Somewhere between the antiquated simplicity of Pong (the original 2D video game) and the reality of fast and furious world class table tennis, there’s a happy middle ground. Represented for most of us by a cheery game of ping pong on the family dining table. Or here in iPingpong 3D, which has much the same feel. It’s slickly programmed and has a fabulously smooth interface but somehow it never really rises to world class, either as a table tennis game or as an iPhone application.
Read on for the full review…
Taking a Nintendo Wii-like stance in terms of visible players (i.e. bats floating in mid air), the raw game engine is very good indeed. Bat control initially seems to be about dragging the bat itself around on the screen, with the irritation that your finger covers the very item you’re trying to control. But then you realise that the same gestures work even if you keep your finger pressed down a couple of centimetres below the bat and your playing then starts to become a pleasure and not a pain. You can swipe fast and high to play slam shots, you can swipe to the side to angle the ball across the table, and so on, although there isn’t an obvious way to swerve the ball in the same way as the trickier computer opponents manage, sadly.
Game modes include ‘Practice’, ‘Quick match’, ‘Tournament’ and ‘Multiplayer’, with the latter only offering local play via Wi-Fi and not true online gameplay, presumably due to latency issues. Setting up a quick match gives five possible difficulty levels, but be warned – even the easiest is still a real challenge, with the computer opponent making very few mistakes indeed. You’ll lose most points simply by trying to be too ambitious with your shot and missing the ball, which can get both embarrassing and frustrating.
Sound is optional and includes music in the menus and reasonably authentic table tennis sound effects in the game itself. Plus a smattering of audience applause and ‘Oohhhh’s at appropriate points in the match.
Tournament mode sees you working your way up a rankings table, one match/grade at a time. With fifteen opponents to beat, this will obviously take some time. One big disappointment is that iPingpong 3D doesn’t save your game state when you switch to a different application. So check your Calendar and you’ll have to set up and play your current match all over again.
Still, actually playing table tennis on the iPhone and iPod Touch is remarkably realised and quite a bit of fun. As with Virtual Pool Mobile, there’s a lot of satisfaction in pulling off a shot combination in the game that you know would also work well in real life. Unfortunately, unlike the real sport, playing table tennis on your iPhone only exercises one finger, so don’t count on this to burn calories!
(Review re-published with permission from a forthcoming edition of the iPhone Application List (IPAL) – visit IPAL for hundreds of other iPhone application reviews and original downloads)