‘Everybody’s Golf’ review

’Everybody’s Golf’ is charming and bizarre, but will make you smile

Everybody's Golf review
‘Everybody’s Golf’
MSRP $39.99
“Everybody's Golf is limited in scope, but makes up for it with pure charm.”
  • Excellent arcade golf gameplay
  • Leveling system
  • Character customization
  • Novel online variants
  • Golf carts
  • Can be a bit of a grind
  • Only 5 courses

Don’t let the name fool you. Everybody’s Golf, Sony’s new arcade golf game, is simply the latest in a long tradition — Outside of Japan, it’s always been called Hot Shots Golf.

Why Sony decided to ditch the Hot Shots moniker in North America after almost 20 years isn’t exactly clear, but it may have something to do with the fact that this game takes a bigger leap than past entries in the series.

Everybody’s Golf retains the core golf mechanics we’ve come to know and love, but between rounds, it features RPG- and open-world elements, designed to make you feel at home in its surreal, wacky world.

Developer Clap Hanz has taken a bold approach and injected new life into a franchise that has basically remained the same from game-to-game for a very long time. Find out how the reinvention largely avoids the rough in our Everybody’s Golf review.

Welcome to Golf Island

Everybody’s Golf is filled with firsts. You create and customize your character. You scour for new items. You drive carts and swim in water hazards. You chat with other golfers. You come for the golf, but there’s a world around the course that feels alive.

Right out of the gate, you create a golfer. Your character may start out wearing traditional golf attire, but soon you’re able to trade in your polo for a punk rock tee and your cap for a luchador mask, if you so choose. The bevy of outfits and accessories available goes a long way towards making up for the character models. As opposed to pre-made Hot Shots players, created characters are less animated. Though they aren’t impressive — only a slight improvement over Nintendo’s Miis — the sheer abundance of styles makes the characters feel more personal. This is your golfer, and you’re free to make them look as much or as little like a typical golfer as you please.

Everybody’s Golf wants to draw you in to the leisurely activity of golf. After creating your golfer, you arrive on Golf Island, an idyllic little world that serves as your hub for tournaments, challenges, and as a chill hangout spot. While you’re there, though, you can take a spin in a golf cart, go for swim off the beach, or fish in a pond.

The experience may be jarring for longtime Hot Shots players at first — it’s the first time you can actually walk your character around the island, jump up and down, and chat with AI. But soon, this newfound freedom makes sense, and feels like a natural fit for a more casual sports game.

Golf Island has a relaxing vibe that makes you feel like you bought a one-way ticket for an indefinite vacation.

The carefree attitude extends on the course. In single player tournaments and online, you can walk around the tee box and pick where to hit from. You’ll be shocked to see opponents teeing up at the same time, and taken aback when they start running after their ball while you’re mid-swing. It’s all poor golf etiquette, and admittedly, and golf fans may need a few rounds to get used to it.

Like every other on-course action, though, the chaotic format works here. Sure, it’s odd to watch your ball roll through your competitor’s as if it was an optical illusion, but Everybody’s Golf, like the Hot Shots games before it, straddles the line between real-life sports and zaniness cartoon fun in an endearing way.

All together, Golf Island has a relaxing vibe that makes you feel like you bought a one-way ticket for an indefinite vacation. It’s a welcoming place, one that both feels comfortable and filled with quiet spots of wonder — pick up a random item here, uncover a new fishing spot there.

Hot Shots with a twist

Though Golf Island is interesting and fun, the core experience of Everybody’s Golf is… Well, playing golf. The gameplay and style haven’t changed much in that time, and six years removed from Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational, the core premise and look still holds up remarkably well. Checking in at the tournament desk on Golf Island lets you start a campaign to become the best golfer around, or hop into the open course mode online, which lets you roam around courses on foot or by cart to practice and meet up with other golfers to get in a few holes before the sun goes down.

Everybody's Golf review

The series’ staple three button tap swing remains. You line up your shot, press X three times, and watch the ball soar to its destination. You can adjust for spin, and add or shorten the distance, but the mechanics are easy to grasp, especially compared simulation golf games. You can also take special shots which, when executed perfectly, can add blue-streaking backspin or a laser-like rising effect on the ball. If you’ve played any entry in the franchise before, you’ll feel right at home on the links.

If you want to perfect your game, though, things can get very complicated. Everybody’s Golf adds an RPG-style progression system to the mix. Each club in your bag has individual stats, broken down into four categories — power, control, backspin, and back door (the likelihood for the ball to go in when hitting the edge of the cup/pin). That means, when you hit a drive in the fairway, your driver’s power meter fills. If you stick a 9 iron to 10 feet, your control meter for that iron will go up. Fill these meters to the top, and clubs level up, making it easier to drive, pitch, and putt your way around the course.

