Since breaking onto the women's pro tennis circuit in a big way in the late '90s with her sister Serena, Venus Williams has remained one of the most visible and talented players in the sport. The same sort of glowing things cannot be said about her new mobile tennis game, which is choppy and shallow. It's mostly functional, but that's about as positive as you can get.
Venus Williams Tennis is a very stripped-down tennis game, in terms of both the gameplay itself and the gameplay options. As you start the game, you're given the choice of playing as Venus Williams or as one of four other, fictional tennis pros. There are two modes of play: tournament and practice. The practice mode is essentially worthless, though, as it offers no tutorial or helpful tips and is otherwise identical to the tournament mode. The tournament mode is broken up into four different tournaments, each of which you'll need to play through at least twice before you'll be eligible to advance to the next tournament. The gameplay is incredibly streamlined, to the point that it doesn't require you to hit any buttons to swing your racket--just position your player in front of the ball, and she'll swing auto-magically. The downside is that Venus Williams Tennis turns into basically a glorified game of Pong; the upside is that the game is easy to control with a single hand. Unfortunately, the controls are inconsistent. Your player will often pay you no mind as you press a direction, and the range in which your player can make contact with the ball is pretty fuzzy. The game seems to oscillate between easy and frustrating. Most of the time when you miss a shot, you get the feeling that it wasn't your fault.
The shoddy, simple gameplay would be more forgivable if the graphics were stunning, but alas, Venus Williams Tennis doesn't look much better than it plays on Nokia Series 60 handsets. The game gives you an isometric, behind-the-back perspective on the action, and while the courts and the characters lack much flair, they have a colorful, clean look to them. When things start moving around, though, the problems become apparent, as there simply aren't enough frames of animation for the players or the ball. The choppy frame rate would be easier to excuse if it didn't fluctuate enough to regularly be held accountable for getting scored on. There's some decent sound, but it too is hamstrung by technical issues. There are a handful of synthesized little tunes that play during menus and before or after matches, but these have a habit of cutting off before they're actually done playing. This is a problem with most of the sound samples, from the court announcer, who will keep a tally of the scores, to the crowd cheers after each point is scored. As an added bonus, if there is a sound playing while your player is in motion, you'll be treated to a burst of pops and clicks in addition to the usual sound.
Venus Williams Tennis isn't a very good game of tennis. The core gameplay isn't inherently bad--in fact, the simplified format is rather well suited to the controls available on most mobile phones. The lack of gameplay options, while certainly lamentable, isn't too surprising within the realm of mobile tennis games. But technical issues with the controls, the graphics, and even the sound limit how much you can really enjoy this title.