Get ready to smash some balls into some faces.
As I sat, rubbing my hands in anticipation downloading ‘Tennis In The Face’, I thought to myself: would I be saving the world using nothing more than my trustee tennis racket? Not quite. Instead developers 10tons have served up another interesting and enjoyable puzzle game.
You take control of Pete Pagassi, a former world champion relegated to coaching preschool tennis. It’s a fall from grace after what his ex-coach describes as an addiction to an energy drink known as Explodz. Desperation sets in and Pete attempts to steal Explodz from the factory, getting caught in the act. After a period of rehabilitation, Pete blames Explodz for the downfall of his career and swears revenge on the corporation.
It’s a farfetched set up, and a story that continues throughout the game, as if to justify why going around smacking tennis balls into faces is acceptable. I have to hand it to the developers for going as far as creating an actual webpage for the Explodz drink, truly committing to this ludicrous narrative. Honestly, check it out.
If you have ever played 10tons’ previous game King Oddball (I reviewed it back in November 2016), then this follows exactly the same formula. The layout is the same, level select and progression is also a carbon copy. Your journey towards the Explodz Inc. factory takes you from beating fanboys, to scientists and employees of Explodz.
In each level, Pete is stationary surrounded by similarly unmoving enemies. Some enemies could be placed right in front of you, some high up, and some behind breakable scenery. Others still are shielded. The aim of each level is to eliminate all the enemies on the screen by hitting them with your tennis ball. The puzzling element comes into play in the restriction of how many tennis balls you have available. Using your surroundings, the trick is to line up your shot in the hope of creating a chain reaction. It could be that you aim your shot off the wall striking an enemy on the way, before your ball rebounds off the ceiling, landing on a case of Explodz, exploding said case killing the nearby enemy and propelling loose scenery towards an enemy on the other side of the screen.
It can certainly be satisfying watching it all play out in front of you when you get it right. What isn’t so satisfying is how inconsistently the game behaves. There were many occasions that I would line up the ball and watch it travel across the map in a different path than expected. Hitting the ball again in exactly the same direction often led to different results which could be incredibly frustrating. Or incredibly lucky, when your shot un-expectantly sent the enemies falling like a stack of dominoes.
When restarting a level, the game remembers your last shot andhas it lined up exactly as before, but hitting the ball offered up different results proving the problems with consistency. Maybe I’m being over critical for a game ported from mobile devices. When the game works, it works well and can be especially enjoyable in later levels. When presented with enemies across the screen behind immoveable objects and only three balls to hit them all with, the task can seem a little daunting. Then double that up in some of the later levels with shielded enemies whereby only headshots can eliminate them, the game presents a real challenge which makes it all the more satisfying when you manage to pull it off.
The absence of a scoring system is a real shame. The game is crying out for a way to calculate just how well you have performed. You are awarded a crown for clearing the level in a certain amount of tries or less, although when you have performed a spectacular chain reaction you feel like you deserve something more; something to gauge it by. It’s a missed opportunity to not have some form of scoring system to be displayed on a global leaderboard.
The presentation is about what you would expect from a game ported from small screens. The design is solid in 2D with bright and vibrant colours everywhere you look. It does manage to serve up an ace with the rag doll physics. Although it feels unrealistic, this does result in some interesting outcomes which is at times satisfying and often humorous. The same couldn’t be said of the boring and repetitive sound track. The generic guitar riffs are tolerable when playing for a short time on a bus journey, but not so much on the big screen. That being said, turn the sound effects up for the satisfying sound of the ball hitting the racket and the cries of the enemy as the ball clonks them on the head.
10tons have done it again with another game to be enjoyed in short bursts; something to pass the time if you will. The story is uncomplicated and the gameplay simple. Anyone could pick up and play at any time. There is nothing in depth here and most levels can be completed after a few tries, so there is little in the way of any longevity. There are a multitude of similar games out there, more so on mobile devices and there is a trend to port these onto consoles, but for the price you could do a lot worse.
Tennis In The Face was provided to us by Xbox via a download code for Xbox One.