With the professional tennis circuit wrapping up, I got a chance to look at Pocket Tennis, months after reviewing the original Tennis Addict. While it’s not good critique practice to play one title off another, the comparisons are bound to be made between Hexacto’s Tennis Addict and Virtual Toys’ Pocket Tennis. Pocket Tennis takes a different route to achieving a grand slam. It opts to use polygonal animated tennis players to give the game a more fluid and realistic look.
One thing that big publishers have access to in sports titles is the license to use marquee player names, of a whole league or simply a few of the top players. Sega’s Tennis franchise, which began on the Dreamcast, is probably the pinnacle of tennis play on any platform. Pocket Tennis, like Tennis Addict, doesn’t have any of those licenses. Instead, it classifies its fictional players by difficulty level and lets you create your own customized character. Your customized character even improves over time, letting you create a tennis player that caters to your playing style. Maybe you’re like Pete Sampras and you like strong serves.
On the visual side, Pocket Tennis doesn’t spend too much time in detailing their players, which is a good thing because it keeps the animation moving at a clip pace. And without television style replay and close-up shots, there’s really no need either. The quintessential difference between Pocket Tennis and Tennis Addict is the 3D arena. With a full 3D presentation, not only can the players be more fluidly animated but they also play in a world that has actual physics. Tennis Addict had you guessing where the ball will land with ball shadows. All the shadows and motion blur is rendered in real-time for Pocket Tennis. It definitely puts Pocket Tennis away from being a game and more into a simulation.
Pocket Tennis follows the usual tennis setup. There’s a training mode that defers the rules to let you practice your volleys and serves without running out of chances due to scoring. It’s also a place where you can try out some new playing styles. Otherwise, Pocket Tennis is divided into ranked and unranked matches. The former is done under the auspices of a tournament and the latter is merely exhibition play against AI players of your own choice.
Despite the training tutorial, attractive layout and 3D engine, Pocket Tennis loses out in a key category and that’s accessibility. It works on a click and tap interface that is a night and day difference away vis-à-vis Tennis Addict. That one allowed you to control your racket with your stylus. This one involves play that is much more passive. It could actually be a good thing because if you’re on the go, you want to minimize the amount of tricky stylus work. Unfortunately, for fans that are transferring over from ‘that other tennis game’, this might prove to be the ultimate deterrent. There are no in-game instructions as to how to perform volleys. I looked through the entire tutorial and didn’t find a single mention of how to actually play the game. Furthermore, the site covering Pocket Tennis is sparse, at least in the English department. Those endowed with Spanish may have better luck.
But this flaw ultimately becomes the achilles heel of an otherwise, well put together tennis game. It literally creates a shadow that haunts all the other offerings. However, holistically speaking, it may not be an outright winner but there are certain points here that other tennis titles should take a lesson from. Ultimately, it’s unfortunate that for this tennis game, actually playing the tennis becomes the biggest challenge you will likely overcome.
[08/10] Program Size
[08/15] Learning Curve