The legacy of Andy Murray's double heroics at Wimbledon this summer may well be a greater interest in the great game of tennis. And those games makers over at Stick Sports are primed to take advantage on behald of Android phone and Android tablet users. As the US Open hoves into view Stick Sports is set to release Stick Tennis for Android, porting over into the Google Play store its already successful Stick Tennis for iOS game.
Fans of Stick Cricket will know exactly what to expect: fast-and-furious game play with the odd knowing quirk. A true test of finger swiping skill with just enough stickability to keep you wanting more. Stick Tennis for Android doesn't disappoint. We tested a pre-release version of Stick Tennis on both our Google Nexus 7 tablet and Motorola Motoluxe smartphone. It will be in the Google Play store soon, Stick Sports assures us. See also: Best Android Apps.
Game play on either device is fast and furious, in Stick Tennis for Android. When serving you tap the screen to toss the ball and then swipe the screen in the direction you wish the ball the go, aiming for the top of the toss. When the ball is returned you attempt to swipe it back. Timing, direction and speed of shot are all crucial.
Stick Tennis plays well on both the Nexus' 7in display and the Motorola's 4in screen. We found some jerkiness with the Motoluxe, which is probably to be expected from a relatively inexpensive Android smartphone, but it is perfectly playable.
In the practise rounds at the tennis club you get a timing meter on the left of the screen which helps you to sharpen up your game, similar to the practise modes of Stick Cricket. But in general the best training is simple - play the game. Sometimes you have to wait to play a killer shot, at other times you have to swipe for dear life in order to stay in a fast-and-furious rally, particularly when receiving serve from a top player. As you go up the levels the difference between returning a first and second serve becomes noticeable - with the former you are simply trying to react, with the other placing and timing the shot for maximum effect.
Stick Tennis for Android is a remarkably intuitive to play tennis game, holding the device with one hand and swiping with the forefinger of the other. It's like Wii Tennis, and I mean that as a compliment. Aggressive play is rewarded, as is moving your opponent about the court. In fact the only aspect of the game that doesn't ring entirely true is that we found it easier to win points when returning serve than when serving - that is a problem with most tennis sims, however (and indeed most games of tennis at the local park). Once you get the hang of booming down a big serve, it can be an easy point winner, too.
Initially we were concerned that the game was a little easy, but the learning curve is steep, and we soon found ourselves slugging it out with a better quality of AI player.
Stick Tennis for Android: games within a game
There are several modes within the game: Casual Sets Tennis Club (for single set practise matches), World Domination, in which you take on avatars representing a succession of world stars, from Anna Kournikova through Boris Bocker to Pete Sampras. To reach the next star you need to beat the previous one. Like the same mode in Stick Cricket, you also have to shell out to reach the top: after four levels of World Domination you have to $2.99 or £1.99 to unlock the next 14 levels. (£2.99 to get to Gabriela Sabatini will seem like a good deal to men of a certain age. My age.)
Upgrading also gets rid of adverts, which will be a relief should you decide to make the payment. One minor irritation with Stick Tennis is that between levels you are served low-res ads for low-grade companies (we're talking Wonga.com). And while we're on petty, minor irritations: going back a page within the Android app requires you to tap a tennis ball icon with a back arrow. Which is fine. But the Android back button doesn't work, instead it take you out of the app to whichever page you were viewing previously. It's a problem not unique to Stick Tennis for Android. Indeed, we see it in a lot of iOS apps ported to Google's Os, but you only have to hit it a time or two for it to become immensely irritating.
Another game within the game is the Daily Challenge, in which you take the part of a famous player against another star, and play a one-off single set game. You get only one chance at this game (in our case it was a quick and painful ass whupping), and your results stays on your Stick Tennis record. It's a clever way of guaranteeing that you interact with the app at least once a day.
The other games are the four Grand Slams, US, French and Australian Opens and, of course, Wimbledon. You select a player to be for the duration of the tournament, and then Again this a freemium model: you can play the first round and then have to upgrade to continue. A single upgrade opens all games, naturally.