A few weeks ago, when we first looked at the hybrid iPhone/iPad game Ping Pong Battle, it wasn't quite ready for prime time; one of the marquee features, video-out from the 'table' iPad, wasn't finalized. With an update to the apps due to hit the App Store sometime today, PPB achieves that milestone and adds some key table tennis industry branding.
PPB delivers a ping pong experience by making the iPhones into motion-sensitive 'paddles' and putting the table onto the iPad screen. Building a hybrid game for iDevices is tricky business. First of all, your market is self-limiting to those folks who have both iPhones and an iPad -- although in the case of PPB, you can play in 'finger mode' with just the iPad if you want.
Secondly, you have to make sure the devices can talk to each other consistently; the PPB developers at LIME found that if one iPhone was using WiFi for connectivity with the iPad, and the other was using Bluetooth, things didn't go well. The update now warns players to pick one connectivity method or the other for all three devices, and to turn off the unused service; the developers have discussed this limitation with Apple engineering and they are looking for a workaround.
With this version, the PPB paddles allow you to put spin on the ping pong ball, and give you feedback ("too soft!") on your hits. In my testing, I got the best results by shaking the iPhone gently on the swing, which you time by listening to the audio cue of the ball sailing towards you. Practice mode lets you play volleys against the computer opponent, but once you get another human player involved the fun really begins. You can also pick a custom table or choose from a list of available paddles.
It's not particularly easy to get the hang of PPB, but with the video-out enabled (VGA only) and a big screen in play, it's got some real party potential -- that's probably why Killerspin is teaming up with LIME to put some table tennis muscle behind it. Killerspin is an up-and-coming US table tennis equipment brand, which aims to bring "youth and innovation to one of the world's most beautiful sports, table tennis." The app will soon feature KS-specific paddles and content.
Ping Pong Battle for iPad is US$4.99; the iPhone paddle apps are free but don't do much without the mothership. If you've got the gear, and you're interested in seeing a tech-demo curiosity evolve into a playable, engaging game, check it out.