The chance shots are both the game's biggest draw and biggest drawback. In human competition, hammering the ball back and forth with these fizzing returns is the game at its most exciting. Moving into position, setting up a topspin chance shot, only to bluff your opponent and drop the ball lightly over the net adds a nice layer of tactics, particularly when each chance shot can be countered. However, the computer AI doesn't engage in such interesting back and forths. Early games in the Tour mode --Mario Tennis Open's main single-player campaign-- are a tedious waltz through inept opponents. Matches are over in a handful of shots, split-second rallies finished the moment you initiate a chance shot. Eight brief tournaments and a hour or two later and you still are unlikely to have dropped many points, let alone lost a game. And it's all just a bit ... dull.
There's a pleasing sense of inertia as the ball fizzes back and forth and, of course, Mario Tennis favours cartoon knockabout action rather than anything approaching simulation. The shots are assigned to both the face buttons or the bottom touch-screen (though, curiously, these layouts do not match up) and control is a doddle. Nintendo, ever mindful of accessibility and making use of their own hardware, have also included a motion control setup. Movement is taken care of by the game (you can interrupt by using the circle pad, though the pull of the AI and your own inputs can often clash), you aim by tilting the console, and choose the type of shot on the touchscreen. It's a welcoming, if inevitably shallow setup and its over-the-shoulder viewpoint is arguably the only area where Mario Tennis Open makes good use of the console's 3D screen.
It's a real shame that, especially for a handheld game, the singleplayer portion of Mario Tennis Open doesn't stack up as well as it should. Thankfully, playing against human competition is great fun. Nintendo smartly allows local four player action using one cartridge and online play is robust and lag-free. Again, though, the offering beyond one-off exhibitions in multiplayer is incredibly thin, reduced to persistent online records and leaderboards.
The on-court action is bright, breezy and constructed with the expected assuredness. Nintendo games --particularly ones with the red-capped plumber-- have the enviable knack of making simple movement a pleasure. Mario Tennis Open is no different, with the familiar cast of characters patrolling the court with a delightful charm, with Mario lolloping in his trademark blend of tubby awkwardness and skilful grace, while Bowser stomps and Boo whizzes.
|Court||Mario Tennis (Nintendo 64)||Mario Tennis (Game Boy Color)||Mario Power Tennis||Mario Tennis: Power Tour||Mario Tennis Open||Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash|
|Donkey Kong Jungle|