Lumines, Ridge Racer and WipEout were all part of Sony’s last attempt at the handheld console market and all were a portion of the PSP’s launch line-up. So despite the similarities in releases it’s different this time. This time, Sony has a more impressive piece of hardware, a more exciting launch line-up and, most importantly, more quality in those titles. As the consoles evolve and the generations progress, there’s a select few that span the lot; one of those is the much loved Everybody’s Golf. It was one of the more well received PSP launch titles but how does it fair this time round?
Like Little Deviants, it has a rather ‘cutesy’ charm but that is definitely no indication on how it plays. With a similar control system to Tiger Woods’ three click swing, the Clap Hanz developed title feels like there are a couple of missed opportunities with the Vita’s analogue sticks and touch screens. We have already seen EA produce a touch screen Tiger Woods game on the iPhone and the console versions made the analogue stick scheme available years ago which makes all the more confusing as to why alternate controls schemes aren’t available to Everybody’s Golf 6 players. However, what the Japanese developers have done, they have done well. Controls are easy to understand, use and are incredibly responsive. Despite no other control options, there are several swing variations to choose from. Ranging from a traditional straight bar to a new ‘dynamic’ swing bar that follows your club, you will find one that suits you.
The Japanese golfing sim has a whole lot more going for it too. Visually, Everybody’s Golf wouldn’t look out of place on Sony’s home console. Courses look great and while animals found roaming various holes appear poor, it isn’t a major issue. Character models on the other hand look terrific, as do the lighting and particle effects, and the almost cartoon-like visuals fit in superbly with the game’s adorable appeal. However, due to the resolution, it never really reaches its potential. The charm also spreads into the animations with the female golfers performing sweet little victory dances while the males execute more masculine and laid back actions.
Menus are simple that makes use of the Vita’s touch screen and, while it is nice to have the option, it seems to be an almost pointless inclusion. Conventional navigation proves easier to use and the touch screen only provides extra pieces of dialogue from the country club’s information rep when molested by your fingertip.
Once you’ve navigated your way towards the game’s single player, you’ll find there isn’t the same multitude of modes found in other sports titles. With only three single player modes, it is easy to see where players will go to. Once you’ve ruled out Training and Stroke as little more than practice holes, all that’s left is Challenge mode. In total, there are five ranks to progress through, acting as difficulty ratings. Each rank/tournament you are required to win a minimum of four of the five rounds, which consist of 9 or 18 holes. This will unlock that rank’s ‘boss’ battle – yes, you did read that correctly. Defeating this opponent allows you to progress onto the next tournament and the golfer will be available for purchase. The first few ranks serve as an easy introduction into the controls and the quality of golf you are expected to keep up while later levels are less forgiving with one mistake potentially leading to defeat and, due to some AI rubber-banding, it can feel like you have been cheated out of a win.
Apart from multiplayer (more on that later), there really is little else to do within Everybody’s Golf. Hidden sub-challenges of tournament rounds provide some sort of replay value but without knowing what to do to achieve the coveted Challenge Crown, it really does seem to be dumb luck if gain one. Whether it’s the hidden sub-challenges or new shot techniques, the Clap Hanz title doesn’t explain itself very well. For example, I unlocked the Triangle/Circle shot after my first round yet I wasn’t told when to use it or what it did. Again, it was through sheer luck that found out how to use it.
As you complete rounds, you will unlock a multitude of new items to purchase and use thanks to new ranks in your character’s loyalty bonus. New shots techniques such as homing and rising allow you to put greater top/back spin on the ball while spiral shots give you greater side spin. The unlocks don’t stop their however; new balls, clubs and costume options are all thrown into the massive shopping vat in addition to small extras such as music tracks and courses to use on Stroke play.
The major failing of golfing sim is its online multiplayer mode. Very little is different to the game’s single player but it’s the loading times that cause it suffer. While finding a lobby is an easy affair, making your way into a round of golf with other players takes far too long. Once you find a lobby, players will have to book their game or join another booking. Either way, make sure you find something to do for another five to ten minutes. The waiting doesn’t stop there however. Between each hole, players will have to wait 60 seconds for the next hole to load for all golfers. While it doesn’t sound too much, it can almost double the play time of a round of golf.
With fun and accessible gameplay, great visuals and a lovely charm, Everybody’s Golf is definitely one of the better PS Vita titles and while online play may not be up to scratch, don’t let that put you off this in-depth golfing sim. It may not have the look and feel of Tiger Woods but it sure as hell plays like him and with rounds lasting a maximum of fifteen minutes, it is the perfect pick up and play title.