Pete Pagassi is a tennis heavyweight with a drinking problem. The mulletted marvel is addicted to Explodz energy soda, which has put the brakes on his career. After a spell in rehab, the former Grand Slam champion decides to issue his revenge on the maniacal manufacturers of the syrupy squash, and so embarks on a tour of the company’s hometown, peppering anyone associated with the pop with putrid green balls. Ace premise, huh?
Tennis in the Face is not the first proper PlayStation 4 racquet and ball simulator that you’ve been waiting for, but instead another physics-based puzzler from the increasingly prolific 10tons. This adopts the exact same format as the comparably curious King Oddball, in which you must work your way through square grids, clearing groups of stages in order to unlock the next set. The presentation is bright, colourful, and barmy – but it screams smartphone rather than next-gen.
Still, the Finnish studio has moreish gameplay down to an art. Playing as the aforementioned sporting star – who’s absolutely not to be confused with either Pete Sampras or Andre Agassi – you must line up serves using the DualShock 4’s analogue stick or touchpad in order to bat balls into the face of your energy drink archenemies. The sphere will subsequently bounce around the stage, destroying anything that it comes into contact with.
Fortunately, there’s a little more to the release than that. At first you’ll be taking down unsuspecting advertising clowns, but the stakes soon soar when you have to deal with shady public relations people and engineers in hazmat suits. These may take two hits to dismantle, or even drop briefcases which contain cash to boost your score, with the different rules forcing you to rethink your strategy as you progress, and keep the gameplay feeling fresh.
And then there are environmental elements such as vending machines, scrap metal, and ball dispensers. The game adopts a much more puzzle leaning format towards its latter half, as you smash glass to release balloons, which in turn detonate explosives, causing barrels to flip pieces of wood into the faces of your unsuspecting foes. It all starts with a single serve, of course – but ends up much more like that Honda advert than your average baseline slug-a-thon.
Alas, while it’s all tidily designed, and is addictive in a braindead kind of way, it’s hardly going to set the world alight. A synthesised bass riff with a kind of wah-wah effect will prompt you to hum along, while the straight-up silliness of the overall premise will raise a smile. Online leaderboards, in addition to Trophy-tied challenges, give you incentive to perfect your skills, but there does seem to be a spoonful of luck connected to your success.
For a game named Tennis in the Face, this curious new indie from Finnish outfit 10tons is delightfully inoffensive. Outside of its outlandish energy drink-inspired storyline, this is a straightforward arcade game which revels in the base appeal of hitting people with balls. Lively presentation belies comatose gameplay, but its simplicity serves as a solid palette cleanser between longer gaming rallies.