Tennis Open 2007 feat. Lleyton Hewitt
Gameloft proves that mobile sports games don't need to be shallow...
Tennis Open 2007 feat. Lleyton Hewitt is an extremely impressive achievement in mobile racket sports. For one thing, the game crams more minigames, tournaments, and modes into one tiny download than I thought was possible. For another, it's probably the only mobile game I've played that features a control set-up that uses the entire numeric keypad that I actually enjoyed playing and would recommend to others.
The game owes more than a little to Sega's Virtua Tennis franchise. In Career mode, gamers have access to five training minigames to improve their player's stats in serve, power, technique, volley, and footwork. Like Sega's classic, these minigames are as fun (if not moreso) than the actual tennis matches themselves. You'll serve balls into targets, trying to hit the bulleye; you'll return balls into rolling barrels, trying to hit them before they reach the net; you'll be tasked with returning volleys to specific areas of the court. All five play differently and are a lot of fun, and are a great way to break up the career mode's lengthy tournaments.
As I mentioned, the control set-up itself utilizes the entire numeric keypad. While moving around the court the buttons correspond with the direction you want to move your character. 2, 4, 6, and 8 to move up, left, right, and back, respectively. 1, 3, 7, and 9 are used for diagonal movement. The neat bit about this set-up is that these same buttons are used to determine the placement of the ball when you volley. After you've gotten your character into position, you could hold 3 to hit the ball towards the back-right corner of the court, or 9 to return it to the front-right.
This control setup does have a bit of a learning curve, but once I adjusted I quickly realized that it allowed for more control over movement and shot placement than any of the game's peers. The last piece of the control puzzle is the "preloading" you can do with your shot. A small target on your side of the court shows where your opponent's volley is going to land - if you can get there early and hold the shot button, you'll get much more speed and power out of your return. You'll end up with situations where you hold "6" to rush to the right side of the court, then stop and hold "4" once you're in position, to return the ball back to the lefthand side. It feels strange at first and did lead to rare misfires, but for the most part it works perfectly. Gameloft clearly gave the title a lot of playtesting.
In addition to the career mode, gamers can hop straight into an exhibition match, set up a one-off tournament, play the minigames, or go through an interactive tutorial. The package is just as robust as console tennis titles.
My only real complaint is that the pace of matches is a little too slow for mobile play. Once you begin a tournament, it takes a long, LONG time to finish it. If you play with the default settings (six games per set, three sets per match), it could very easily take over an hour to complete one tourney. This is partially because of the nature of tennis itself, but it's also due in part to Gameloft's inclusion of numerous lengthy animations. After a set the players switch sides. They'll also bounce the ball several times before serving, throw their racket in frustration after losing a volley, and more. It looks great, but I found myself just mashing "5" over and over again to skip the between-volley animations that kept repeating themselves.
It's possible to save and resume at any time, making this a much smaller problem than it could have been at least. Still, this is cell phone gaming - it should be focused on the action. This minor complaint aside, Tennis Open is extremely impressive, and was a big surprise, to me. Gameloft has proven you can have the depth of a console sports title without sacrificing the intuitiveness that mobile games have a reputation for.
What's Hot: A tremendous amount of gameplay. Great attention to detail.
What's Not: Match pace is too slow.