Racquet Sports (Game-Only Release)
Wii | Ubisoft | 1 Player / 1-4 Players (local multiplayer) / 1-2 Players (co-operative play) | Out Now (North America)
Controller Compatibility: Wii Remote; Wii Remote and Nunchuk; WiiMotionPlus
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24th May 2010; By KnucklesSonic8
There are 6 different modes to be found in the game: Quick Match, Around the World, Party Mode, Friendly Tournament, Friendly Championship and Training. Each mode offer its own variations of how to take part in the five racquet-based sports in the game: Tennis, Ping Pong, Squash, Badminton, and Beach Tennis. Quick Match is the fastest way to start playing a game where you can skip a bunch of menus and jump right into playing the game. Around the World is the primary single-player mode. Here, players complete challenges and tournaments in different locations for all five sports, either on their own or co-operatively with a second player. In Party Mode, players choose the number of rounds they'd like to play for, and then engage in 90-second tests to earn points. It's kind of fun if you long for something a little more varied. Friendly Tournament and Championship work very similar: you set up a tournament bracket and play through a bunch of games to see who places first. This is a nice mode to play if you're in a group and want to try to face-off against one another. Finally, Training will let you test your rallying skills against a tennis coach in a practice area.
Each sport comes supplied with an instructions guide that you can consult at any time with the press of the 1 Button. So even if you've never played Badminton before, the instructions are pretty straight-forward and well-adapted to first-time players. There are so many resemblances to Wii Sports (Resort) in this game, and it's a bit sad that Ubisoft couldn't make a unique game. Even the intro screen looks like it was taken from Wii Sports Resort, complete with an Instructional Video menu, an island overview in the background, and everything. At the conclusion of each game, you can either earn or lose Skill Points depending on your performance. Again, just like Wii Sports, but younger children who enjoy the game might want to improve their ratings simply for the sake of showing off to their friends/siblings. Instead of Mii support, Ubisoft designed their own character models (but comparisons are bound to be made to Mii's anyway). I personally felt that they looked more Rayman-esque than anything else, but your mileage may vary.
If you're getting an impression that it feels like a big Wii Sports knockoff, you're not wrong. No matter how much you try not to, you can't help but make these silly little comparisons. However, let's consider each sport in more detail to see whether or not Racquet Sports can redeem itself. Tennis is the first game in the package, which hardly comes as a surprise. What is surprisingly, though, is some of the design choices they've made to this. It seems that in order to stick with the "pick-up-and-play" appeal that they've gone for with this release, the developers refused to create a control scheme designed for more advanced players. The lack of Nunchuk support is a shame, and although it's something younger audiences will appreciate, not having much control over your gameplay limits the appeal of this game. You do have the ability to approach the net using the A Button, so not everything is done automatically. And the controls work fairly well, even with WiiMotionPlus. But, no matter how hard I try, I can't shake the feeling that this just isn't as much fun as some of the other tennis games I've played on the Wii. In short, don't get this game for the Tennis aspect.
Next up on the list is Ping Pong. Now Table Tennis has been done before in Wii Sports Resort (and in other games, too, such as Wii Play) so I thought it would be interesting to see how the developers approached this sport. Honestly, even with the use of WiiMotionPlus, the accuracy just isn't as intuitive. Sure, you can perform smashes and slice your sots, but smashes are simply not as gratifying. Plus, you can't set yourself up as well, and sometimes, the controls are to blame for not matching your movements as well as you'd expect. After having experienced the truly fun and fast-paced gameplay in Wii Sports Resort's version of Table Tennis, there is almost no reason to come to this at all. The only that saves this sport is the ability to play doubles Table Tennis which, admittedly, can be kind of fun to try. But honestly, just like Tennis, this game doesn't give players a compelling reason to get this game.
