Developer: Clap Hanz
# of Players: 1-4
N Amer - 07/17/2007
Hot Shots Tennis Review
Sports games welcomed a new name in arcade-style tennis this week: Hot Shots. Developed by Clap Hanz, the studio behind the Hot Shots Golf series, Hot Shots Tennis is not a simulator to rival the Smash Court games of the world. Timing is an act that comes naturally as you begin to comprehend the art of the Hot Shots universe. The graphics aren’t overly realistic but are, on occasion, capable of holding gamers’ attention.
More considerable than graphics, realism, and other negligible items is the connotation that comes with a Hot Shots game – that it must be a title anyone can pick up and play. Hot Shots Tennis holds onto that tradition, but not at the expense of the experienced gamer. Young or old, tennis pro or gaming neophyte, Clap Hanz has crafted a game that’s worthy of a standing ovation.
Campaigning For Wins
Hot Shots Tennis’ campaign mode (called the Hot Shots Challenge) doesn’t know the meaning of the word deviation – it heads straight for the court and never looks back. There aren’t any mini-games, world map screens or anything else that could extend the time between matches.
Does that mean it’s smooth sailing from the first swing till the credits roll? Not quite. Hot Shots may not have any appetizers to nibble in between matches, but its main course is very meaty. Some opponents can withstand up to six or seven losses before they have been defeated. If goals change hands every match (as they often do in the upper tiers), you could play over 12 matches before a winner is crowned.
Hot Shots Tennis’ matches are separated into seven tiers, each containing multiple opponents to compete against. The game doesn’t usually seem difficult, but when there are a dozen battles to fight, endurance becomes a formidable obstacle. None of the opponents are particularly smart. Many have a pattern and will stick to it for most of the game. Early on they like to swing wide or close; toward the middle of the game they’ll hit harder and faster, but not with much more intelligence; and at the end they hit the fastest and may use special serves that whack the ball in an unpredictable pattern. These serves are like a speeding car that has just realized there’s a traffic jam up ahead. It heads in one direction and, just as you’re about to get into position and swing, changes course and heads for the other side.
Despite the increasing challenges, Hot Shots doesn’t come out feeling like an ultra-difficult game. However, if you let your guard down for one second, let your mind wander, or make a stupid mistake, your opponent will use that opportunity to pull ahead. He or she can only do it if you continue to make those same mistakes.
But avoiding them is easier said than done. It’s hard to keep your endurance up when you’ve just been humiliated by a few simple moves. “I should’ve had those!” I’d shout at the screen, not knowing that I could’ve still won the game had I shut up and regained my focus. In this respect Hot Shots Tennis reminds of a fighting game. I was once a self-proclaimed master of Tekken and Mortal Kombat. During those days, there were few people who could defeat me. The computer AI, of course, was no match for my skills. But every once in a while I’d lose. How? I lost my focus. If it wasn’t the length of one battle that got the better of me, it was the length of the entire game, which I played through repeatedly to hone my skills. That’s what Hot Shots is like – technically easy, but difficult as lengthy games wear down the player’s stamina.
Hot Shots Tennis will win most of its fans just for being a great tennis game without a steep learning curve. However, if you break it down by mechanics, its shot system is worth the greatest amount of praise. With it, players can push the left analog stick in any direction (in conjunction with the X button) to return the ball to one of nine different areas on the opponent’s side of the net. The middle area is neutral – leave the stick alone to hit the ball in that direction. If you want to be more specific and hit the ball in the top right corner, push the left stick in that direction (up and to the right, as if you were moving diagonally).
Having played this year’s crop of tennis games, as well as several from previous generations, Hot Shots Tennis was an instant joy. The process takes no more than a few minutes to learn, but few will master it right away, giving hardcore players a reason to return. For the first time outside of a simulator, you have complete control over the ball – not just your racket.
Swing style is important, but as someone who plays tennis games for fun and not for how closely they resemble the real thing, the ball mechanics get my primary vote. The things that I can do with the ball hold greater weight because that plays into the game’s strategy. In most circumstances, you know what the effects of a low hit will be, and you know the consequences of a high hit. But if my shot is directed – sent to a specific spot on the court to confuse and/or move as far away from my opponent as possible – can you be sure of the outcome? How far will assumptions get you when the ball has just bounced past your ankles?
Hot Shots Tennis is a red-hot winner for Clap Hanz, but it’s an even bigger win for every gamer that plays it. There’s something for everyone to love, regardless of your gaming background. All that matters is that you like tennis games – then there’s no question as to whether or not you should make this game your next purchase.
Review Scoring Details for Hot Shots Tennis
The series known for its rule-bending golf franchise comes to tennis with mainstream gameplay, slightly hardcore challenges, and an excellent shot-aiming system. Hot Shots Tennis was made for everyone but is still an aggressive sports game where keeping your endurance up is half the battle.
Hot Shots Tennis’ courts are very attractive, especially during the multi-angle intro leading into each game. But that’s all that stands out. The cutesy and cartoony characters are well sculpted, and the animations – while purposely jumpy and over-the-top – look good. But this game doesn’t use much of the PS2’s technology. It’s an old console, so people (and unfortunately developers) tend to forget how much power is under its hood.
You’ll hear more from the title and menu screens than from the game itself. Basic voice-overs announce the status of each match while basic sound effects are thrown in for realism (at least I think that’s what they’re there for). It doesn’t succeed, but even if it had, the silence during some of the matches would have still driven you to ignore the TV and turn on the radio, iPod, or any other external music device.
Hot Shots Tennis is every bit the pick-up-and-play game it was made to be – but don’t think that means it’s a cakewalk. A little on the easy side, for sure. But it’s not a pushover.
Hot Shots Golf antics in a tennis atmosphere. Nothing revolutionary, but on the up side, killer gameplay reigns supreme.
Singles and doubles matches (mixed with computer-controlled opponents, if you’d like) keep the game alive long after the final challenge mode match has been won.
A must play for anyone who likes tennis games. Hot Shots Tennis has done for this sport the same things it did for golf – bring out the essence of the sport and leave everything else behind.
The series known for its rule-bending golf franchise comes to tennis with mainstream gameplay, slightly hardcore challenges, and an excellent shot aiming system
Reviewer: Louis Bedigian
Review Date: 07/18/2007