The tennis action is fast and fun in Get a Grip, but a meandering story keeps you off the court for too long.
- A surprising level of depth on top of the arcade action
- Responsive controls
- Tons of unlockable goodies to strive for
- Fun on your own or against some friends.
- Story is wordy and boring
- On-court icons are distracting early on.
Happiness is a magical feeling that is unique to every person, but in the world of Hot Shots Tennis: Get a Grip, you bring smiles wherever you venture by whacking a felt ball past slow swingers. It's a silly premise, but the delight you dole out with your trusty racket isn't trapped in this fictional world. The fast-paced action on the court exudes joy, ensuring you are enveloped in the same good cheer as your competitors after a well-fought match. It takes awhile before you reach competition worthy of your lofty skills, but even when you're taking down ninjas or tribal villagers in straight sets, the responsive controls and charming atmosphere keep you invested in the lively proceedings. Everything isn't peaches and candy in Hot Shots Tennis, though. The cluttered on-court interface can serve as a distraction and the meandering story between matches drags on for too long. But the light always shines through the darkness, and there are so many unlockables to strive for that you'll be sucked into this happy world for hours.
Your quest to bring happiness to the world starts at a small tennis club. One member thinks he's a real hot shot on the court, and you have to teach him some humility before he understands the cheering potential of his favorite sport. Once you ensnare this young man in your strings of joy, you travel to other places in the world, besting everyone on the court with your bliss-giving racket. Creating a trail of elation wherever you walk is certainly a noble cause, but the story only gets in the way of the frantic tennis action. You have to wander around each new map you visit, talking to people about their boring problems and challenging anyone who's up for a game until you finally reach the boss of that area. Aside from a few simple puzzles, there isn't anything else to do in these places, either. Instead, you dutifully scroll through waves of forgettable text until you mercifully find your way back on the court.
Thankfully, once you're on the court, most of the problems fade away, though it's not quite perfect. When the story mode starts out, you have only a few different shot types, which means you have to focus on positioning and timing rather than trying to figure out which button you should push when the ball is flying toward your head. This serves as an easy tutorial, although early on, the many icons that attempt to guide you can be distracting. Depending on when you hit the ball, you either have a musical note (for a perfect hit), a rabbit (early), or a turtle (late) pop up above your head, along with a number telling you just how off you were with your timing. These symbols are helpful once you learn to quickly identify them, but in the beginning, they just complicate the simple action. Also, after a successful hit, the tennis ball is adorned with a circle, triangle, or X over it to indicate which button was used to return the shot, but this, too, gets in the way of just smashing that green ball right back at your opponent.
Beneath the cartoony aesthetics and forgiving controls, Hot Shots Tennis hides a surprising level of depth. As you get deeper into the story mode, you unlock new shot types, and you need to use your entire repertoire to make it past the tougher opponents. You have to alternate among the three serve types to keep them guessing; mix in spins, slices, lobs, and drop shots so you don't become predictable; and let loose a ripping smash to finish them off in style. It's easy to aim at just about any spot on the court, which lets you strategically target your opponent's backhand or force him to run to and fro like an indecisive duck. The symbols that served as a distraction early are also integral to your success when the going gets tough. Knowing if your opponent hit a slice or spin shot as soon as it comes off his racket helps you know what sort of bounce to expect and how much power will be behind it, though he, of course, has that same advantage when you're attacking. This makes for a cerebral match in which your cunning wit is as important as your dexterity.
Although the goal of each match in Hot Shots Tennis is to bring joy to everyone you square off against, you earn a tangible reward each time you exit the hallowed rectangle victorious. There are tons of unlockables for which to strive. With so many outfits, accessories, and skill-boosting rackets to earn, it's easy to get lost in the world of tennis as you valiantly attempt to unlock a Santa Claus suit or a pair of X-ray spectacles. When you win matches, you also level up your character, which not only gives you more moves on the court, but also provides attribute boosts. The plethora of rewards makes it possible to sink hours into this racket-themed adventure as you attempt to flesh out your wardrobe and become the most feared tennis savant on the planet.
In addition to the single-player story mode, there is local multiplayer competition. You can square off against a buddy in singles, recruit three friends for doubles, or flesh out the sides with computer opponents. Because the AI is smart enough to keep you guessing, the difference between facing off against a friend and the AI isn't huge, but that certainly doesn't mean multiplayer matches aren't fun. Aside from the lethargic story, just about everything in this game is well done. The on-court action is surprisingly deep and the wealth of unlockables will keep you coming back again and again. A few issues keep this from being the next great arcade-style tennis game, but there's enough to love in Hot Shots Tennis: Get a Grip to keep you smiling.