There’s no denying it: if there’s a sport so popular that miniaturized versions of said sport are developed, you can bet there’s going to be a video game cash-in on both athletic events. Tennis and table tennis, respectively, are one such set of sports. Tennis itself is popular internationally, and table tennis is a classic, fun table-top game. Neither sport has really been done all that well on the Wii (hopefully Top Spin 3 will change that), but table tennis does have a presence. It was a mini-game in the popular Wii Play and served as its own game in Rockstar’s Table Tennis. Now we get a WiiWare version of the classic game, and while it may seem a bit gimmicky, it’s not actually all that bad.
As it’s based off table tennis, it doesn’t come as a surprise that Family Table Tennis is really quite a straightforward, simple game. Two players gather around a little table with tennis markings and hit a little plastic ball back and forth. Swinging the paddle is intuitively controlled with the Wii remote, and while this mechanic is obviously simple, it works quite well. That said, there is a bit more to the system of play in Family Table Tennis. The controls are responsive, and as a result it’s possible to direct the ball to various places on the table depending on the timing of your swing. Also, how hard you swing the remote controls how fast the ball flies when it’s hit. There’s also a “power shot” mechanic to this game, but it’s got a neat little twist: you can only use it when your opponent is stunned (this happens when they just barely manage to return a shot). This really keeps the game balanced and fair and prevents it from becoming a game of “who can hit the most power shots in a row.”
In terms of game modes, Family Table Tennis presents a decent offering. The basic single-player mode is really underwhelming — there are only three stages, and sadly there are no adjustable difficulty levels for your computer opponents. There are also three mini-games, which range from “decent” to “surprisingly fun.” One game gives you points for keeping rallies going; the second (and best) challenges you to hit the ball to certain areas of the table; and the third has you hitting pieces of fruit (random, I know) on the designated side of the table.
Where Family Table Tennis really shines, however, is in its multiplayer mode. It’s a minor disappointment that only two people can play — no doubles matches — but it’s easy to overlook that when you take into account just how fun it is to play against a friend. The gameplay mechanic doesn’t change from that of the single player game, but it’s a lot of fun, and it definitely feels how table tennis was meant to be played. Playing it for hours on end is out of the question, but in short, regular spurts (assuming that you’ve got a regular playing partner) Family Table Tennis is actually pretty fun.
The biggest selling point of Family Table Tennis is certainly its price: you can download this game for just 500 Wii Points ($5.00). It’s one of the cheapest WiiWare games currently available, and at the same time, it’s just as fun as some other, more expensive downloadable titles. If you’re expecting a deep, intricate game, then Family Table Tennis will definitely be disappointing. But if you’re just looking for a fun, easy-to-play multiplayer game, then it’s hard to go wrong with this title.
The presentation of the game is also fairly impressive for so cheap a title. The cel-shaded graphics are simple but well-done and are generally nice to look at. They’ve got more aesthetic appeal than Miis, at least — I don’t know about anybody else, but I’m getting kind of tired of my appendage-less representation. The music is less impressive but it’s not that big of a problem, as it really just serves as background noise while you play the game.
All told, Family Table Tennis is probably the biggest surprise I’ve encountered with WiiWare thus far. It’s by no means a great game, but it really exemplifies the pick-up-and-play attitude that seems so prevalent with the Wii.
That said, it’s still fun for the more hardcore gamers out there, and it’s a great way to get non-gamers into video games. Essentially, Family Table Tennis is a cheap, enjoyable multiplayer game — if that’s what you’re looking for, then this is a title you should definitely think about downloading.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.3 Graphics
Simple, cel-shaded visuals don’t do much with the Wii’s graphical capabilities but still look quite nice. 4.2 Control
Intuitive movements with the Wii Remote make it fun and easy to pick up and play this game 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Very basic sound effects and simple background music are very forgettable. 3.4
For five bucks, it doesn’t get much better than this: good mini-games and a fun multiplayer mode
3.4 Overall Rating – Fair
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.