Snapchat’s gaming platform, Snap Games, is home to some fun mini-games that you can invite your friends to play on the go. One of the first titles on the platform, Petite Royale, has proven to be just as great a diversion as any “bigger” console version, and that it can easily grab your attention while being played right from Snapchat. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Snapchat’s new Bitmoji tennis Game, which is colorful but ultimately hollow.
Bitmoji tennis is a lively, friendly-looking company that sort of scrambles the oft-universally understood tennis game (which one of the first video games of all time, Pong, struggled to adapt). It’s cute, but it ultimately falls flat compared to Snap Games’ previous offering. In fact, compared to most mobile tennis games, it just can’t measure up.
In case you haven’t heard, Snap games are titles that can be played from your Snapchat client, so setup is extremely quick and easy. You can open a conversation with a friend and then find the rocket icon to the right of your text box. From there, you can select a game to play from a list that seems to keep growing. While following your conversation, you can engage in a game with a partner and play together.
Bitmoji tennis is an extremely simplistic tennis game – until it isn’t. Instead of using the onscreen controls to let you roam freely across the terrain, Snap Games has chosen to limit your mobility. You can only tap to serve the ball and run left or right. Your Bitmoji avatar will automatically swing his racket as you approach the ball, eliminating one of the most addicting parts of tennis games – that satisfying “hit” with one hit at the right time. From there you fly back and forth like any other “traditional” tennis game. The first player with five points wins.
I understand that simplicity is the key here, and making the game accessible to everyone while keeping the controls automated is great in theory. I can even get behind the mechanics of self-oscillation. But what really ruins the experience is the fact that you have to tilt your device to aim your shot. This does not work for several reasons. On my iPhone X, although my accelerometer is accurate, for some reason I have to make more exaggerated movements to bend the ball I’m hitting in a workable direction.
This means that I have to move the phone out of my line of sight so I can’t see where I’m aiming very well. You can touch the screen to move your player, but you also have to tilt your phone to aim, which is difficult to do simultaneously. In short, it is an embarrassing experience. Using mostly “mobile” controls like tilt to aim isn’t a good idea, and it’s not great on the accessibility side either.
Since then is a free game inside Snapchat, you’ll have access to a few ads here and there – and if you watch them between sets, you’ll have the option to upgrade your tennis racket. This will give you an edge over the next opponent you manage to play a game of tennis with, but you still have to watch an ad – that’s the biggest downside of it all.
There are also a few other intricacies in the game. You can track your stats through the main menu to see how many times you’ve won against your friends, your best streak, longest number of rallies, and more. These are all pretty crude statistics, however, that you would expect from most tennis titles.
If you don’t have any friends to play with currently, you can’t really play the game. Certainly, the point of the game is to recruit Snapchat friends to enjoy it with you, but a gaming platform like that – here should allow you to play solo if you prefer. Granted, you can use the practice bot to try and practice your serves, but it’s nothing like playing with a real full-blown AI. It’s a shame that there isn’t more for single gamers to have fun when, maybe, their friends are asleep.
I like the idea of Bitmoji tennis. It’s cute, it’s fun, and it has some interesting ideas since it’s part of Snapchat. But the execution just doesn’t work in a way that makes sense for tennis. The key to making these games more accessible is to ensure that the current control setup more closely mirrors other games on mobile devices i.e. no tilt. Hopefully, if Snap Games will continue to implement motion controls in its future titles, it won’t come in such a frustrating way. The platform has a lot of potential, so now is the time to implement it.