Virtua Tennis Challenge App Review – An Enjoyable Port of A Console Original

It’s been a long time since we last saw a fully-fledged tennis game hit the App Store. It was back in 2009 when Gameloft released Real Tennis 2009 – their clone of SEGA’s super-popular Virtua Tennis. Now we have the real deal. It’s not the full-blown package like the console counterparts, as you can probably tell by the added ‘Challenge’ in the name, but rather a more casual take on the series.

Virtua Tennis Challenge ($4.99) isn’t fully licenced. I have to put this out there before I go on because some of you might not buy the game purely because you can’t play as Djokovic and won’t settle for ‘Jovanovic’. It sounds like a silly reason to disregard this title, as all the characteristics are the same as the actual player. Including ‘Jovanovic’, there are 50 players to compete against.

Here is a real reason to disregard the game – it lags on my iPhone 4. It’s noticeable at first when you make your way through the menu (as there is a super-slow green ripple every time you tap), but once you get into the game it isn’t so bad. I’ve heard that it runs smoothly on newer devices, so if you own an iPhone 4S, iPad 2 or the new iPad, you should be fine.

There are four different control methods to choose from – Swipe, Virtual Pad, Arcade and Game Pad. The default method is Swipe which allows you to guide the ball in any direction by swiping as the ball bounces. It’s quite difficult to control drop shots and top-spins this way, but it might be the best option for those who like intuitivity. The others are virtual buttons that have different sizes for each type of shot. This is much easier to use as you have total control over your player with minimal effort – all you have to do is tap an icon.

The gameplay is where the game really shines. Each shot is precisely guided wherever you stretch the joystiq. The audience screams before you hit that mega shot to finish off the game, and the TV-like animations of the players’ faces reflect your exact emotions. Although the first few games in your World Tour career are incredibly easy, the big tournaments are incredibly difficult. They require 100% concentration that you can’t afford to waste on that SMS notification at the top. If you miss the return shot, you miss the final.

If the stress of the big tournaments gets to you, SEGA have included a training mode to help you improve your shot accuracy and power. There’s also a smaller mode which requires you to win one shot in order to progress through the levels. If you lost that one shot, you’ll go down to the level below. You’re awarded for the shots you win once you give up and return back home. This money can then be used to enter the bigger tournaments.

I would review the multiplayer mode of Virtua Tennis Challenge if it actually worked. Unfortunately, I don’t think SEGA have sorted out the online play as yet. Even then, many people have informed me that it sucks. It’s slower than offline play and disconnects regularly.

The graphics aren’t crisp yet they aren’t bad. They clearly don’t show off the iPhone’s hardware capabilities, making it clear that it’s a mobile game and not a console title.

I have waited a long, long time for Virtua Tennis to hit the App Store, ever since Gameloft’s rather entertaining Real Tennis back in 2009. It’s finally available and, despite its few flaws, is a must-buy for any fan of the sport.

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Written by guest writer Daven Gomes.