The combination of a simple, comfortable game mechanic with depth and regular injections of jovial encouragement and bonuses makes us happy.
Table Tennis Touch has all of that, which is why these words are being typed by fingers that are positively dancing across the keyboard. The sooner this review is done, the sooner the table tennis can resume.
Flicks and tricks
At the moment Table Tennis Touch is available for iPhone and iPad, with an Android version in the works (the latest ETA from the developers is "ASAP", which is somehow both reassuring and entirely unhelpful at the same time).
It's a single-player game that uses a format first seen in Konami's 1985 coin-op Ping Pong, right down to the disembodied bats. The basic control method is along the lines of Papertoss and Flick Kick Football: just swipe up and across the bottom of the screen to fire the ball back over the net.
Beyond that you can add spin by switching direction just after contact, and the speed and length of your swing affects the power of your shot. You can also choose from two serving styles: swipe up through the ball for an almost foolproof straight hit, or double tap to tee up the ball, then let fly with all the power and spin you can muster. The latter is quite easy to fluff, so if the game is hanging by a thread it's advisable to play it safe.
A career in table tennis
On top of that solid base, Table Tennis Touch builds a game structure that elevates it way beyond those aforementioned ball flickers.
The heart of the game is the Career mode, which is based around a series of knockout competitions. This knockout format rapidly escalates things from casual to deadly serious. Going out in the semis or the final will make you cry as if you're Andy Murray on Centre Court.
Because there's a lot of scope for different styles of play, from safe to risky, games feel as if they could go either way at any point, and a blast of bullish bat flapping can eject you from a tournament in a flash.
Mini games and extras
Mini games and unlockable extras pop up all the time to keep things feeling fresh. Diversions such as the skittle-toppling challenge aren't just fun, they also act as training aids, allowing you to work on your technique and experiment without fear of losing a vital match.
You can buy better bats with your virtual currency, known as "reputation", which is earned by winning events and beating challenges. There are also in-app purchases that adorn your invisible player with a magical "boost" spray (for more powerful shots) or unlock the mini games, either of which will set you back 69p.
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Thumbs or fingers?
Even though this is a universal app, identical across all iOS devices, it plays quite differently on a big iPad compared to an iPhone. On the big screen it feels naturual to swipe with the index finger on your dominant hand. That makes some shots harder to play, but on the iPhone you can use two thumbs, which can make it easier. Owners of big hands and an iPad Mini can take their pick from either method.
One small irritation when played on an iPhone is the way the iOS Control Centre menu tab keeps popping up. You could temporarily disable that in your main phone settings if it really got on your nerves, and it's rarely popped up in full during our games.
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Table Tennis Touch verdict
The pin-sharp 3D graphics and good variety of locations make Table Tennis Touch a nice place to be, and the challenge of the Career mode gives it a lifespan beyond that of most casual games.
If bitesized sporty gaming is your kind of thing, get your teeth into it pronto.
Review by Tony Horgan.