Beach Ping Pong
| Beach Ping Pong

If you thought ping pong was a simple game that would only require left, right and fire from a videogame simulation you'd be wrong. In fact, you don't need left and right.

Digital Chocolate is a proponent of the puritanical 'one thumb' school of mobile gaming in which movement controls are a heresy. So in Beach Ping Pong, players hit '5' or the action button to whack the ball. And that's it.

Of course, like all the best racquet sport sims, the depth is in the timing. The longer you keep the button depressed, the more powerful the shot – but the same button press also controls a direction curser on the other side of the table, so with every shot, you need to weigh up the eternal dichotomy between power and placing.

There's more. Double press the action button and you get to put spin on the ball, which curves its trajectory for as long as you hold the button. Over do it, and your shot misses the table completely. Get the timing just right and it pings the surface before bending magically around your opponent's ridiculously flailing paddle.

For a one button game this is surprisingly intricate stuff, enabling you to exploit the skinny margin of error and develop a real skill for ball-bending. Very quickly, a tactical approach develops and you're luring your opponent around the table, tricking them into committing too soon. This game emphatically isn't what it first appears. It isn't 3D Pong in bikinis.

The main Tournament mode (there are also Quick Play options) offers six Cup competitions to fight through, each filled with ever tougher opponents. Well, actually, due to memory limitations (we hope), it's the same group of six beach bums over and over again, but they do get better moves.

Indeed, the difficulty curve is as uneven as a British holidaymaker's bottle tan. The computer players start off crap, get a bit better on stage two, stay at that level for the next three competitions, then become Olympic ping pong gods, firing the ball at you like a rocket propelled grenade. A smoother progression would have been nice.

We played the 3D version of the game, which looks almost exactly the same as the 2D one, but with a polygonal character at the other end of the table (you're represented by a floating bat, which occasionally flips over in mid-air with ostentatious aplomb). The beach scenes offer very little in the way of eye candy – the odd palm tree, a sand castle here and there, an island if you're really lucky. Certainly no animated monkeys swinging from the trees, or people passing in the background carrying over-priced ice creams.

Of course, there's no reason why this game should take place on a beach anyway, apart from the fact that mobile game developers have found a sizeable market for casual games with vaguely titillating content (see also Sexy Football and Digital Chocolate's own Bikini Beach Party).

If you've come here for reasonably deep ping pong action, you won't be disappointed. The control mechanism is extremely clever, so you'll be learning new moves for several hours, and the tournament mode is challenging enough to ensure you'll be playing for many more.

On the other hand, if you've come here for sexy beach babes, then unless you are turned on by low-polygon models with strangely animated cleavages and dead expressionless faces, you're likely to be disappointed.

What next? Beach poker?

Beach Ping Pong

Surprisingly effective table tennis action, which squeezes a lot out of its minimalist approach to game controls