Tennis in the Face Review

By Sam Quirke, 2 years ago
Whether you like the idea of mobile games turning up on your home console or not, it's a trend that's here to stay. Finnish publisher 10tons is certainly making the most of the expanded market – Baseball Riot saw simultaneous release on current-gen consoles and smartphones, while King Oddball was ported earlier this year after enjoying a few years' success on smaller devices. Tennis in the Face is actually older than Baseball Riot in terms of its app store history, but it's now joining the Xbox One roster a year after its spiritual sequel's release. 10tons' efforts have at least been competent so far, but can their latest variation on the Angry Birds puzzle formula offer us anything special?

His name is Pete Pagassi. You'll get the joke if you're in your thirties.His name is Pete Pagassi. You'll get the joke if you're in your thirties.

If you have played Baseball Riot, the story of Tennis in the Face will be very familiar. Your hero this time around is Pete Pagassi, who blames the energy drink Explodz for the destruction of his sports career and intends to take out every clown, hipster, police officer and evil scientist that is between him and the company headquarters. It's an extremely flimsy backdrop, but this isn't a game that needs much of a story. The only narrative exposition in the entire game is a handful of newspaper headlines at the beginning of each section. Apart from some awful attempts at humour in speech bubbles at the beginning of a stage, the main source of amusement is simply the process of smacking tennis balls in people's faces. Given the title, this is exactly how things should be.

Each of the game's 120 stages is a classic domino-effect set-up. You have a limited number of projectiles with which to destroy a variety of enemies, but you can also start a chain reaction with destructible elements of the environment to help reach the trickiest bad guys. Your ammo is the humble tennis ball. You initially aim in a straight line and rely on the ball bouncing off obstacles and walls in order to get to your targets. The ball will gradually lose momentum and will eventually disappear in a puff of smoke – sooner if it hits glass or sharp debris. Later you will find cans of Explodz among your ammo, which only fly for a short time but cause a delayed explosion once they land. This small variety in ammo helps to break up the monotony, but it's a shame that there aren't any further additions to your arsenal later on in the game. At least there are slightly different obstacles, from loose boards that you can flip to your advantage to cans of tennis balls that will shoot off in multiple directions when struck.

It's a Tennis Riot! Oh, hold on, wrong game...It's a Tennis Riot! Oh, hold on, wrong game...

While the characters and environments are pretty unremarkable, the highlight of the game is definitely the visual satisfaction as you land a perfect headshot on a target. The rag-doll physics are as amusing as they are helpful; often an unconscious body will spin off and take out several enemies, or set off a chain of explosive reactions like a perverse Rube Goldberg machine. Time slows right down when you take out the last enemy so that you can glory in your success, whether earned through a chaotic multi-kill or one unconscious clown just slightly brushing your final target on its way down to the floor.

The gameplay is nothing new but at least it works. I never felt punished by sloppy stage design, and only a couple of successes seemed to come down to pure luck. The adaptation to a physical controller has been carried out well, allowing for much more precise strikes. If anything, this makes the game too easy at times. Rarely will you play a stage more than a few times before you pass it. A perfect run is earned for using less than your allotted ammunition on a stage but often this can be earned on your first go. While it's mildly satisfying to rip through a game so rapidly, I found myself bored due to the lack of true obstacles to progression. This could have been resolved merely by raising the amount of perfect runs that were needed to unlock the next area.

It's not a game that is designed to be completed in a single sitting, even though that's entirely possible. Like any smartphone game, tedium will set in a lot quicker if you don't take a break. Some bonus levels along the way will add a modicum of variety, but the basics remain the same. It's best enjoyed as a way to pass the time while you are waiting for something else to download.

It sounds as satisfying as it looks.It sounds as satisfying as it looks.

The monotony isn't helped by a fairly lacklustre soundtrack. The slow-jam rock makes for a nice change to the retro synth trend that is dominating the arcade scene, but only for the first 20 minutes. An hour later and the looping guitar riffs were grating on my nerves, especially while stuck on one of the few tricky levels in the game. The rest of the sound design makes up for this – the bassy "Thok!" of a served tennis ball is certainly accurate and there's something very satisfying about the noises that your projectiles make as they smack against obstacles and enemies. My suggestion would be to turn down the music volume if you're planning to play for an extended period and enjoy the sound effects instead.

There's only one reason that people should be playing Tennis in the Face in one sitting and that's if they're in a hurry to earn an easy 1000G. The achievements are simple enough, if not exactly straightforward. Only one is tied to a particular stage, while the rest reward specific feats throughout your playthrough. You'll likely get several of them without trying, such as taking out all enemies on the first serve or getting five headshots on a single serve. It's considerably trickier to defeat the 10tons crew in the credits level and manage 100 bounces on a single serve, but there are already excellent guides on the site to help you out with those. It's definitely less of a challenge than Baseball Riot – all of this will take a handful of hours at most, although sadly you will have to spend another couple idling on the main menu for one achievement.

Summary

If you've played Baseball Riot, or frankly any one of the hundreds of similar games on the smartphone market, you've already played Tennis in the Face. The bland design means that it doesn't stand out from the crowd, but the stages are competently built. You'll only occasionally feel like luck is involved and your reward for a skilful shot is some satisfying sound effects and rag-doll physics. Ultimately, it's an average mobile port and an easy completion. It would pass the time adequately enough while downloading the latest patch to your AAA title of choice. Beyond that, it's unlikely to hold your attention for long.
3 / 5
Tennis in the Face
Positives
  • Simple controls and concept
  • Less reliant on random luck than many of its contemporaries
  • Satisfying sound effects and ragdoll physics when smacking enemies
Negatives
  • Bland visuals and music
  • Nothing that you haven't played before a hundred times over
  • Never feels like much of a challenge
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent three hours smacking clowns in the face for 11 of the game's 12 achievements. Thanks to a dodgy play & charge kit, a further 15 hours were spent idling in the main menu to eventually earn the 12th. This Xbox One copy of the game was provided courtesy of the publisher for the purpose of this review.
Please read our Review and Ethics Statement for more information.
Sam Quirke
Written by Sam Quirke
Sam has been a Newshound since 2016 and is now the Editor for both TrueAchievements and TrueTrophies. He loves gaming on all devices and in all genres. He remains a stubborn Assassin's Creed and Pokémon fan.