What makes a good game? Is it jaw-dropping graphics? Quirky gameplay? A long campaign? Lots of content? Whatever you think makes a good game; I can almost guarantee that Rockstar Presents…Table Tennis is not your ideal definition of what a good game should be. That’s the point though, as everyone loves an underdog right? RPTT is definitely what you could class as a next-gen underdog, and when you consider that there isn’t any create-a-character features or any real life table tennis “stars” included in the game, you could begin to think that this underdog has already had it’s day. This game isn’t about including the features that everyone wants to see though, it’s about one thing: simplicity.
When you begin to look at the controls for the game, you can see that this game is in keeping with its philosophy of simplicity. Controlling your character and the direction of your shots is left down to the left stick, and hitting the ball is either down to the face buttons or the right stick. The buttons represent the type of spin you wish to put on the ball; Y gives the ball backspin, A gives the ball top spin, and X and B gives left and right spin respectively. The only other two buttons used are the left and right bumpers, with the left bumper performing drop shots and the right bumper performing Focus Shots.
Seeing as though no game seems to be complete without a bit of time manipulating these days, the Focus Shot is all about performing one amazing slow motion slam shot, which triples the power, speed and spin of your shot. Obviously this shot is a bit more special than the rest, so to actually perform this shot you have to build up the Focus metre at the bottom of the screen through hitting excellent shots consecutively.
Being based on table tennis, this means that content-wise the game is limited. You can play in tournaments and exhibition games, but unfortunately that’s as far as it spans. However, this has allowed Rockstar to focus on everything else to a massive degree, and it shows. Everything looks just right, from the rippling shirts, to the ping pong physics and of course the gameplay. Rockstar have even produced an individual skeleton for each character to make sure that everyone looks and moves different, and each characters has their own way of holding the paddle. As you can tell from the screens too, this is a pretty game. Rockstar have stated that around 30,000 polygons make up each character, which allows the smallest detail to show through in a big way. Players even sweat more or less down to the stress they are being put under, for example being a couple of points down or hitting a lot of slam shots. Add Live play (including spectator modes a la PGR3), and a small price tag of £26,99 and you can see that Rockstar might just be on to another winner.
If you’ve ever happened to catch a game of table tennis on T.V., there’s something bizarrely addictive about it that makes you sit and watch, that freezes you to the chair and makes you mutter an involuntary “ooo” at the end of every rally (maybe the last one is just me). The game produces the same hypnotic effect, whether just watching or playing. The gameplay remains simple, and the rallies are longer than what the full-size brother of tennis would produce, which adds an air of intensity and air-punching small victories to the game. The game also has a pick-up-and-play air to it to, almost in the same way a portable game might have. You can boot it up for a couple of games while you’re waiting for your girlfriend to get ready (or maybe a whole tournament in that specific case), or just while you’re waiting for a taxi. It’s worlds apart from the more complex nature of GRAW or the technicalities of Oblivion.
Evidently, therein lies the appeal of RPTT. It doesn’t rely on a movie script to move the story along, because it doesn’t have one, or massive retina burning explosions to sell the game, it just relies on one thing. Simplicity.
Who says originality is dead in sports games?