In real-world golf, woods travel further than irons, and the lower the number of the club, the longer a shot can travel: That isn’t necessarily true here. Since clubs don’t level up congruently, it can be quite disorienting to learn that your 5 iron now travels further than your 4 iron, or that you can only hit a 3 wood 210 yards but you’re knocking your driver 300 yards on a consistent basis. The emphasis on switching up your club choice to level them up in tandem adds an extra strategic meta-layer to each game.

Skill versus the Grind

The single-player game is built entirely around improving your clubs, and it becomes more than a bit of a grind in some stretches. Each tournament has an allotted amount of experience points for the taking. Once you fill your experience meter, an AI-controlled challenger shows up for a one-on-one match. This loop repeats three times throughout each of the game’s six ranks, culminating in a final “boss” before moving onto the next rank. The endgame dubbed “Special” rank then features unique daily challenges that dole out additional rewards.

With daily challenges and new people arriving constantly, Golf Island plays the part of a relaxing vacation well.

Unfortunately, the way the game is set up, you’ll be playing the same course over and over again. At first, only one course is available. Depending on your skill level, it can take you 10-20 (or more) rounds on the same course — often repeating the same nine holes — just to rank up and unlock a new course.

Similarly, many of the game’s most interesting stuff needs to be unlocked by playing many, many rounds of golf. Everything from your zany special shots, such as homing, rising, and sidespin, to the aforementioned novelty abilities, such as driving a cart, fishing, and swimming, need to be unlocked.

The game tries hard to vary the experience, even when playing on the same course for the umpteenth round. The course layout can change; the tee box can move; and the holes may become teeny tiny, extra large, or have tornados funneling around them to suck in close shots. There are also challenge matches, which add variables like penalty shots for hitting the ball in the rough. Mixing things up does make the experience feel slightly different, but not enough to counteract the grind, which can start to drag as you play round after round.

These restrictions also undercut the greatness of the five courses in the game. These eclectic romps are at their best when played one after the other, when their unique idiosyncrasies can really be given room to shine. They come together as an impressive collection, but having to play the game for upwards of 20 hours just to see them all is certainly less than ideal.

Everybody's Golf review

All that said, the grind ultimately leads to a more exciting golfing experience. The individual club stats do make the game feel more rewarding, but they would work better if things moved more quickly. After grinding for more than a dozen hours, rounds become more exciting, but that doesn’t negate the tedious stretch that brought you there.

Tee time is best with friends

While the communal experience works well in the offline single player, it’s shown off best in the game’s multiplayer modes. The freeing mechanics, alongside the commotion of ever-moving competitors, comes together to create an enthralling shared experience rarely seen in a typically quiet sports game genre like golf.

Everybody’s Golf straddles the line between real-life sports and zaniness cartoon fun in an endearing way.

In “open course” mode, you pick a nine-hole venue (after you unlock them, of course), and you plop right on the course. From there, you can you do as you please: You can drive a cart through the fairway while others are teeing off, run across the green while another player is putting, or go tee off right beside them. You can hop on down to a fishing spot off the side of a green, and then swim over to the next tee.

The non-golfing mechanics, such as swimming, fishing, and driving a cart feel more like intermittent distractions. All of them work fine enough, but the obvious draw is the golf, and the golf will keep you coming back for more.

Besides open course, you can compete with friends in a wacky territory control take on Golf called Turf Wars. In this mode, teams of up to 10 players face off in a race to capture as many holes as possible before the clock runs out. Pars, birdies, and eagles each net points. The team with the most points on a hole secures that turf, and the team with control of the most holes wins the war. Turf Wars is a novel concept for a golf game that is further upped by asking players to drive carts or run from hole to hole. We have only managed to get in 4v4 games so far, but in our experience, the more players, the more chaotic and exciting Turf Wars becomes.

Additionally, local multiplayer lets four players tee it up with just a single controller, agreeing with the mantra that everybody should get in on delightful, if sometimes frustrating, arcade golf experience.

Our Take

Everybody’s Golf ditches the Hot Shots Golf name in North America just in time to turn the page on the franchise. While the core mechanics are left intact, the surrounding RPG elements and increased freedom pushes the series forward. It’s not all smooth sailing, as the campaign frequently devolves into a grind. As a whole, though, the multiplayer innovations, heightened customization, and charming world makes the grind worthwhile.

Is there a better alternative?

No. There aren’t many arcade golf games anymore. Mario Golf: World Tour for Nintendo 3DS is the only arcade golf game that gives Everybody’s Golf a run for its money. If you’re looking for a more serious golf sim, The Golf Club 2 or Rory Mcllroy PGA Tour are better options.

How long will it last?

Completing the campaign took us about 20 hours. After that, there are daily challenges, open courses online, and Turf Wars. If you like Hot Shots, you could realistically come back to Golf Island and play a daily round of nine holes for a long time.

Should you buy it?

Yes. If you like golf games, and specifically arcade-style golf games, Everybody’s Golf shines through its blemishes.

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