I’ve seen a lot of folks comparing Smoots World Cup Tennis to the likes of Mario Tennis and Wii Sports, but in truth, or at least from my experience with the game, that’s hardly the case. While Smoots World Cup Tennis does have that same arcade-y concept and the cutesy presentation, the game lacks technical refinement. We’ll get that shortly. Booting up the game takes you to a clean and concise menu. Here, you’ll find exhibition modes, tournament modes, the game’s story mode, and the ability to alter some settings.
Exhibition allows you to take to a quick match against the CPU or a local player. You’re free to play this one vs one, or, two vs two. You’ll be able to select the court that you wish to play on, and tweak the number of games, number of sets, and of course, the CPU difficulty level. Tournament is fairly self explanatory and works in a similar fashion; with you also able to play either solo or with another player. The story is where the meat of the action rests, and it’s here in which you’ll find the most variation that Smoots World Cup Tennis offers.
There’s a tutorial present that you can take to, and here is where you’ll learn the basics of play. Thankfully, the game keeps things simple as far as handling is concerned. Movement is tethered to the left stick. When serving, you can alter the power of your shot via a brief power gauge. You’ll hit the ball with the A button, perform slices with the X button, and execute lobs with the B button. When a ball is coming to your side of the net, you can hold any counter strike to power a shot, as well as aim for a corner during your power-up.
You’ll know where the ball is heading when it’s coming to you via a telltale circle that appears on your side of the field. You’ll simply run to said location, and dish out the strike of your choice. If your opponent throws a lob at you, you have a brief window to perform a smash strike, which tends to score you a point most of the time. That’s pretty much the bulk of play. There’s a light stamina system that feeds into this. You’ll be told your current stamina level at the game’s hub menu. This drops per-match and per-tournament.
There’s two ways to boost this back up to maximum level; go home and rest, or drink an energy drink. The former will cost you a week of your season, whereas the latter will just cost you a few hundred coins. Money is earned through winning matches and tournaments, which in doing so, will also improve your rank; beginning at one hundred and working down to one. It’s a relatively straightforward affair on paper. Sadly, in practice, that’s just not the case. The game has a heap of poor design choices that are just too hard to forgive and overlook.
The game’s story throws you onto a global map, and here, you’ll select the available exhibitions or tournaments to take to from across the world. Succeeding in anything will slightly boost your stats in three aspects; handling, speed, and strength. When selecting an event, you’re given some information via a panel. This tells you how much you can earn, how many participants are present, and so on. Naturally, the higher the rank, the harder the game will become, and as such, the likelihood of more participants per-event will increase.
You’ll also see many more sets per-tournament as you climb in rank. The overall aim of play is to make it through all available tournaments in a season. You’ll start at the 250 competition, work through the 500 and 1000 competitions, before finally hitting the fabled Grand Smoots Tournament. You’ll climb in rank along the way, and eventually, you’ll hit top spot. It really is as simple as that in the scheme of things, which isn’t a bad thing by any means. That is, if you’ve the patience and perseverance to endure the game’s faults.
Unfortunately, this is where the game falls almost completely flat. It’s not at all consistent, and its responsiveness is constantly up in the air. The game’s lack of shot variety means that you’ll only have a limited amount of tools at your disposal, and even these tend to be useless for the most part. You can pretty much throw any plan of tactical play out the window because of this. Instead, you’ll mindlessly hit the ball back and forth until one of you stumbles or steps too far in one direction, opening the chance to earn a cheap point.
There’s rarely ever a meaningful opportunity to do anything other than simply hit the A button, making for a dull and tedious affair overall. The lack of shot variety just makes each and every match feel too confined and too strict. That’s not to mention the game’s technical setbacks. Oftentimes, it can be far too hard to counter the CPU’s serve due to the ridiculous window that you have to respond with. This means that for the most part, when the CPU is serving, you’re likely to lose unless you’re fortunate enough to be near the serve output.
