App Reviewed on: iPhone 3GS
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I’ve always thought Stick Sports’ games were fascinating. Each one takes a fairly complex physical activity and breaks it down into the most basic functions possible while still somehow retaining what makes it feel unique. The same holds true for Stick Tennis, and despite the odd free-to-play quirk I’d call it a success.
Stick Tennis gets right to the point with a quick tutorial. Players are shown how to serve (tap, then swipe when the ball is at its peak) and control their shots (swipe left/right for direction, up/down for short or long) then it’s on to the game proper. And really that’s all there is to it; swiping and sometimes tapping. There are a number of matches to complete using various tennis stars, as well as daily challenges that offer a single chance to tackle a special scenario. So simple controls and lots of stuff to play.
As I’ve said, it’s impressive how Stick Tennis manages to boil down the sport into a series of timed swipes while retaining the overall feel. I’m also impressed with how well these simplified controls work. With only a few exceptions it’s easy to put the ball almost exactly where I want it, hopefully scoring against the AI at the same time. But don’t mistake simple controls for a sign of overly easy gameplay. Things might start off a little slow and challenge-deficient, but that changes quickly in the higher tier matches. They can be downright frantic.
I did encounter a couple of instances where the ball didn’t do exactly what I’d wanted, sometimes resulting in an out, but what really gets to me is the particular freemium model Stick Tennis has decided to adopt. The absence of ads on the screen is nice, but when it comes at the cost of un-skippable video ads that interrupt menu navigation I’m less inclined to find it agreeable. They’re commercials, basically, and they get in the way of enjoying what would otherwise be a fun little distraction.
Stick Tennis is an enjoyable time-waster when the ads aren’t getting in the way. Personally I’d have preferred banners instead of videos I can’t skip but everyone has their own preference and anyone who can make peace with the occasional interruption should enjoy themselves thoroughly. Everyone else will either have to look elsewhere or put their iOS device into Airplane Mode when they’re in the mood for a quick game.