Although they follow one of the world's most popular sports, table tennis fans are less lucky when it comes to finding a good electronic substitute. Unlike football, basketball, and baseball, computer versions of table tennis programs, let alone PC-specific games, are very few and far between. Since Konami's Ping Pong was released for the MSX computer over ten years ago, there has not been a competent commercial table tennis game – and even Ping Pong leaves a lot to be desired for die-hard fans of the sport, with its focus on action rather than on accurate ball physics. |
It has been a long wait, but Table Tennis Pro is well worth the wait. This is one extremely comprehensive and great-looking game that will make you stop hunting for a better one.
The game features excellent ball physics and a staggering variety of shots, some of which naturally take more practice to pull off (the spins, for example) but, once mastered, make a big difference against a tough opponent. Although you can play the game with keyboard or joystick, the mouse (espeically three-button mouse) is the most effective controlling method. In addition to choosing which part of the bat to hit the ball with (to determine shot direction), you can very precisely control power and spin. This makes it possible to execute an amazing range of shots including fancy top-spin shots, short drop shots over the net, long lobs three feet away from the table, curling side spins, thunderous smash shots, and many more.
Of course, fancy shots would be unnecessary if your opponents had the intelligence of a rock. Fortunately, the computer players in Table Tennis Pro range from very easy to beat to world-class. The base game comes with fifteen computer players (more are available in the deluxe version), each with different serving and playing styles, and general difficulty. There's also a universal difficulty slider to suit your skills. If you want to challenge another human player, you can do it in a number of ways including split-screen hotseat or over the Internet. The official site maintains a list of players all over the world who are up for the challenge. As with most other great sport games, Table Tennis Pro comes complete with practice, league, and tournament modes. You can also use the practice mode to practice different kinds of shots with a ball-lobbing machine.
Table Tennis Pro would already be an excellent game had the list of features stopped at what I've described above. But the designer Aidan McKenna adds many more options and bonuses that give even more bang for your buck. You can save entire games to replay them later, customize your bats by choosing the shape, color, and even add your own graphics. The game comes with 'Disks' and 'Blocks', two very fun arcade games (played on the table tennis table, of course) to further test your shot positioning skills and reaction speed.
Although the graphics are not the most important thing, they are still given adequate emphasis. The game boasts a "true 3D environment", with seven different rooms, multiple table surfaces, nets, stands, and balls. The game supports most 3D cards, although anyone without a 3D card can still enjoy high-resolution 3D graphics that are animated very smoothly.
With a rock-solid underlying physics model, an unparalleled range of gameplay options, and sheer addictiveness, Table Tennis Pro is not only the best table tennis game ever made, it is also a great sport game in general – one that will spark your interest in this wonderful sport that many people in the West are not familiar with (an interesting factoid: table tennis is one of the three fastest sports in the world, along with golf and ice hockey. The challenge of modelling fast ball physics and inventing a good control scheme is one reason a good table tennis game is not easy to make). Table Tennis Pro truly brings the complexity and fun of table tennis to life. At a reasonable price of $19.99, the game offers great value for money, since the wide range of options and computer players make it virtually infinitely replayable. If you think table tennis is only a slightly more sophisticated version of Pong, Table Tennis Pro will change your mind. A must-have for table tennis fans everywhere, and a "highly recommended" game for sport fans in general. This game is staying on my hard drive for years to come.
Note: the shareware version which you can download for free contains all the features of the registered version, and will allow you to play for ten days. The deluxe version adds more textures, backgrounds, and computer players.
Reviewed by: Underdogs