-pounding volleys that come from this gauntlet of a sport.
Rockstar Table Tennis is a logical and perfect fit for the Wii’s control scheme, and it’s nice to finally see the game make its logical jump from Xbox 360 to Nintendo’s next-gen console. Although the gameplay modes are limited and the online play is non-existent, Wii owners should find plenty to cheer about with this game, Rockstar fan or not.
– John Dempsey