Thursday, June 29, 2006

Rockstar Games, for Xbox 360,
rated E for Everyone, $39.99.

I love the fact that the game is titled "Rockstar Games Table Tennis," as if there were a slew of competing table tennis games out there flooding the market.

Of course, the title could also serve as a reminder that, yes indeed, the makers of "Grand Theft Auto" and other affronts to all that is good and decent, have made a game about something as benign as ping-pong.

I'll spare you the countless unfunny jokes about mafia bosses and dead hookers that other reviews of this game can't seem to shy away from, though, and cut to the chase. "Table Tennis " is a well-made, fun game that (surprise!) is suitable for the whole family.

The game is about as basic as you can get. After going through a training mode, you pick one of a handful of characters and from there, either enter a tournament, try on an exhibition game or play with friends, either at home or via Xbox Live.

The game makes a serious effort to show the actual sport and, yes, strategy involved in table tennis. Winning the game is determined not just by how hard you hit the ball, but by how much and what kind of spin you give it.

Thus, the four buttons on the controller correspond to differenttypes of spin shots (backspin, topspin, etc.). You use the left thumbstick to determine where you want the ball to land, but be careful! If the controller starts vibrating wildly, it means you're in danger of hitting the ball out of bounds.

You can also do soft shots or smashes, charge your shot for extra oomph or produce a "focus shot" to help you get the drop on your opponent.

Although the game is stripped down, it's not shoddy. In fact the game looks gorgeous on the Xbox 360, with a wealth of detail, from the player's expressions to the finish of the actual table .

This title really shows off the new console's abilities.

As I said, the game is pretty stripped down, perhaps in order to offer a counterpoint to other, overstuffed sports games that feel the need to throw in everything and the kitchen sink in order to make consumers feel they're getting their money's worth.

It's a refreshing change, and it goes along with Rockstar 's general nose-thumbing philosophy toward the gaming industry in general.

But it also limits the experience for single players. After a few tournaments and unlocking some meager extras, there's just not enough of a compelling reason for players to continue on their lonesome.

If you have an extra controller and some friends, however, or an Xbox Live connection, the value of the game increases considerably.

Overall, "Rockstar Games Table Tennis " shows the same dedication to quality that the company has become known for. Just no dead hookers.

Arrrgh. And I was doing so well, too.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2006


At 4:37 PM, Blogger Ed Cunard said...

Why, oh why is this only for the XBOX 360? I'd totally get back into video games for this.

I'm dead serious, too. Table tennis is one of my lifelong loves.

At 9:01 PM, Blogger Chris said...

I would not be a bit surprised if Rockstar decides to port the system over to another console in a few months. The question is, which console? Will they make it for the PS2 or the incredibly expensive PS3? Or, dare I hope, will it come out for Nintendo's Wii? I'd love to try out the game using those little wireless remotes.

At any rate, let me know when you're in my neck of the woods next time and I'll let you play a few rounds.

At 11:37 AM, Blogger Ed Cunard said...

That's a done deal.

Actually, now I'm craving the real thing.

At 7:24 PM, Blogger MegoSteve said...

i really want this. I wish they would have included a create-a-player mode, though.

At 9:10 PM, Blogger Chris said...

Steve -- Yeah, that probably would have added some length to the single player experience. I do think, however, they were trying to go the "anti-EA" route, and deliberately offer as few bells as whistles as possible.

Still a really good game though.

At 8:09 PM, Blogger MegoSteve said...

I finally picked it up yesterday and it's great. It is very stripped down, but that places the focus on the game rather than learning obscure plays and player stats. It's like the anti-Madden.


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