Review: Virtua Tennis Challenge Serves Up a Double Fault (iPad/iOS)

Broken online play and iffy control schemes leave this game making the wrong kind of racket.

I’ve been a big fan of Virtua Tennis for years, getting my start back on the Sega Dreamcast with several spirited multiplayer sessions and eventually moving on to other platforms to see what they have to offer.  Most recently, the series hit its stride on the PlayStation Vita with a modified version of Virtua Tennis 4, and though not all the modes were to my liking, the core gameplay and various other options delivered service with a smile.  So, tell me, why couldn’t Sega do the same thing with its iPad port of the game? 

Virtua Tennis Challenge is nothing more than a modified port of previous releases in the series.  Sega did try to cram the Virtua Tennis 4 experience into the port, complete with top-of-the-line visuals and online functionality, but the technical performance falls behind.  It feels like a sluggish McEnroe trying to chase after lobs in the back court.

Part of the problem lies with the gameplay.  It just never really clicks the way it’s supposed to.  You start out with the gesture-based controls, which are hideous.  Half the time, you can’t even properly make contact with the ball, whiffing nothing but air as you try to just win a match.  There are various options available, including using a virtual on-screen pad to guide your player.  And while that option is more suitable, it still feels like something’s off with this port, like you can’t direct your shots as smoothly as you could guiding them with a real analog stick.

The game has several modes to choose from, including the return of the SPT (Sega Professional Tennis) World Tour, where you can challenge various foes, as well as a Quick Match and Training mode, which features mini-game type drills.  But, again, without comprehensive gameplay to dig in with, it feels like it never really comes together.