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In Memory
Sean Pettibone


Hot Shots Tennis
(Sony for Playstation 2)

By Michael Palisano

Building on the success of Hot Shots Golf, the newest sports title from Clap Hanz, Hot Shots Tennis brings all the fun and excitement of the links games to the courts on the Playstation 2. The game features another humorous cast of tennis pros multiple play modes for single or group players and more. Players can also unlock additional characters, extra costumes and more. The gameplay is quite accessible and fun, though there's enough nuance here that even experienced players will find a challenge at the higher levels. While Hot Shots Tennis isn't the deepest game ever made, it's an enjoyable title that offers some exciting tennis action.

While the causal market has grown by leaps and bounds over the past year, Sony's long running affiliation with Clap Hans has produced several memorable casual golf titles on the PS2. It should be no surprise that the company has expanded the franchise with Hot Shots Tennis. Players familiar with the approach of Hot Shots titles will find many familiar elements in this title. The game offers an accessible approach to gameplay with simple controls and fast-action oriented play to create a title that should be highly playable to gamers of any skill level. Before you begin the game, you are given the option of which character you want to choose from. As in the previous Hot Shots games, there are a selection of cute and charming anime style players you can choose from. There are only a couple of these available at first, but additional characters can be unlocked as you play through the game. Players can also unlock other items, such as additional characters and alternative costumes once they've won a few rounds. In all, players have the chance to use 14 different characters which is a decent selection each of which brings their own play styles, some are better servers, while others are better at returning volleys. This helps to expand the gameplay dramatically because it adds variety, extending Hot Shots Tennis' replay value significantly.

Before you begin each game, you are given a choice of several different play modes. You can choose to play through a Training Mode where you are given a different set of mini-games to play through for each skill - these range from serves to volleys. In this mode, you are going against a timer and have to complete your tasks and meet a quota before the timer runs out. If you do this, you'll progress through to the next level which is slightly more difficult. The training mode can be challenging and addictive in its own right, and offers dozens of challenges. However, you can't beat playing against another competitor so you might want to move onto the challenge mode. Here, you compete head to head in a variety of locations and try to defeat as many opponents as possible in order to move up the ranks. As you gain skills and victories in this mode, you'll also be able to unlock additional items and characters. There's a variety of opponents you face in these modes, plus different courts and locations, which should keep your motivations level high. Players can also choose to compete against another human player in the Everybody's Golf mode - you can choose to play with up to four players at the same time using the multi-tap for some massively multiplayer fun. Finally, you can select from a number of options such as round length, difficulty level and other options in the game menu screens as well.

While they're all cool to look at, each of the game's characters also brings a unique style of play and personality to the action, which adds to the humorous approach. Once you get on the court, the game feels very much like a tennis match should, with all the basic mechanics such as serves, volleys and attack moves in play. The controls are very simple, you move the character around the court using the standard d-pad or analog stick and try and knock the ball back over the net so it hits the ground before your opponent can return your volley. Mastering all the different shot types will take some time, as will the timing of your shots. Spinning your shot angle and aiming your shots is also relatively simple and most players only need to press the d-pad in the direction they want to aim. Players can also use power-serves and special shots if they build up enough stamina, which makes them hit a almost unanswerable shot and a point. Hot Shots Tennis' scoring and rules are fairly simple and should be familiar to tennis fans. The out-of-bounds and nets are placed where you'd expect them to be. You'd think that there would be a lot of gimmicks used here, but the gameplay is surprisingly straightforward which makes this ideal for a quick play, though the lack of many options does curtail its long-term enjoyment somewhat.

Where the game differentiates itself from others in the genre are in its arcade-style additions, such as a slow motion mode and extra bouncy balls that can be turned on or off. These make the game more fun to play. Another key difference between the game and more serious tennis titles are the on-screen indicators that show you where the ball is going to land. This is extremely helpful if you're new to games, but can become annoying if you have some experience under your belt. There are also indicators that appear over your player's head the show when they've made a good shot, or when they miss the mark. This helps players get the timing and position down easily and helps to keep things accessible. The game offers several basic types of play, with singles and doubles mode the primary variants here. Both modes are fairly easy to play and should cause too much of a problem. Obviously, which character you challenge is a major factor in how successful you'll be - each brings their own strengths and weaknesses to the court. Playing against a human opponent is ideal, but the computer AI can also be quite challenging if its set high enough.

Hot Shots Tennis' gameplay is smooth and accessible, but the light-hearted, charming graphics and slick presentation adds much to its appeal. As stated earlier, the anime-characters are very cute and animated nicely which definitely brings the game to life vividly as do the humorous voice-overs. The game frequently shows replays and cut-scenes between volleys as well, which adds to its overall light-hearted feel. A decent music score and abundant arcade-style sound effects add to its experience. Players who loved the look and feel of the previous Hot Shots titles will definitely feel right at home with the Tennis edition of the series, and it's accessible gameplay, simple, arcade-style controls and cartoonish presentation makes this one of the more enjoyable sports titles on the market. While its appearance and look is bound to appeal to a casual audience, Hot Shots Tennis offers enough solid gameplay mechanics and challenge to appeal to even hard core sports gamers.


> Related Reviews

Hot Shots Golf Fore (PS2)
Hot Shots Golf 3 (PS2)
UEFA Soccer 2006/2007 (PS2)

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