The biggest issue with the Wii when it was released is that developers didn't seem to have a good initial grasp of how to make the most out of the hardware provided; titles referred to as 'shovelware' were released regularly, and involved swinging the controller around like a fool in order to achieve specific actions. It didn't feel fluid, it didn't work all the time, and it certainly didn't feel like you had a direct impact on how things translated to the screen - ultimately, the experience wasn't very fulfilling. Any motion-sensing device is going to have titles like this in order to 'cash in' on the latest trend, and the most obvious example of this on the PlayStation Move so far is Racket Sports.
How many sports involving a racket and a ball can there be, you ask? Five, according to Racket Sports: Tennis, Table Tennis, Beach Tennis, Squash and Badminton. As you can imagine, the variations aren't always necessary or relevant, but we can understand that they wanted to flesh out the title a little bit so that it wasn't 'just another tennis game'. The motion control itself is all handled within the one Move controller, the idea being that all you have to do is swing like it's actually a racket and the movements will translate onto the screen in front of you. Awesome... in theory. What it means for you as the player in this poor example is that you have to swing your Move controller, and as long as the timing is right... your character will hit the ball back.
It's fairly difficult to tell whether the way you swing effects where the ball lands or what type of shot you do; in our experience with the game it seemed random for the most part, and a point was only won when the game didn't recognise our movements or if we messed up the timing somehow (which occurred fairly frequently given that the movement on screen occurs a second or two after you physically do it yourself). Trying to make adjustments to your timing based on the lag in the game is not fun - it's frustrating and challenging for all the wrong reasons.
Luckily, there are a few different sports to test your skill at! Sadly, despite the little differences in the rules of each separate sport, it essentially is just a new coat of paint on the same tired and repetitive gameplay of swinging the Move controller over and over and over and over... you get the idea. Squash is tennis with a wall. Badminton is tennis with a shuttlecock. Table tennis is tennis on a table. Beach tennis is... tennis on the beach? Seriously, they would have been better served spending more time on getting the core gameplay right rather than making a bunch of game modes that look pretty but essentially do the same flawed thing every time you play it.
There are tournaments, championships, exhibition and party modes available, but ultimately these modes are only different by name, not by nature. Party mode at least makes an effort to be interesting by throwing challenges at you such as switching the hand you swing with or focusing on hitting back-hands only, but the attempted injections of fun - like asking one player to 'be a clown and make the other players laugh' which is then gauged as successful or unsuccessful by the other players after the match finishes - simply feels tacked on and not very well thought out. Are people actually going to do this? And if they do, is it really a fair way to compare scores in a competitive sports game? Perhaps this one was lost on the adult audience as well, but we can't see kids really adopting this style of 'party' either.
The one redeeming feature of Racket Sports is that it looks much nicer than it plays. There are a variety of locations and characters and each one has enough detail to keep things interesting initially, but once you realize that the location or the look of your character has no real effect on the gameplay whatsoever, it highlights how shallow the concept is overall. That being said, some thought has gone into the presentation and it all has a very relaxed and cartoon-like feel to it... perhaps this title was aimed at kids, but even the younger gamers of today can still differentiate between a good gameplay experience and a game like Racket Sports that merely offers a different coat of paint to the same monotonous core experience.
We see a lot of potential with the PlayStation Move, with some upcoming titles looking very exciting and truly making the most out of the new technology. Racket Sports unfortunately feels like it was rushed out to take advantage of being one of only five launch titles. It's smart marketing perhaps, but a shame for anybody who thinks it's a good idea to spend $50 on something they can enjoy with their friends. If we're being totally honest, we can imagine that having copious amounts of alcohol before pulling this out could make it entertaining, but only because you won't remember how lame the whole thing was when you wake up the next morning.