PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Reviews

Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis

Arun Subramanian

Although the Wii version of Table Tennis offers players three separate control schemes, none seem to take full advantage of the Wii remote.


Publisher: Rockstar
Genres: Sports
Display Artist: Rockstar Leeds / Rockstar San Diego
Price: $39.99
Multimedia: Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis
Platforms: Wii (reviewed), Xbox 360
Number of players: 1-2
ESRB rating: Everyone
Developer: Rockstar San Diego
US release date: 2007-10-15
Amazon UK affiliate
Amazon affiliate
Developer website

I have to admit that Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis was one of the reasons I bought an Xbox 360. That likely puts me in the minority, but every time I read something about the game prior to its release, my interest was piqued further and further, till I finally had to find out for myself. In its 360 incarnation, Table Tennis was fast-paced, tense, and controlled nearly perfectly once you got the hang of it. I chose to ignore the face button control scheme in favor of the, in my opinion, far more organic dual analog setup. As such, Table Tennis played like a much more intense version of Virtua Tennis, and as rallies got higher and higher, it was pretty easy to enter a Zen-like state of doing without thinking. As such an ardent fan of the original, I was looking very forward to the game's Wii incarnation. I was expecting the obvious motion controls that would, hopefully, make the connection with the game even more fluid and polished.

Although the Wii version of Table Tennis offers players three separate control schemes, none seem to take full advantage of the Wii remote. All require you to use the Wiimote to swing, which seems obvious, but they all also require you to hold the D-pad to impart spin. While this sufficiently translates the face button control scheme from the 360 version, it offers no such corollary to the dual analog setup. The natural extension of that setup would see the player moving with the nunchuck, and simply swinging the Wii remote, with spin based on the tilt and direction of the control, as though it really were a table tennis paddle.

From the time that the game was announced, I expected this control scheme, because it seems to make the most sense. Not being a part of the development team, however, I cannot comment on technical issues that may have precluded such an implementation. That said, other games, like WarioWare: Smooth Moves, have certainly made great use of the remote's position and rotation. Another problem is that because the D-Pad is located so high up on the Wii controller, it feels less like you're holding a paddle by the handle, and more like you're choking up on a bat.

The issue here is that Table Tennis for the 360 set the bar quite high on a number of fronts. The graphics were stellar. The control was basic yet deep. But perhaps most importantly, the game defied the image of what sort of title Rockstar would make. Undoubtedly it's a great game, made better by the element of surprise inherent in the realization that Rockstar had put its trademark polish on something so simple. Clearly, the Wii version cannot really compete as far as graphics and so-called "surprise factor" go. And while the controls are serviceable, and certainly not frustrating once you get used to them, they don't do justice to what we had imagined the game would be.

Goodbye, equilibrium.

At this point, roughly a year after its release, it seems reasonable to say that the Wii remote can offer a tremendously involving and different control interface, as is the case with games like Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. The other side to that coin, though, has to do with customization. It seems as though the ability to customize the controls for a console game has become ubiquitous enough to be almost expected. In this example, Rockstar has attempted to offer some degree of customization (or at least choice) to the player as far as controls go. It's not, however, clear how well the concept of customization maps to something like the Wiimote, given its limited button set and the fact that a good deal of its function is mapped to motion and position. Certainly, there are ways to tweak sensitivity and things like that. Super Smash Brothers: Brawl promises markedly different control schemes. Still, even this seems different from the normal button-remapping style of customization that players are used to. Perhaps there will need to be some sort of adjustment period for both developers and players.

Again, as the control is the key difference between the two versions of Table Tennis, it's not only easy to pick on, but unfortunately, it necessarily comprises the meat of this review. That is not to say that Table Tennis on the Wii is neither fun nor a good game. It genuinely is, particularly for the bargain price it's being offered at, though it does exclude the online portion found in the original. It remains tense, deep, and challenging. Though the game's stripped down presentation is less of a statement on the Wii than it was on the 360, it still makes sense, placing the focus squarely on the gameplay. In the face of ever more complicated games with more complicated control schemes, such a distilled experience is welcome.

With Table Tennis, both for the Wii and 360, Rockstar has demonstrated that they are capable of making a fun game that warrants no controversy. I certainly hope that they continue to explore that space, because they clearly have a talent for making games that are enjoyable to play, regardless of subject matter.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.