Everybody’s Golf (aka Hot Shots Golf) has etched its way into the hearts of PlayStation gamers over the years with a unique and entertaining take on the art of hitting a ball with a stick into a hole.
This latest handheld version simply reconfirms our overall opinion on the long-running series. Despite its quirky Japanisims, Everybody’s Golf has instant pick-up-and-play appeal and generates that feel good factor with every satisfying thwack of the ball. And, it’s a damn good game of golf too.
With this latest version we’re furnished with a few new control methods courtesy of PS Vita’s range of funky input methods, but they do feel more of a gimmick than a serious attempt to enhance the experience. Quite frankly, Everybody’s Golf doesn’t need a tilt mechanism to allow players to virtually move their heads to examine every angle, or a rear touchscreen mechanic that flags up yard markers across the course.
It’s great that we have this array of new options, but this particular series doesn’t need all that modern day gubbins. After experimenting with front and back touchpads for a short period of time, we soon reverted back to using plain old analogue stick controls and action buttons; though it is very nice to be able to navigate through the menus as if you’re using a smartphone.
Challenge mode is where most players will most likely begin and it’s a great place to experience everything the game has to offer as you rise through the ranks unlocking playable characters, new balls and clubs. Everybody’s Golf does well to constantly reward players for their efforts and earning and losing points for every shot is more than enough motivation to encourage players to concentrate and absorb themselves in the games.
With accumulated points, players can head to the shop to buy a host of goodies, ranging from the incredibly useful Turbo Spin clubs to the utterly barmy red bandanas and white sailor suits to customise the range of Japanese-styled playable characters.
The actual mechanics of playing an arcade-style game of golf have barely changed since the days of the Commodore 64. Hitting the ball requires nothing more than a few well-timed taps of the ‘X’ button. Press it to take a swing, again to choose the power of the shot, and finally to hit the sweet spot for the perfect stroke.
Players can add spin with the d-pad and have a limited amount of boosts to help propel the ball a few extra yards. Prior to starting each course, players can also choose from a range of characters that have various attributes split over a number of categories, including power, control and spin. And, it’s good fun experimenting.
There’s an excellent array of camera angles to choose from and the control scheme is well-mapped to PS Vita’s controls allowing players to switch clubs, change viewing angles and check out the rub of the green with little effort.
The controls are spot-on, and though it can be tricky hitting the sweet spot consistently on every shot, it has that right balance of challenge versus accessibility. Nevertheless, putting can be very difficult because the greens are extremely tricky to navigate. In fact, it’s actually easier to chip in a shot from the edge of the green with a pitching wedge then it is to putt from a distance and get close to the flag.
The variety of playable characters is excellent, though it does get annoying when they yell out “Nice Shot!” even when you’ve hit a stinker. That’s soon forgotten though when a buzz of satisfaction kicks in from hitting the ball in its sweet spot, or knocking in a birdie on a really tricky hole.
The highlight of the Challenge mode is the Versus matches where players take on a range of wacky characters who put up a real challenge and add a touch of humour to the golf course. Despite Everybody’s Golf regularly putting a smile on our faces though, the action does get serious in the latter stages during the Pro modes, which have some gloriously tricky courses that will test the best of players.
With its cartoon-styled characters, SEGA-blue skies and lush green courses, Everybody’s Golf looks as good as it’s ever done with the photo-realistic courses being a real highlight and the hopping bunny rabbits and whirring windmills providing an idyllic summer’s day picture.
Outside of Challenge play, a tutorial mode gives players the chance to get to grips with the controls and practice the courses, while Stroke play allows you to freely play the holes and attempt to rack up a range of impressive statistics for bragging rights against other real-world players.
And this is really where Everybody’s Golf looks to have tremendous replay value. The pick-up-and-play appeal has been more than enough to keep us constantly returning back to the golf course since we picked up Sony’s new handheld over a month ago, but the multiplayer options should make it one of the most competitive games from PS Vita’s impressive list of launch titles.
In ad-hoc mode, you can create a room with up to eight players and customise matches with a wide variety of options, while the online mode features daily international tournaments as well as online rankings and a lobby system where people from the around the world can meet, chat and challenge. We also hear they’ll be a few more multiplayer modes added in due course.
Out of all the launch games for PS Vita, Everybody’s Golf is the title we’ve found the most difficult to put down. Courses are well mapped-out, gameplay is totally addictive, and even the most mature of gamers will soon find themselves dressing up Isabelle in cute outfits and spending their hard-earned points in the shop. If golf’s your thing, then Everybody’s Golf should be a day one purchase.