Even when I placed myself in the middle back of the field, the speed of a serve that’s aiming for any given corner is just too rapid to reach for the majority of play. Then there’s the ball speed and ball bounce, both of which are wildly inconsistent too. Collectively, these issues make each win feel like a luck of the draw, rather than that of a win through skill. Furthermore, the game makes a nasty habit of forcing your hand; sometimes constantly tossing you from corner to corner until you get to the point that you cant reach a return.
On top of that, the AI has a tendency of seemingly purposely screwing up. Whether they just blindly stand there making no attempt of returning your serve, or, appear to just give up mid-set as the ball plonks them on the head, you’ll find no shortage of laughable moments. Sadly, you’ll be laughing at the game, not with it. This blatant lack of mechanical refinement and variety just isn’t acceptable by today’s standards, least of all for a game that mirrors a sport that’s supposed to base play on reflex, tactical output, and overall proficiency.
Nevertheless, that’s how the game plays. You’ll dive on in, take to a range of tournaments of varying difficulty and length, gradually increase your rank, and move on to the next. The game’s inconsistencies never really improve regardless as to where you are. Sure, it’s quite easy starting out, but as you get to the tougher tournaments, it truly begins to test your patience. I’ve sunk eight hours into the game so far and have sampled every element of play that’s on offer, and I can safely say that I don’t plan on returning to it any time soon.
There’s a bulk of outlandish cosmetic wares to unlock as you get further in. You’ll earn some through natural play, but the bulk of cosmetics present will need to be paid for via the in-game currency. Outside of that you can browse your current season, hit the world ranking to see your place, or check out what trophies you have earned – there are many to work through. When you’re not participating in an exhibition match or a tournament, chances are you’ll be playing some mini-games. Unfortunately, things don’t fare too much better here.
These modes will gradually unlock as you get further into the game, and can be accessed via the same hub as your tournaments. Each and every mode is as silly as the next; tossing fish into the mouths of hungry seals, launching balls at zombies before they attack the net, lobbing bombs at an opponent, or even delivering milk to mailboxes before a boulder strikes. Each mini-game has several waves for you to take to, with every passing wave rising in difficulty and complexity. The problem? They’re not that fun, and can even be frustrating.
The only one I found enjoyment in was the milkman training, ironically it didn’t involve holding a tennis racket. Hell, even then I cant say that the fun I was having lasted for very long. The game’s somewhat stiff handling, its technical blemishes, and its lack of fluidity just gets in the way too much. It’s a shame, really, because if anything, Smoots World Cup Tennis could have been pretty decent. I’ve no doubt that it will find its following, but I do doubt its ability to maintain interest in the face of its drawbacks. It’s such a squandered opportunity.
In regard to the game’s visual design, Smoots World Cup Tennis gets a fairly safe pass. Whilst nothing groundbreaking, I did appreciate the game for its colorful and cutesy presentation. That being said, don’t expect a lot of detail, because you wont get that here. The court textures are not all that sharp, and there’s a heap of recycled assets within. Such as the crowd, many of which look like identical siblings and lack any real character. The audio is much worse, giving off generic and irritatingly repetitive cues from start to finish.
The bottom line here is that if you can forgive it for its many, many drawbacks, you might pull more from this than most. That, however, is one hell of a stretch. It’s a shame that the developer failed to rectify the issues that were present in previous release versions of the game. Whilst its longevity is fairly passable, and there’s an okay amount of variation present, I cant at all recommend it in the state that it’s in. You’ll be better off either looking elsewhere for a tennis fix, or, waiting for some post-launch refinement – if that happens.
Smoots World Cup Tennis is a horrendously developed game that will only serve disappointment. The entire experience is full of poor design choices and technical issues. Furthermore, there’s no shot variety present, nor is there any consistency as far as ball movement is concerned. It may look colorful and sport lots of customization options, but in the face of its sheer lack of mechanical depth and overall polish, that’s hardly a saving grace.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.