Moving onto something more worthwhile, Racquet Sports also features its own rendiiton of Squash, one of my personal favourite tennis variations. Frankly, this sport hasn't been represented as well on the Wii. Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz featured a mini-game that attempted to re-create this fun game, and for what it was, it was good. But since then, not many games have tried to do Squash, so it was nice to see Ubisoft include this game. Players are thrown into a boxed area (with apparently, no point of entry whatsoever) where you can either play singles or even doubles matches. When playing Doubles, each person on the team will take turns going for the ball. When it's your turn to hit the ball, your character will be highlighted, whilst all other characters will be slightly grayed out. The game reads your motions in this game well, and this is one of the most enjoyable games in the package. Just like with the other games, control issues creep in at times, but they don't impose too much of a hamper on your experience.
Badminton is also one of the more commendable additions to this collection. Underhand serves made with your Wii Remote are recognized well, and this is one of the few games that don't feature as many problems control-wise. Pressing the A Button will allow you to jump in the air, giving you the ability to make smashes. Of course, this involves good timing and if you go too early, you'll likely ruin your ongoing rally. The controls in this game are, once again, easy to comprehend for young and old alike. It might not be as deep as Badminton fans might hope for but it does work pretty well, and it can be a fun with friends.
Going back to the lows once again, the final sport in Racquet Sport is called Beach Tennis, an italian variation on the original game. Think badminton and tennis on sand, basically. If you're confused, don't worry: the game's not even worth trying to understand. Easily the weakest in the whole collection, and it's not entirely because of control issues this time. Even making saves are executed properly when in the hands of the right player. The problem with this game is that it's just slow and boring. Even with a friend, you'll just want to go play something else instead. I'd be surprised to hear of someone having lots of fun with this.
One thing I do like about Racquet Sports is its unlockable system. Some may not like this approach, however, and may long to have everything available from the start. But for better or for worse, it gives you reason to keep playing. Characters can be customized with new clothing and accessories, something that Wii Sports can't offer. There are lots of characters to unlock as well. At the start, there's only a small number of guys and girls to choose from but over time, you'll unlock plenty. Additionally, as you play, you'll unlock gameplay variations that add special rules. For example, you'll get to use a new ball that will become invisible during certain points in the game, making things even more challenging. Overall, I'd say it's one of the stronger points about the game, and if you're looking for extended content, this game does have it.
The final point for consideration are the visuals. I have to say there are some pretty cool environments in this game and the graphics look pretty detailed, too. You'll play games in stadiums, in underwater areas, or in other outdoor environments. Stadiums don't feature any music or even commentary, though, so it's up to the players to keep things lively. Naturally, playing by yourself just isn't as fun and not having too much interaction from the game is disappointing. The more interesting environments, however, feature mild music so that's good to see.
In summary, Racquet Sports does have some good qualities to it but it just comes across as a quick cash-in on the Wii Sports/casual craze. The sports themselves are very mixed affair and the accuracy isn't always there. Tennis and Ping Pong have been done before with better results, and Beach Tennis is just not fun at all. This leaves Squash and Badminton as the only mildly-fun games for multiplayer enjoyment. If you're looking for a fun tennis game, you could do so much better than this. Because of the easy control system, I can feel comfortable recommending this to children. Otherwise, it doesn't stand well on its own, especially at the price it currently retails for. Even if you're a fan of games like Squash and Badminton, wait for this cheap collection to hit the bargain bin before picking this up. And given the response it's received so far, I don't think you'll have to wait long for that to happen.
18/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 5/10 - Some games have been done before with better results, slow pace at times, controls are a mix between good and bad even with WM+
Presentation 6/10 - Can't help but call it a "copycat" of Wii Sports Resort, a selection of nicely detailed environments, mild music but only on some stages
Enjoyment 3/5 - Squash and Badminton are the most enjoyable games, Beach Tennis is the least fun, can get boring especially when playing on your own
Extra Content 4/5 - Lots of unlockable characters and accessories, special rule variations, multiple gameplay modes, not exactly worth purchasing though
Equivalent to a score of 60% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating)