Everybody's Golf: World Tour
After more than a decade, can Sony's cutesy golf series still excite us? Find out in our full review.
Every piece of Sony hardware released during the last decade has, at some point, received a game in the company's own Everybody's Golf series. There have not always been meaningful changes, but with each round the series has steadily improved. The recently released PlayStation 3 iteration may therefore have been a sure thing, but that's not to say that developer Clap Hanz phoned this one in.
The most notable addition in this year's edition, Everybody's Golf: World Tour (or Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds if you're in North America), is the new advanced swing, which supplements the standard three-tap shot mechanic. In an ostensible nod to some of the more realistic golf games released in recent years, Clap Hanz has introduced a somewhat familiar mechanic that bases shot power on how far your take the backswing.
At first, I found the system clumsy, mostly because it's not immediately obvious how to calibrate shot power. But after 20 minutes it felt like a feature the series had always had. The onscreen cues help with fine-tuning, but I found that proper club selection to be a more efficient way of managing trickier shots - at least until you unlock the more experienced characters. The advanced shot system doesn't make the game any easier or harder to play, but it does make it feel fresher. It will be interesting to see if Sony decides to include it in the newly announced PSP sequel.
As in previous games in the series, the characters are mostly bright and bubbly. They bounce around or flash a mischievous grin in an almost forced show of personality. Whatever they look like, what makes them interesting to play with is the diversity in their skills and shot specialties - handy, since the courses vary considerably from one another. Once you've unlocked a few characters and found one you particularly like, it's worthwhile to stick with them. The loyalty system introduced in the previous PSP game makes a return here, allowing you to earn new skills the more you play with the same character.
That's not hard to do, because once you start going online, you'll be playing a lot. The lobby system does feel cumbersome at times and the wait before a match starts can seem interminable, but it's all worth it, as the online play is just as you would expect it to be.
There are tee-offs every few minutes and up to 50 people can take part in the same tournament. Since you're always on your own on the course, the experience isn't all the far removed from the singleplayer game - save for the timer that lets you know how long you have to finish the hole you're on - but I couldn't help feeling that extra bit more competitive knowing that I was out in the lead of a giant group of people or slightly more embarrassed when I managed to double-bogey a hole I would normally do well on.
It can be frustrating to sit around waiting for a round to tee off, but you'll be able to horse around with your playing partners while you wait. And gathering a group of similarly-skilled players can make for an experience more thrilling than you might think.
There's a case to be made for the game being too cute for its own good. Nestled below the candy exterior is a fun and challenging golf game that many people may pass over in favour of something more realistic looking. That would be a mistake. The Everybody's Golf series has had a long run of successful games and World Tour is no different. Now if you'll excuse me, my next tee time is coming up.