Sony has seen many of its franchises rise, fall, and even rise and fall again, in the twenty-plus years of PlayStation. However, very few have had the staying power of Everybody’s Golf.
Clap Hanz’s Everybody’s Golf has been a quiet staple of PlayStation history, usually showing up on a Sony system once a generation, faring well enough without being outstanding. The latest iteration is the series’ PS4 debut, and it aims to go beyond being a solid, enjoyable golfing romp by making a name for itself as one of the console’s best exclusives.
As is customary for the series, Everybody’s Golf 2017 goes on the charm offensive almost immediately. The cheesy, cheery lounge muzak, the Chibi-esque character design, and the vividly colorful menus and courses. The idea is of this series has always been to bring golf to people who aren’t big into golf, and that salvo of brightly-colored twee wonder is a wholly encouraging sight for the curious amatuer golfer.
There’s plenty of helpful hints, a simple control setup that allows you to build on it and becomes more complex if you feel more confident of your ability and understanding. The constant reassurance that you’re doing well is a nice way of keeping you on side, and even in the darkest times, Everybody’s Golf gives you a little slice of its daft cartoonish humour to turn your frustrations into smiles. It’s a testament to Clap Hanz’s overall game design that nearly anything you can detract from it has a counter to hand.
While it might get a bit condescending at times to be told something really obvious in the tutorials and helpful hints, or annoying to be presented with such comical shock when you fudge a particularly simple putt, the warm, kind face Everybody’s Golf shows you is pretty much always enough to disarm your cynicism. That’s been the way of it in the past two series entries at least, and if anything, it’s even better executed here.
Your first task upon entering the hub world is to create your character. This is the first significant improvement you’ll encounter, and very much builds on the shoulder-shrug efforts of the past. Now you can create a perfect caricature of yourself if you so please, right down to the terrible taste in headwear and facial hair style. A neat touch sees you able to also create child characters, really ramming home the all-inclusive, family feel the game aims for.
Then, after an initial explanation of the controls and basic rules, you’re off to begin your single player golf adventure, which is almost identical in structure to previous Everybody’s Golf titles, with a few little tweaks here and there. For instance, you face three ‘boss’ characters per stage, with slightly varying rulesets, before moving on up to the next stage. And there’s a teensy bit more ruleset variety in the standard competitions as well, mostly to help you settle in during the early stages, and later to challenge you. The beauty of this series of course, is that it so rarely appears in the wild that when it does stick to the formula with the odd tweak, it’s far from an issue.
As ever, winning tourneys nets you cash, which allows you to buy clothing, clubs, and balls from the in-game store. If you were wondering if Everybody’s Golf had succumbed to the phenomenon of making in-game currency a thing you can buy with real money, well, it sadly does. In fairness though, if you’re even half decent at Everybody’s Golf, you’ll make plenty of cash to buy the things you want over time, but it’s still a shame something so blatantly cynical is shoehorned into something that is otherwise so friendly.
Pleasingly, Everybody’s Golf retains much of what has made the franchise such an accessible golfing effort. The three-tap shot mechanism returns, with a simplified two-tap version for those reluctant to put the finishing touch on a shot. You hit once to set the power bar off, a second time to set how powerful the shot will be, and a third time to hit the ball as straight as you possibly can by keeping the marker inside the realm of the pink line. It’s a fantastically straightforward system that still allows error and sloppiness to be punished.
With the rookie clubs and balls it’s more forgiving on the window for the shot meter of course, but that’s such a vanilla way to play after you’ve ruled the initial course. There’s more risk as you trade up to other clubs and balls, but by that point, you’ll know what kind of player you are, and you’ll require something a touch more showy than the basic setup. Everybody’s Golf caters to a variety of playstyles well, but none really come into their own until you’ve cleared a couple of stages, or when you’ve entered the game’s largest new change, its online component.
During the beta phase of Everybody’s Golf, a brief glimpse of this was afforded to the public, and it alone made me believe that this could be the version of Everybody’s Golf to gain a wider audience. The casual nature of just mucking about on the golf course as other players mill about, putting in their best performance on a hole, or trying to hit the longest drive, was a refreshingly casual take on multiplayer. Of course, you can go and seek out more competitive fare here if you so please, but the way in which the online is set up is a brilliant extension of that accesible feeling of the single-player offering.
You can take it at your own pace, and not be dragged into battles you’re not entirely keen on facing. Better still, there’s the ability to go chuntering about in golf carts, seek out hidden coins, and even do that increasingly popular Japanese game addition, fishing. There’s a lovely community vibe to Everybody’s Golf this time out that I’d be ever hopeful of catching on, as not every sports game’s online portion needs to be filled with toxicity and ridiculously deluded ideas of competitive play.
It’s rather tough to truly criticize what Everybody’s Golf does, but there’s small things that are worth addressing. The visuals are generally absolutely glorious in terms of the course, but the character models and their limited animation can feel a little at odds with the vistas. The shift in character design to user-created does create some flamboyant avatars, but the overall character quality is a step down from even the PlayStation Vita entry. The phrases used are highly repetitive, and it is a shame there wasn’t a significant push to increase the variety of that. On the flipside, this is a budget-priced game, so there’s bound to be sacrifices, and if this is the extent of Everybody’s Golf’s, then it remains a great value prospect.