My lack of sporting prowess is legendary. From being lapped in the 100 meter race, to coming dead last in a number of events at school, I could always be relied upon to keep the second-worst athlete in any given competition from being the official loser.
The first and last time I tried playing table tennis, it was still known as ping pong, and man, could that ball move! I also have a fond memory of heading to the local squash club with friends when I was in high school here, and trying to play squash with ping pong balls. I don’t think it ever caught on as a national sport.
So anyway, here I was, looking for an app to review, and I found “Table Tennis Touch” – a colorful app that teaches you the fine art of…you guessed it: table tennis. Could I be as bad at the game/sport in cyberspace? Would all my queries about the table being wonky and bumpy (to excuse my lack of skills) be finally answered?
I couldn’t wait to find out!
How it works
Unlike the other apps I have reviewed of late, this one comes chock full of helpful, nurturing and supportive instruction. Your tuition begins in the friendly and familiar surroundings of a somewhat messy garage. It’s you against your robot teacher, complete with goal net in case you swing wild, as you are taught the fine art of table tennis etiquette.
It all begins with learning how to return the ball. Not only does the app show you how to do it, but if you’re still a quivering mess of nerves after that, you can ask it to show you again and again until you’re absolutely sure. Once you’re ready to try without being shown, you can tap the appropriate instruction, and then knock it across to “Wiff Waff,” your robot opponent and table tennis sensei.
Even when you’re not fantastic, the app is very encouraging. The ball can go flying off the table, hit the robot, or limp towards the net before slowing to a grinding halt; it will still cheer you on and get you to keep trying.
When you’ve managed to get the ball to cooperate a few times, you’ll be taught how to put spin on the ball by swiping to hit it in one direction, and then quickly swiping in another.
After that lesson, you’ll move on to serving. The simple serve involves batting the ball across the table from its original position, while the advanced means tapping twice under the table, which sends the ball up into the air, so you can thwack it when it comes back down.
Again, if you don’t get the hang of these instructions, you can retry them, get the app to demonstrate, and then try, try again. You won’t be sent into competition before you feel you’re well and truly ready to move ahead.
The minute you take that crucial step, the garage falls away, and you’re suddenly in a clean room with nothing between you and your opponent but a sparkling new table. You’ll be assigned a paddle; you can choose your level of difficulty; and you get a bank of “Reputation Points” to get started. You can build on those points to improve your advantage and quality of paddle.
You can adjust options for the game, such as music, type of grip and touch, and there is a shop where you can buy an “Arcade Key” and “Boost.” The latter does exactly what it implies – it boosts your performance.
As you go along and build up your table tennis reputation, the competitors become more difficult to beat. Perfecting that spin on the ball technique will make a big difference to how far you can advance, so practice as much as possible at the beginning.
When I tried it
I found the tutorial extremely helpful. The robot was my Mr. Miyagi, and I was the Karate Kid of table tennis. If only I’d had this patient level of instruction when I gave the sport a try all those years ago; I could have been a champion in China by now.
I hit a few bumps along the way. My initial attempts were greeted with exclamations of awe and respect, but when I waded into the “Spin” part of the lesson, I faltered a bit. No matter how I swiped, I could not seem to get any spin on that ball. The app, ever cheery, kept letting me try, with “Nearly!” followed by “Again!” and “Again!” and “Again!” I really had to laugh when it finally gave up on teaching me this skill, and moved, without warning to “Serving – It gets easier!”
I learned the two methods of serving. The advanced one was tricky, but I managed to get the ball over the net a couple of times. Despite being offered more practice, I decided to press on to my first competition. I was presented with a paddle, introduced to my competitor, and we headed to the main event.
Cut to…two minutes later. I was five points down with no score to my name, had been yelled at a few times for not allowing the ball to bounce on my side before hitting it, and sent my paddle wildly slicing towards the target, only to witness the ball flying into the far corner of the room. Yeah, this was the more familiar scenario to me. I was going to have to work on those reputation points.
This is a very good looking game, and I’ll bet that Susan Sarandon is playing it morning, noon and night. She’s probably got squillions of reputation points to her name. I can’t wait to meet her in competition.
It’s not expensive, offers loads of training, and will be lots of fun for those who don’t have two left hands. Frankly I just think I was assigned a bum paddle.
Great graphics. Lots of training offered. Relatively inexpensive with very few in-app purchases.
Don’t get a bum paddle and wonky table like I was clearly given, ahem.
Table Tennis Touch Cost: $3.99 Seller: Yakuto Limited Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad Rating: E for Everyone