World Cup Ping Pong in Review – The Good and the Bat

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Wooden floors and polished table tops; the chirping of rubber soles on recently waxed floors and above all, the acrid and sweet smell of sweat. Skyworks have added to the growing list of table tennis simulators in the app store with World Cup Ping Pong and have scored a few good shots against the more historied competition.

Presentation and Gameplay
Along comes World Cup Ping Pong (WCPP), the first table tennis simulator in the app store to ditch 3D graphics and focus on smooth 2D motion and upgraded physics. How smooth is smooth? Well, Skyworks’ game plays smoother than a hot knife cuts through butter: no stutters, no crashes, no graphical gaffes. It is the easiest table tennis simulator on the eye with great colours, details, menus and lighting – Skyworks know how to hire artists and design stunning sets.

Are you an arcade player? If so, you will love the speed of WCPP. It slaughters iPing Pong 3D and offers a choice of bats to satiate the speed demon or the control freak. Use your quick finger or thumb to swipe, push, block and spin the ball over the net – its gameplay is quite simple, but perfecting techniques is very demanding.

Do you want to practice control? Try arcade mode which pits you against the opponent’s side of the table propped up on its wheels. You will have to ‘defeat’ circles of varying sizes that pop up randomly by putting a pinning them with the ball.

Head to head is a fun but rather dizzying way to play with a mate. It is top-down and features similar gameplay to the regular mode but with fewer spin options.

The mainstay however is the tournament ladder. You can choose one of eight countries and go head to head in three different matches. I have yet to play any other country than the USA for the first round and usually I am stuck with either Finland or Britain for the second, but that sometimes changes as the tournament progresses. Unfortunately, the ladder is short – very short. While fun, it does not offer enough exercise or game after your three matches are up. It would be nice to have a deeper tournament with more variation, more countries and smaller gaps between lowly rated countries and highly rated countries.

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Skywork’s leaderboard is a great addition to the game and allows you to suss out who is the real Waldner at the App Store and who is Jack Black. Unfortunately, there is neither wifi nor internet play, so there is no way for top scorers to prove their skills against the competition. 

Problems
Unfortunately, WCPP’s bad aspects are many and in some cases unforgivable. Firstly, service is a nightmare. Balls are high, ugly, illegal, ill-possessive of offensive power and they are made worse by a cheating opponent. You cannot set up between serves or recalibrate your finger. If it your opponent’s turn, you merely hope that you don’t blink as the computer makes its own rules. If not for the silly ‘service change’ graphic that scrolls in every two points, this would almost be passable. However, when service changes, the screen freezes in what is arguably the worst flaw: a total input pause. The service change graphic slides in, freezing your bat position, disallowing recalibration and to add to the injury, your opponent just sends a blind, illegal serve your way. Look out for this oversight.

Else wise, gameplay is a mixed bag. With Skywork’s great attention to graphic detail, it is surprising that they left WCPP with embarrassingly elementary bat-positioning. Imagine your legs glued to the floor and your elbow propped on top of a tee. You cannot shuffle to the left or right nor forehand drive a ball down the line, nor can you do the so with your backhand. There is no cutting, no real top spin, no dropping. Your entire arsenal consists of blunt attacks and awkward side spins (which really spin). And, often, the ball rockets out of sight to the left or right of the table. Because your bat’s face is always parallel to your opponent’s, you cannot counter spin, nor do proper angled shots. Finally, the choice of three bats, while novel, is poorly implemented. Usually, a faster bat and rubber will result in much more spin when paired with large arcing motions. Not so in World Cup Ping Pong. Skyworks somehow get all their bats from Walmart, their rule book from Pinoccio and their inspiration from joke movies and still manage to gather eight countries for a tournament!

Plea to Developers
I may sound harsh, but I want to believe that a good simulation of one of the fastest sports in world can be made. After playing every table tennis game in the App Store, I am left with the feeling that devs, artists and mathematician are the only decision makers behind the genre. We need real players, no garage players. League players who will come out and explain rules, demo games point out not only poor physics, but bunk rules, positioning and poor design. A sports game cannot properly be made without the intense input of players: people who love the game.

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Conclusion
For a good time, slide your eight shiny quarters into the App Store machine, but don’t expect a realistic simulator. World Cup Ping Pong is fun. It is challenging and it is short. If you are into online whuffie generators, you will have ample opportunity to run up a high score at the leaderboards in either arcade or tournament mode. Grab a friend and play head to head. Each mode is a blast. However, each mode is plagued by unfortunate physics, positioning and a bit of computer cheating. If you really want to play table tennis, you won’t find a great option in the App Store though I stand by my opinion that for sheer enjoyment, iPingPong 3D is the top current game. If WCPP was a dollar cheaper, it would be a Grab.

World Cup Ping Pong, lovely as it is, ultimately falls short of a grab, but receives a merciful Tap from TouchMyApps.

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App Summary
Title:World Cup Ping Pong (V1.0)Developer:Skyworks
Price:$1.99App Size:3.8 MB
  • Great Graphics
  • Smooth & Responsive
  • Three well-designed gameplay modules.
  • Online Leaderboards
  • Disappearing ball
  • Poor bat positioning
  • Cheating serves

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