AO Tennis 2 (Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One)

Video games about sports come in two varieties, arcade titles focused on giving a fast-playing game giving just a taste of the sport, and simulations trying to preserve as much authenticity as possible. AO Tennis 2 is one of the latter. Focusing on the Australian Open (thus the AO in the name) rather than some of the It offers up everything one would expect of the genre, tutorials, plenty of character customizations, deep gameplay controls, multiplayer options, and a new career mode. As a simulation, AO Tennis 2 should appeal to those looking for more of a technical tennis simulation, but more casual players looking to smash a ball around with friends should look elsewhere.

As with any sport simulation, the hardest bit to get right are the controls. It is a balancing act between trying to provide enough options so that the simulation stands up, while at the same time limiting options and requirements so that the game remains playable. The controls for AO Tennis 2 focus on four main parts. First is player placement, simply move your player to where the ball is headed. Second, hitting the right button. There are four different swing types: top spin, lob, etc.. from which to choose. Third, the timing of the button press. Press the button too soon or too late and your shot has less power and less accuracy. Rather than just pressing the button when the ball makes contact, the game has you pressing the button well in advance in order to start your swing. Thankfully, your player is still able to maneuver while the button is pressed down, giving you just a bit more distance when you need to stretch for the ball. Finally, shot placement. While your shot button is held down, a dot appears on the far side of the court. The movement joystick is then used to maneuver the spot to where you want to aim your shot. The success of your shot will rely on all four aspects, with well coordinated shots landing hard and accurate and poor performances resulting in weaker and less accurate shots.

It should be noted that the PC and Switch versions of the title have unique control options. I have heard the PC version is very tricky to use if using a mouse (and not a PC controller) while the Switch version (reviewed here) has a motion control option, where you’re swinging the controllers around. I found the Switch motion controls to be much more forgiving than the standard control option.

The heart of the game for most people will either be the multiplayer options or the campaign mode – each offering up both singles and doubles play. Multiplayer works just fine, although the way the screen is set up it the best experience will be if each player uses their own screen. The campaign mode begins by offering up a huge number of customization options for the on-screen character. It is quite detailed, so far as to include several different ways of adjusting a character’s nose. In a strange design choice, there is not limit on character abilities and skill during standard creation, and then already created characters can be imported into the career mode. This allows one to start the career mode with maxxed out statistics. One could argue that’s just a feature and it is up to the player to be self-restricting if they want the challenge of experiencing progressive skill and ability growth (both of which are built into the campaign mode by choosing to work on character improvement during one’s weekly schedule rather than hitting up tournaments.) Even with a “maxed out” character there are a few opportunities for growth. As one’s performance increases, sponsorships and prize money is won. Cash can then be used for career perks that can enhance a players fame, recovery rates, ability to travel without fatigue, etc… If the one’s focus is entirely on the life of a player and managing their career, there are even options to simulate matches so that the entire game becomes entirely simulation with no on-court play needed at all.

AO Tennis 2 is a title that will appeal to fans of tennis who want a very detailed opportunity to experience the life of an up and coming tennis player. However, the control scheme will be a limiting factor for some, and requires a commitment to master. Gamers looking for a fun, pick up and play tennis game to play with their friends should look elsewhere, but those willing to (or wanting to) dive into the technical controls and open career mode will find something to satisfy them.

Kid Factor
Nothing to fear here in terms of appropriateness, but some of the career management menus provide a healthy amount of text. The largest limiting factor would be the controls, which may be frustrating for younger gamers. On the Switch, this is somewhat limited by the motion controls which felt much more forgiving, if perhaps not quite as accurate overall.

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