When it comes to virtual tennis, I have two main reference points: tennis for the NES in 1984 and Wii Sports tennis in 2006. Since my pattern seems to wait 15-20 years to try a new tennis game, it’s the perfect time for a game called Tennis the threat appear on Steam.
And I’m happy to see that Tennis the Menace finally fixes the main problem with tennis as a sport: the lack of powers like bullet time and teleportation. Finally, a bit of magic in the so-called sport of kings.
“So you’ve just chased a drop shot with your utmost effort and are happy to get the ball back in play,” reads the game’s description on Steam. “You find yourself at the side of the field, watching as your opponent is left behind in an open field with a simple shot. What should I do?”
Traditionally, you stood and watched as your opponent stuffed you completely, or perhaps you tried to throw your racquet at the ball, or perhaps you protested to the referee that the ball was out of bounds. But these would not work guaranteed. That’s why Tennis the Menace came up with a new option that allows you to quickly cross the court: “Instantly teleport to a position where you can hit the ball.”
Yes, a Blink-style teleportation ability is definitely useful in tennis, but it’s not the only superpower you have in Tennis the Menace. You can also slow down time. Does your opponent have a lightning-fast serve or return? Who cares? You can control time. Their vicious overhand punches turn into harmless, sluggish lobs.
If that sounds like a cheat code that makes it easy to win every tennis match, well…it definitely isn’t. In Tennis the Menace, just learning to serve or return will challenge your muscle memory. It’s played with keyboard and mouse, and you use the mouse buttons to choose spin and power, not hitting the ball yourself, and you aim your shot “at an invisible vertical plane above the tennis net.” It is strange. It’s one of the weirder sports games I’ve played and so far I haven’t mastered much other than a few basic serves.
And as for your skills, they’re activated with the QWER and ASDF keys, so get used to using those two rows while clicking two mouse buttons (and sometimes holding one) while mouse-clicking one Aim point over the net. As you play a match, you can also increase your skills at times, from your magical powers to your movement skills to the different types of shots you can make to something called “Health Bar Distance”.
See, even after playing a bit, I can admit that I don’t understand everything that’s going on in this game. But it’s definitely a fresh approach to tennis and while I don’t quite get it, I like it. you will find it Tennis the Menace on Steam for $6.