As a lifelong fan of sitting in comfy chairs whacking things, I've been a massive proponent of the industry's push to outlaw running in sports games. Wii Sports? Brilliant, amazing - a revolution in fake exercise. So when my friend who works in a game shop told me that Rafa Nadal Tennis didn't seem to care about running either, and that Codemasters had quietly slipped it out the door while we were off on Christmas holiday, I was filled with confidence and excitement. My enthusiasm was only strengthened when Nadal himself got crushed in the Australian Open last month and said it was because he didn't run.
Imagine my disappointment, then, when I discovered that it was all a sham. Worse, it was a trick to lure us in. To begin with, the game's worried about overloading you with new controls, so all you have to do is stroke the stylus across the screen in little jabbing slashes to direct the ball about, with Rafa happy to position himself for you. But sooner or later you do have to run after all, tapping the court surface to reposition Rafa before playing a shot. Double worse, the alternative approach of using buttons is all about running. A mockery of a sham. (Which is roughly what I've been aiming for with this intro, incidentally.)
Of course, the idea of using the stylus to whack a ball around isn't a new one, and the fact that Rafa Nadal Tennis is a bit too complicated and imprecise for its own good - so much so that the developer doesn't even trust you to pick it all up in one go - is hardly headline news either. It's no coincidence that the best DS games revolve around activities that involve pointing, pushing, stroking and prodding, or simply ignore the stylus completely, and Rafa Nadal isn't about to turn that logic on its head. What's quite surprising is that the game's actually good fun anyway.