Review: Hot Shots Tennis: Get a Grip (PSP)June 25th, 2010 | Written by Chris Selogy | Topic: Reviews, Sony PSP
The original Hot Shots Tennis for the PS2 was the victim of being released after Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee for the PSP, which completely raised the bar that a new title couldn’t live up to on its first try. The follow-up to that original tennis title is Hot Shots Tennis: Get a Grip, the latest PSP game from Clap Hanz that incorporates many of the same elements we’ve come to expect from the acclaimed PSP developer. Rather than being an exact clone, Get a Grip gets at least one new feature that helps it stand out from the venerable golf franchise to make it a worthy purchase for tennis fans with a PSP.
Hot Shots Tennis takes the Hot Shots Golf approach to the way it’s played by offering simple controls that handles more like Virtua Tennis than anything else. You use the face buttons to perform your standard topspin, slice, and lob shots with indicators on your character to help you get your timing down. There are even some more advanced techniques that become available to you as you build up the loyalty level of your current character. Though the controls sound simple, it will take a few matches to get used to the looser character controls and the timing required to do well before it clicks for you.
The main mode that sets Hot Shots Tennis apart from its golfing predecessors is its story mode, which adds more of an RPG twist to the single-player mode that is sort of like the Mario Golf and Tennis games on the Game Boy. You are the newest member of the Love Tennis Club that sets out to find people that are unhappy with tennis and help them enjoy tennis. Each new area offers a number of people to challenge to a match, earn points to spend in the pro shop, unlock new clothing and items, and even a few mini-games to enjoy as you work your way towards the “boss” of that area. Beating the boss unlocks them as an option for any of the multiplayer modes, so that should be enough of a reason to play through the mode if you weren’t already convinced.
Get a Grip’s story mode isn’t a perfect experience though. The AI for your doubles partners in the story mode are usually more of a liability that you hope doesn’t screw up too badly than a useful partner, though you don’t have the option to order them around like in the Virtua Tennis games. The other minor issue is that the story mode isn’t that much of a challenge, as we’ve gotten through the first 60 matches or so with less than a handful of matches that had us concerned with possibly losing.
Get a Grip offers the same loyalty and clothing/customization options that you expect from a Clap Hanz game now that offers a way to remake any character if you don’t like their default look. As you level up your loyalty, you open up the ability for your clothing choices to actually mean something so different combinations of clothing, hair, and accessories will boost different stats. Considering that there are hundreds of items to collect, just trying to find the best combinations without the guide that will eventually be written somewhere will become tedious since you need to click on everything manually to see how it’ll affect your stats. There are some obvious sets that you can put together, like a Santa or witch outfit, but most good combinations we’ve put together aren’t exactly visually appealing.
To add to that loot-style mechanic, Get a Grip also has an overall leveling system that is based around the collection of new items that boosts a stat every time you level up this equipment level. These items can be collected by beating people in the story mode along with using the money you earn after each match in the Pro Shop to buy the latest offerings, which gives you a new reason to collect them all.
Outside of the story mode and item collection aspects, Hot Shots Tennis offers some basic options for other modes to extend the fun beyond its main mode. There are the requisite exhibition and multiplayer options without much else to really extend the fun depending on what you want out of the game. Multiplayer is local Ad Hoc only, so you need to have easy access to others with a PSP and a copy of the game or a PS3 to use the adhocParty app that can allow you to play against others online. The multiplayer is good for what it is, but the lack of native online play really limits the options for most of us to make this strictly a single-player game.
Hot Shots Tennis looks really good on the PSP since the courts are much smaller than what you make be used to with the Hot Shots Golf series on the PSP. The courts have quite a bit of visual variety between them along with a number of interactive objects around them that do something whenever you hit them with the ball. The characters have some good animation to them that is modified with some of the suits you can put on.
The music in Get a Grip is standard Hot Shots fare with calm, catchy music that starts to get old the longer you play the game, which is why the lack of custom soundtracks is unfortunate. Loading times are a few seconds each if you buy the PSN version or install the game to your memory stick, which is when the game offers some tips to help you learn some new tricks.
Hot Shots Tennis: Get a Grip offers a marked improvement over the first Hot Shots Tennis game with a much better single-player mode to anchor its feature set. The story mode offers about 15 hours of enjoyable tennis fun that is a more interesting mode than previous challenge modes in the Hot Shots series. It’s a bit lacking in multiplayer options, so that aspect of the game really depends on if you have a group of PSP-owning friends to play with. For $20, you’ll get enough out of the story mode to be worth the full price for a fun portable tennis game.