If there's one thing many tennis sims overlook, it's the simplicity of the game.
Even if you're more likely to hit the net than the other side of the court, the basic principles aren't hard to understand: ball thwacks back and forth over the net until one player can't hit it back.
Yet time and again, tennis on iPhone is a case of tilting, twisting, and awkward button-pressing. In their eagerness to seize on the handset's features, most developers can't see the most obvious scheme: stroking the ball around the court with swipes of a finger.
That's exactly the setup for which VT Tennis opts and the results are fantastic. It's entirely possible to look half decent during a rally, in fact, shots sweeping over the net and back again with grace and style.
If only actually winning said rallies was a touch easier.Sweeping away the competition
Making returns on VT Tennis comes down to applying a code of sorts.
Each possible shot has a corresponding swipe style – basic swings are made with a straight swipe, lobs require a looping motion over the net, volleys a flick down and up again, and so on. Rallies are founded on your ability to mix things up, following up one swipe with another.
Pulling off each stroke not only relies on your ability to select the optimal swing, but also the skill to pull it off quickly. Figuring out the timing takes longer than learning the moves themselves. It's easy to become engrossed in your opponent's actions and miss your cue.
This means you have to second guess your rival with every shot, each move you make essentially a reaction to a move he is still in the process of making.One shot too many
It's an approach that holds strong for the easier matches, but isn't ideal for trickier encounters. Most shots you miss are the result of your opponent planting the ball in an area of the court you hadn't anticipated. In truth, that's actually how most rallies in real matches meet their end, but it feels especially harsh in VT Tennis.
That's because managing to pull off a winning shot yourself is not easy. Your natural inclination is to hit a return at a tight angle, making it impossible for your opponent to make up the ground needed to hit it.
Since each swipe has to be applied in a set way, managing to convey any massive change in direction is difficult. As such, returns often land right at your opponent's feet unless you opt for a standard stroke - a dull but solid move that allows you to swipe your finger in any direction you choose.Top of the world
Thankfully, there's plenty of time to practise in advance of these tougher matches. The game's Championship mode is no breeze to conquer, with the goal being to to climb from the bottom of the world rankings to the top.
Doing so is a matter of winning tournament after tournament. Victories net you credit points and cash. The latter unlocks extra outfits and equipment, whereas the former enables you to upgrade your skills and make those initially rare winning shots easier to come by.
Sadly, VT Tennis has no multiplayer in which to test your skills. It's a solo experience and feels lacking as a result.
Even in Championship mode, this isn't quite the full package: as refreshing and playable as VT Tennis is, it feels more like a tentative first attempt rather than a fully fledged winning run. As every Murray fan is in the habit of saying, better luck next year.