Right now in Japan, atop the Vita sales charts sits Everybody’s Golf 6, the Japanese version of Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational. Does that mean that it is the best game on the market for the Vita, or are the Japanese tastes just different? Dynasty Warriors 7 was the third best-selling PS3 game in Japan for all of 2011, so there is reason to question the rationale behind it. And hey, I am a fan of the DW series, but still, third?!
In this case, the Japanese know what they are talking about. Developer Clap Hanz’s Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational may not be the best game out for the Vita, but it is definitely one of the most accessible for all ages–even if your genre of choice involves blowing things up.
If you know the series—actually, if you know any golf game from Tiger Woods to Golden Tee–then you know the set up. Each swing you take has a bar that relies on the proper timing to get the most power, then a second command confirms that you don’t shank it. There are five different ways to swing that you can choose from at the loudout menu, but they all revolve around timing.
The courses are surprisingly varied, and deceptively complex. The first few rounds give you the impression that you can just hit it where the game suggests and (barring a screw up) walk away with a birdie or a par—and you can, but only in the first few courses. To really make the most of the game, as it unlocks more locations you need to start using the additional controls like the hook, slice, and backspin options.
This is where the game goes from simplistic to complex at the drop of a hat. It is accessible enough that anyone can play it and do decently, but to do well you need to understand the game’s physics and learn the courses.
There is a lot of customization here thanks to unlockables that you receive through playing and scoring well. Everything from clothes to new clubs can be purchased. Some of it has actual gameplay benefits and stat boosts, while some of it is aesthetic. For completionists though, there is a lot to try to unlock.
The standard game features what you would expect—match play and stroke modes. If you have played any of the Hot Shots games then you know what to expect. In fact, if you have played any of the recent Hot Shots games, then you have played this game, just with a few cosmetic differences. Take that for what you will. This game does not innovate, but instead offers a very familiar formula to a potentially new audience. If you are burned out on the franchise, this game won’t help. If you are new to the series or are still into the gameplay, then this game should manage to at least entertain.
Regardless of whether or not you have played the series, a few more game modes would have been nice. You don’t want to force content into a sports game, but a deeper career mode and a character creation option are notably absent.
The game’s graphics on the Vita will also be familiar to fans of the series. For those new to the franchise, the look is designed with a cartoon-like quality over realism. That means the Vita’s hardware can easily run a faithful port of its console counterparts without losing much, if anything. The animations are also smooth, and the environments look top very good most of the time. There are a few exceptions, usually with moving environments like windmills for example, but they don’t really detract from the experience. The Vita has no noticeable problems running this game at all.
The Vita’s new controls don’t really get much attention at all. The only real nod to the new Vita functionality is the inclusion of a few touchscreen controls that all utilize the camera in one way or another. That may seem like a missed opportunity, but honestly, better to not use the new control possibilities than to cram them into a game simply because people think they should be there.
There is, of course, an online side to the game, where you can enter daily tournaments–allowing you to play a designated course and enter your score into the international lists–or find a match online. Ad hoc multiplayer is available as well. They are both good additions, but somewhat limited.
Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational is best described as being inoffensive. From the first moment you pick it up, you know exactly what to expect from it at all times. That makes for a fun game, but a fairly dated one as well. For those that have played the Hot Shots games—or almost any golf game in the last five years– there isn’t really much new here.
In itself that isn’t a major issue though, since the game is still fun. The controls offer more nuance than you may first think, and the courses are well designed. More content would have been nice, but the bottom line is that the game is entertaining and accessible—it is also a steal at $29.99. It may not be the best title on the Vita, and it certainly isn’t the most ambitious, but it does what it sets out to do and delivers a fun game that anyone can enjoy.
Score: 8 out of 10
(This game was reviewed on the PlayStation Vita on a copy provided by Sony Computer Entertainment)