Table Tennis Touch Review (iOS)
Founded in 1926, the International Table Tennis Federation (yes, this is a real thing) has over 200 member associations, an in-depth official rulebook and the sport itself is an Olympic event. For a select few, Table Tennis is serious business, but for those of us who aren't so solemn about it but still want to get our Ping-Pongs on, there's Table Tennis Touch.
Whether you know it as Ping-Pong, Table Tennis, or as it's known in Japan, Ultimate No Ki No Paddle Balls, this activity has long served as a staple in rec rooms across the globe. The rules are relatively simple: players strike a small, plastic ball back and forth at each other, making sure that it bounces once on their side before hitting it, and trying to knock it out of bounds on the opponent's side without hitting the net. Now, if Table Tennis Touch was nothing but a simple collection of ping-pong matches, it might grow dull, but fortunately for us, it's much more than that.
Upon starting up the action, one of the first things you'll likely notice is just how good Table Tennis Touch looks. The blend of real-life photography and in-game polygons work together to create a cohesive, engrossing atmosphere. Once you get past TTT's comely appearance, you'll find several gameplay options at your fingertips. Career mode is where you'll spend the bulk of your time, competing in Club, National and International events to earn reputation to unlock new levels, and new stronger paddles, some of which are so powerful they feel as if they were forged by the gods of ping-pong themselves.
There's plenty to do outside of standard table tennis, however, as certain levels offer new objectives to spice things up. For example, one level has you "bowling" with ping-pong balls, trying to knock as many pins over as you can before time runs out. Another has you returning volleys as quickly as possible to nab a high score. These special variant levels are well-implemented and fun, complimenting the already-impressive core gameplay, and the addition of online leaderboards lets you see how you stack up against other players from around the world. Outside of Career mode, Arcade mode offers a quick way of choosing from the non-traditional ping-pong events, like the aforementioned bowling, and Quick game is exactly what it says— a quick match against an opponent of your choosing.
It's impressive how well Table Tennis Touch's touch controls have managed to capture the level of precision and technique necessary to excel in the real-life sport. Few iPad games manage to have touch controls one tenth as responsive as you'll find here. Every time the paddle strikes that little hunk of plastic, you are absolutely in control. With a little practice you and the ping-pong ball will become of one spirit, working in unison to take down the hordes soulless opponents eager to keep you from your hard-earned trophies. Speaking of which, the one glaring weakness of Table Tennis Touch is the AI. It's often hard to gauge how well you're doing in any match, as your opponents seem to be able to go toe-to-toe with your every movement until they inexplicably can't. In lower difficulties they'll hit the net or let a ball hop past them seemingly for no reason; in later difficulties you'll feel like you're playing some kind of tireless devil machine devoted to locking you into a ping-pong match for all eternity. The occasionally uneven difficulty isn't a problem often, but when it is, it can be a little frustrating. Fortunately, in situations like that you have performance enhancing Boost, a special spray which puts you into a Table Tennis Super Saiyan. You're stronger, you’re faster and your balls fly like the wind. You only have so many uses of Boost unless you unlock Unlimited Boost as an in-app purchase, which is kind of lame, but given that you get ten uses to start with, it doesn't feel necessary.
The precision in Table Tennis Touch's controls make it a joy to play, whether you like ping-pong or not, and its sharp graphics, smooth, jazzy soundtrack and variety of gameplay options ensure that your eyes, ears, and fingers will find much to enjoy. Table Tennis Touch manages to not only capture the fun of one of America's most enduring pastimes, but it does so in a way that makes full use of video games as a medium, allowing for new types of experiences while keeping the core fun of the game intact.
This review is based on a digitally downloaded copy of Table Tennis Touch for iOS.