‘Virtua Tennis Challenge’ Mobile Game Review
While Wimbledon just a month away, this is a great time for gamers to grab their virtual rackets and hit the courts for some intense one-on-one play, and Sega knows just how to deliver that action with their new app for touch play sports junkies – Virtua Tennis Challenge.
Virtua Tennis Challenge is loaded with action packed gameplay and plenty of ways to get virtual tennis elbow. Compete against 50 players in 18 different stadiums around the world. Multiple modes include the main SPT World Tour, where you attempt to take your player from the lowest ranking to becoming the #1 player in the world. Exhibition Match allows for a quick game in any of the courts you've unlocked during the World Tour. Multiplayer allows online play over Bluetooth or a wi-fi connection.
Those of you familiar with the Virtua Tennis franchise will be surprised at how good Sega's port looks on your device. Animations are fluid and on my iPhone 4 I didn't notice any frame rate issues. Player movement was smooth on the court and there are enough different animations to keep you entertained while you play. When your player attacks the net and jumps for a smash hit, knocking your opponent on his ass, it's pretty satisfying to watch. The different courts and backgrounds looked awesome. It was like I was playing a Dreamcast game in the palm of my hands. I was very impressed with how gorgeous the game was.
Character models look great and you have a variety of players to choose from from different countries around the world. You can rename your character and his birthdate (my player is 60 years old), change his country of origin and his play style. One thing you can't do is change his look, which was disappointing. I was hoping to be able to take a picture of myself and put him on my player, but I think I'm asking too much from my iPhone games. Another huge disappointment, which I hope Sega rectifies in a future update, is there are no women tennis players in the game. C'mon Sega! No need to be lazy and ignore the ladies.
I recommend hitting the Training mode as soon as you begin. Jumping into a match like I did sent me packing to the loser's circle in seconds because I wasn't familiar with the swipe controls. Training mode was great and really lets you get a feel for the game before you jump in with different drills and lots of helpful tutorials.
The swiping gesture responds well to your touch, but if you're not exact with your movements and the kind of shot you want, a lot of times the ball will go out of the court or you'll hit some generic shot. While I found the swipe controls to be a nice change, I quickly switched to the Virtual Pad controls which put a separate joystick and four buttons on the screen. There are four different control types to choose from, with Swipe being the only one different from the others. I found this control type to be the most responsive and helped me make trickier shots on the court. Lob, Slice and Drop shots are shot options as is your Super Shot, which is made available when your concentration meter fills up, allowing you to hit the ball so hard, it will be tough for your opponent to be able to counter.
Some reviews have stated how the gameplay lags. When you touch the controls, your player will swing and miss. That's because you're hitting the button (or swiping) too late. As soon as your opponent hits, you need to swipe or hit the button right away. This is explained to you in the Training mode, another reason you shouldn't jump right into a match in a sports game if the control scheme is unfamiliar to you. Don't blame the game if you're not going to take the time to learn how to play it. I had some really intense matches against high ranking opponents and the controls never let me down.
Also buried within the Options menu are two different camera types – TV and Dynamic. TV is your default perspective. I tried Dynamic and while it looks cool, it can be tough to tell where hits from your opponent are going. You'll see some cool camera angles from the many replays shown during your matches, including a top down one which would have been fun to try out as a camera option. You can also adjust the Music and SFX volume, but I found neither one to be irritating. The music is actually quite good and non-obtrusive, and the different players all have their own unique grunts during gameplay.
One you're familiar with the controls, it's time to jump into a match. Exhibition Mode is what it is, and I only played it once. Mutiplayer worked well over wi-fi, though I was disappointed I couldn't choose from a list of friends. It just threw me into a random match with someone. I have a great wi-fi connection, but noticed some lag between the time I hit the screen and what my player does. I had to respond quicker than I normally would, so hopefully that's fixed in a future update. You do earn money for beating an opponent online, so if you want to make some quick cash, jump in and beat up on some kids.
SPT World Tour is where you'll be spending most of your time. Each season in the tour lasts 18 days and your total points earned and ranking count during that 18-day period. Hamburg, Stockholm and Madrid were available for me to play right away, but if I want to try other venues, even if I had earned enough cash, I had to wait until the next day for those courts to open up, which I found rather odd. In the Options menu you can choose how many matches and sets you want and you can turn the tiebreakers on or off. Each tournament costs money, so start off small, get some victories and work your way up to the higher venues.
One thing I found confusing was the ranking system and how it worked in the game. I'd find myself ranked at #23, going up against the #2 or #1 ranked player, who would decimate me each time. It's not exactly the kind of ladder climb I thought the game would have. I wasn't expecting to go up against the highest ranked opponent in the game so quickly. It can make your progress as a player rather frustrating. It takes a long time and a lot of trick shots to score points against these guys, but that just makes you want to improve your own skill set and come back for more. Each victory earns you more and more sponsors, who give you cash each day in case you run out. Another nice touch are the different news clips that randomly pop up after you win a tournament, along with your stats and where your winning shots landed on the court.
Virtua Tennis Challenge is a great addition to your library of app games. While the price is a tad steep at $4.99, you do feel like you get your money's worth with how polished of an experience the gameplay actually is. I would have liked a more balanced ranking system, the ability to customize your characters more, women players, and a lag free wi-fi experience, but these are minor faults in an ace of a game.
App Store Link: Virtua Tennis Challenge | By Sega America | Price: $4.99 | Version: 1.0 | 289 MB | Rating 4+