I have to help in balancing out the average review score as well because this is far, far from the most frustrating game ever made.
OK, let's start with the highs. If you're a fan of SEGA's many franchises from days of old including Sonic the Hedgehog, OutRun, Alex Kidd and Golden Axe, their franchises from the mid 90s such as Virtua Squad and the cult classic NiGHTS and franchises from the early years of this decade such as Samba Di Amigo, Super Monkey Ball and Space Channel 5, then this game is nostalgia heaven for you. It makes great use of the artistic styles of SEGA's wide and historic back catalogue of wonderfully creative and loveable characters and games, with faithfully revamped or reused sound effects and music from the respective games and the whole idea is for all of this great history SEGA has under their belt to simply come together and have a great party with tennis.
Even if you've never heard of most of these characters and games, (might want to consider coming out from under that rock,) you'll grow to love them quickly and when you see their own games coming out, you'll recognise the faces and have more fun. (Watch out for the new Samba Di Amigo on the Wii!) This game is great for the family and for the hardcore gamer seeking nostalgia and a bit of casual fun with tennis.
Let me clarify one thing: it's NOT a game you can just pick up and play, hence the title of this review. It requires a bit of practice and maybe a skim of the instruction manual, something the people who have written one-star reviews clearly didn't have the patience for, but when you get the hang of it after a while this is a really good game to have if you're having a party in the house or by yourself as a nice way to pass the time.
The main complaint about this game, coming from both a casual audience and the more experienced gamer seems to be unresponsive controls. I must agree that the game takes a little getting used to. Don't get me wrong, the game's not broken or deliberately programmed to cheat, but if you've ever played Virtua Tennis before (this game was based on its engine) then you're going to notice a difference at first.
People here are complaining they can't return the ball in a match or win at the missions you complete in order to unlock hidden characters, courts and music tracks. As far as returning the ball goes, I seem to get by fine by watching how your opponent is about to swing and running in a certain direction, (which is a lot more intuitive than I make it sound,) and then pressing the X button to whack it back. The characters normally dive for the ball automatically as long as you're close enough but even if the ball's coming right at you and you're standing there like a wally, don't expect any help. Also, just before you press the button to hit the ball back, tilt the control stick left or right to aim your shot and try to hit it to the opposite side of the court so that your opponent won't be able to run and dive for it before it bounces out. Obviously there's also the "Superstar Modes" as well which is a special skill assigned to each character that, when used, will just make crazy stuff happen when they hit the ball such as making it swirl in strange patterns, and making your character get dizzy or warp somewhere when you hit it back.
When you first play this game, I strongly recommend heading for the options menu and setting the game's difficulty to easy and just play some simple doubles matches so that you've got a computer player to back you up until you get better at the game. Like I said, this is a game that you need to give a chance before you throw it at the wall (or at whoever sold it to you!) but once you get the hang of the controls you'll find a fun game to play whether you want tennis with a twist playing as some loveable characters rather than boring old sweaty humans, or whether you're a long-time fan of SEGA's long back catalogue of excellent games that you want to re-visit in a tennis environment for a dose of nostalgia but also the glory of seeing it all up to date.
Buy this game, lend it your patience and a few hours practice, you'll love it, your kids will love it, your friends will love it, and when you do, you may find yourself buying the games that are showcased in this one. (No I haven't been sent from any company!!)