Developer: Hendrik Heuer
Version Reviewed: 01
Device Reviewed On: iPhone 4S
Graphics / Sound Rating:
Replay Value Rating:
Descriptions of Blind Tennis make it sound like an experimental game. Really though, it comes off as more of a video game dare being fulfilled. Unfortunately, while its sensory gimmick works well enough, its flaws come from a generally sloppy execution.
The basic gameplay of Blind Tennis will be instantly familiar to anyone who has ever played Pong or Breakout, which should really be everyone at this point. Players control a paddle at the bottom of the screen and position it to redirect the incoming ball. Blind Tennis’s big hook is what is going on at the top of the screen. While the game is in progress, a curtain is constantly descending down the playfield. The longer the player survives the more the screen is obscured. The idea is that through headphones and the game’s immaculate stereo sound design the player is supposed to predict where the ball is coming from behind the curtain with their ears alone. It is a neat trick that works surprising well, although even at the highest difficulty the curtain never becomes so long that things are unreasonably hard.
What’s problematic is the fact that everything else in the game feels incredibly unpolished. The sound effects and visuals have this sterile aesthetic that complements the experimental and sort of academic nature of the game. However, the game is coasting on the strength of its sound design as the extremely basic visuals barely surpass the 30-year-old Atari game they are emulating. The biggest problem by far, though, is the controls. Players tap on the edges of the screen to move the paddle across but the inertia is so wonky and slippery that the paddle continues to slide around back and forth even after the player has taken their thumb off the screen. More game overs are likely to occur due to control issues rather than not being able to see the ball.
Blind Tennis had the potential to be one of the great, little, high-concept games the App Store excels at creating. It’s a shame then that in order to appreciate the new ideas it offers, players will have to be willing to suffer through too many basic, mundane shortcomings.