For many, the difference between the Wii and one of those wood-paneled Pong machines from the '70s is negligible. To the casual gamer, the Wii is a machine for playing doubles tennis, just as that old console was made for bouncing chunky grey dots across the front of a cathode-ray tube. But Table Tennis' Wii re-release suggests that many players have milked every ounce of fun out of Wii Sports and are ready to move onto meatier multiplayer experiences.
Table Tennis originally bowed on the Xbox 360 more than a year ago. In spite of its rewarding, layered gameplay, the ping-pong simulator didn't capture the hearts and minds of hardcore gamers slavering for the next chapter of Halo. Table Tennis is a much better fit on Nintendo's console, where it benefits greatly from the physical requirements of the Wii remote. With a standard controller, the game's button-mashing felt a tad sterile and inorganic. The act of waving the Wii remote and the pre-recorded "whoosh" piping from the controller's tiny speaker transform the game from a technical exercise to a visceral experience.
Table Tennis doesn't fully commit to one control scheme; players pick between three. The simplest uses only the Wii remote, while the more complex use the nunchuk attachment to move players around the table or aim shots. No one way to play is perfect, and competitors have to choose between minor sacrifices. Still, the game is great for head-to-head matches, raising the low bar of Wii Sports while retaining the simplicity of a good party game. Even the most casual gamer can grasp how Table Tennis works. Game like this are practically etched into our DNA.
Beyond the game: In an alternate universe, we're talking about another Rockstar game. Grand Theft Auto IV was originally slated for an October 16 release, but it was postponed until next year.
Worth playing for: A driving techno beat rises when players rally. It's a subtle but effective use of music to create tension.
Frustration sets in when: There's no online play, so loners will have to leave the house and make some friends if they want human opponents.
Final judgment: Pong sprouts legs and crawls from the primordial ooze.