Rockstar Games presents Table Tennis
Does Rockstar's excellent game translate well to Wii?
Wii, Xbox 360
Remember when Table Tennis was announced for the 360 a couple of years or so back? The incredulous reaction from forums the world over just served to highlight how far out of leftfield it was. The company responsible for one of the biggest game franchises of all time as well as another series that has been banned seemingly everywhere in the world were making... a realistic, sedate, no-tongue-in-cheek table tennis game?
Yes, they were. And it turned out to be pretty damn fun, if you recall. Straight forward and fun, with an effective control setup and challenging gameplay. Throw in online multiplayer and a budget price and it was a winner all-round. A positive experiment on Rockstar's part and proof that the company was capable of more than just GTA and Manhunt.
So when it came to be that Table Tennis was announced for the Wii, the people sat up and took notice. An already good game, made better by the fact that you can swing your arms around like an utter twat to control it? Heaven! But ah, my poor fools - do you not see? It's gone annoyingly tits-up.
It's on the Wii, so it controls how you would expect - the Wiimote is your paddle, and you swing it in different directions to place the ball in different areas. So far so good. Spin is activated using the D-pad and 'focus shots' are triggered with the B button. That's all fine and dandy. Movement is handled automatically by the computer on the default control method, but can be player controlled using the nunchuck analogue stick if the mood takes you. The third control method sees the nunchuck taking control of shot placement, which can also prove useful - if not a bit odd and showing a lack of confidence in the original control scheme of swinging where you want it to go.
The point where the control falls down is evident as soon as you take over - everything is responsive, no doubt, and the options open it up so no one can really complain about not being able to handle it. The problem comes in the fact that this is a game made for another console and ported over. When you swing your Wiimote you are not in direct control of the player, you have simply told the computer you wish to swing, meaning it can be a second or so before the character actually attempts a hit.
This isn't in a 'the control is broken' way, as the game actually encourages you to swing earlier, but more of a 'my god this is really disjointed and jarring' way. Swinging the Wiimote in any way seems completely arbitrary, more akin to a simple button press than the innovative experience we're meant to have with Nintendo's sexy little box. It simply doesn't feel like you're playing table tennis, and with the Wii that is something of a cardinal sin.
Now granted, this doesn't break the game - it still works fine. It isn't perfect, and frankly the 360 version trumps it in every regard, control included - but the individual experience you can only get from the Wii just isn't there. You may as well be playing with a normal pad and avoiding the shoulder injury like I managed to receive.
While the basic game is still present and works how it always did (though not necessarily how it should on the hardware), other areas suffer thanks to the Wii's lack of clout. Graphically things are decent enough, but put side by side with the original and it looks like quite a dog - and what is up with player's legs? They look WEIRD. The playing arenas feel empty - devoid of atmosphere - and even the incidental, dynamic music, once so perfect, now feels out of place.
There's just a spark missing; what was originally a daring experiment into what Rockstar could achieve has lost its excellence on its Wii outing. The lack of online multiplayer just harms things even further. Though, to be fair, two people flailing like fools fit better together in one room than they do separately in different parts of the world.