This is a fun (and surprisingly deep) sports game dressed in an uber-cutesy Japanese exterior.
The Everybody's (or Hot Shots if you're an American type) franchise has always been about simple, accessible sports gameplay, with an attractive, colourful art-style. Clap Hanz' greatest work is acknowledged as being their Golf series, which has graced all of Sony's platforms to date. Back in the PS2 days though, they tried their hand at the simple game of tennis with Everybody's Tennis. Despite being a fun little game, people complained that it lacked replay value.
Clap Hanz clearly took that sentiment to heart.
Everybody's Tennis on the PSP is a spiritual successor to the PlayStation 2 title. And it has more replay value than you could possibly ever dream of. Piles (literally piles) of unlocks, tons of courts, plenty of characters, loyalty hearts and hidden extras. This has the lot in abundance, but what of the actual game?
Well its an Everybody's game, so it's super accessible. After a few minutes realising it's not Virtua Tennis (in which you have to charge your swings), you'll be straight into the action. Shots are all based on a simple timing mechanic. Swing too early and you'll pull to the left, swing too late and you'll pull to the right. If you swing dead centre however, you'll stroke the ball right into the spot you intended, with your shot placement handled by the analogue stick. So it's super simple then? Yeah it is. But that doesn't mean it isn't deep. Shot selection becomes particularly important as you play through the game's single-player campaign, and this is because each opponent has clear strengths and weaknesses.
For example, you might go up against an opponent with a strong forehand. This player will probably want to hit the ball from the baseline, and as such might not be very fast. You'll want to adapt your tactics to win the match. How about making the player run for drop shots, or coming into the net to create impossible angles?
There's plenty of opponents to suss out too. Everybody's Tennis packs a pretty lengthy single-player campaign with some charming RPG influences. Here you'll navigate isometric worlds, solving super-simple puzzles by exploring environments and challenging opponents. The story-line is a little saccharin though. Your basic aim is to travel the world to help people to enjoy the game of tennis more. Yeah, ignore that part. Still, it provides the backdrop to some pretty comical dialogue.
We really liked the RPG idea, and hope Clap Hanz decide to take it further in future Everybody's releases. The component never gets difficult or taxing, but it provides a really nice backdrop to the action, and gives some respite between frequent matches of tennis. We actually found it hard to put the single-player campaign down once we got started. It just flows really well.
Throughout your journey, you'll happen upon a series of "Boss" matches. These Bosses eventually become recruits in your travelling party — giving you more characters to level up.
Visually, Everybody's Tennis is particularly striking. The settings in the RPG campaign are worthy of note, but it's the courts where Clap Hanz truly stretch their technical muscle. Not only are these settings particularly unique (a circus, a TV set), but they are also packed to the brim with detail. The whole game's got a certain vibrancy you'd expect from an Everybody's title, and it really pops on the PSP's screen.
The soundtrack's equally jolly, with bouncy tunes befitting the court's settings adding to the atmosphere. Sadly the voice acting sticks to phrase repetition and horrible accents but we guess they have a charm of their own. Be warned though, you will be physically angry when you've heard Colin shout "I'm going to cream you" three times in a row. Shut up, man.
The amount of unlockable goodies is startling, with virtually everything you do in the game rewarded with items or points to buy items. There's a freemium MMO business model hidden in the Everybody's structure that we'd like to see come to fruition on the PS3 one day.
Before we close out the review, we should remind you that one of Killzone's Helghast characters is an unlockable in Everybody's Tennis. And yes, he's bloody awesome.
Everybody's Tennis is rooted in repetition, but it's a sports game and that's to be expected. There's plenty of depth to the action, but it's also a pick-up-and-play affair in equal measure. There's plenty of reason to keep jumping back into the game, because there's simply so much on offer here. The single-player's simple yet charming, and you'll want to keep diving back to collect every last piece of head-gear. It's honest fun, and you owe it to yourself to give it a go — particularly if you're a fan of Clap Hanz' other games, or tennis in general. We dare you to play a bit of this and not smile.