Sports Head Tennis is a good title to play if you have been jonesing for a quick game of tennis. Of course, do not expect the same level of depth you would get in the more hardcore titles you would get on consoles. SHT is the most bizarre game of Arkanoid-meets-Pong with all the trimming and fuzz that only a browser based flash game developer would put together. It is a good and fun game that will keep you entertained for a few rounds -provided you get past the initial frustration of not being able to control anything right.
The most awkward thing about playing tennis is when you try it out for the first time. There, in the open court, you swing around the racquet hoping to make contact with the ball -then when it does, you start praying that it manages to go over the net. The initial shame and embarrassment is quickly compensated for after a few successful rallies and you start getting the hang of things. Sports Head Tennis only wishes to be half as satisfying as the real thing -this game is clumsy, unresponsive, and all but impossible to control. If it were not for the quirkiness of the gameplay it would be all too easy to just move on to another title.
Okay, we will say it straight out, Sports Head Tennis does not have intuitive controls. Sure, moving left and right and swinging the racquet are three simple things, but the way the game responds to commands (regardless of whether you’re on a decent netbook or a really fast desktop) is just so out of sync. That being said, you will eventually get the hang of the controls, and even the unpredictable way that the ball bounces around becomes something you eventually get used to (or to be precise, it is something in the game that you’ll eventually be able to accept).
Playing this game is not about careful positioning of your character during a rally, or having the exactly right angle to score a much needed point. This game is all about scoring by getting power-ups and hoping that madness forces the computer to make a mistake. AI mistakes happen often enough to be considered a viable strategy, and with the right combination of airborne items that the ball passes through as it crosses over the net, you will eventually learn how to enjoy the game on its merits.
Luck is a major factor in the game, as random power pop-ups could potentially turn the tide of the match in a single moment. There are other ways to ensuring victory -such as studying the overall layout of the “ceiling” of the stage (which affects the way the ball bounces), or carefully balancing the ball on your racquet before launching it in a desired manner (apparently there are no rules against this one).
There’s no umpire calling out the plays so it really feels more like a ball-bouncing arena match similar to that of Pong than anything resembling tennis. Still, there is a reason why this game is worth a try. Beyond the controls, and the odd randomness of it all, SHT is actually a fun novel game that manages to be playable. The visuals are simple, easy to figure out, and the gameplay mechanics add to the charm of the game.