Price:$19.99 (PlayStation Network Download) System: Sony PlayStation 3 Target: Casual Gamer, Family Friendly Fun Factor: High
Sports games basically come in two flavors: rigidly realistic or over-the-top arcade-style. The Hot Shots Golf franchise definitely falls into the latter category by injecting arcade action into the traditionally staid game of golf: flaming power drives, impossible spins, and cartoonishly cute characters. Does the latest Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational score a hole-in-one?
Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational Announcement Trailer
I’ve dabbled with 3 of the 8 iterations of Hot Shots Golf since appearing on the original PlayStation. It’s safe to say the Hot Shot's formula of easy-to-learn gameplay with highly customizable characters has only improved over the years with each version. It's important to note though this latest version, World Invitational, isn’t an entirely new game, but is an upscaled edition of the Vita game upgraded for the PS3. But considering fans of the franchise have not seen a release for the PlayStation 3 since 2008, even an upgraded/upscaled version comes welcomed.
Soak in the glory of a well executed power drive or the perfect chip in with the always rewarding Replay option. Hot Shots rewards players with a real sense of accomplishment (or disappointment) with each stroke.
Gameplay: In the beginning, only 4 characters are available to choose from, with 7 more to be unlocked as the game progresses, or purchased with real world money. After picking a character, players will play through several courses to earn money, advance to higher levels, and invest skill points to improve their character's stats in power, spin, or control; money is earned depending on how well a course is player and rewards can be spent on various upgrades/items such as clubs, balls, avatar clothes, artwork, music, caddies, new characters, and more (essentially a RPG for golfers). The courses are decorated beautifully with scenic mountains in the background, Japanese landscapes, and rural sunset backdrops (8 different courses in total); each course gorgeously rendered on the PS3, benefitting from spec upgrade from the Vita to console.
Hot Shots Golf: WI starts off relatively easy, but gradually becomes more difficult in manageable, yet noticeable increments. For example, the controls are easy enough to begin with: tapping "X" activates a power bar controlling the strength of a swing, while a second tap needs to be timed just right for optimal control of the shot. Initially, this 2-factor control is simple to manage, but once factoring for wind is introduced, alongside obstacles such as trees, haystacks, houses, water hazards, or mountains to avoid, the challenge level elevates where careful planning and controlled execution come into play. This is where exploring the course with the right analog stick becomes essential while planning the best route to any given hole. I’ve found HSG likes to point me directly at the hole, when in reality often times this recommended path proves disastrous, leading to many triple bogeys and frustration worthy of throwing my virtual clubs in disgust.
Despite its cartoonish graphics, the game offers a very realistic and rewarding gaming experience. Whether I fail or nail an amazing shot, it usually boiled down to my own ability to coordinate my timing and judging all the factors presented on the course. Achieving a chip-in, landing a putt, or launching a powerful tee-off all feel very realistically rewarding, and inversely, bad decisions feel similarly "wrong". Arcade-style sports games have to traverse a very delicate balance between honoring the features of a real sport, while also simplifying the game to its core and most enjoyable experiences, and fortunately Studio Japan accomplish this shot from the rough perfectly.
Playing Using Move: But it wasn't all hole-in-ones. This new Hot Shots wasn't as adept nor fun when I dusted off my Move controller to play using the motion-control feature. This new gesture-based control scheme is actually quite easy to learn; pressing the trigger switches between practice, addressing the ball, and choosing a swing mode, all of which are a nice change from the common ’hold trigger to swing’ mechanic. Address mode allows players test the Move to check how much power is required when hitting the ball, pitting real movement against the on-screen power gauge.
But when it came down to the actual swing, somehow it just doesn't work out as well are the practiced swings. While playing with the Move as a control, my score sunk fast, and I found putting was even more challenging because swing accuracy was so finicky. Luckily, players have the option forgo the Move completely; I wouldn’t recommend getting or using the Move hardware for this particular game, but if you already have one, perhaps in time mastery will reveal itself after hours of practice (like the real sport).
Hot Shots Golf: Worldwide Invitational offers a colorful and diverse cast of characters to go toe-to-toe (or tee) against.
The only negative mark against Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational I could make beyond the Move controls is it admittedly can become repetitive after an hour or more of play. In spite of this observation, the game suits me just fine as am inviting casual gamer diversion, as I like to boot up an entertaining and rewarding (and at times frustrating) round of golf in shorter increments.
Improvements to the graphics including the beautifully rendered new courses and assortment of fun characters are well worth the $20 price tag for those partial to enjoying a few holes of golf from their living room. Anyone, from seasoned gamers to absolute casual players, will be able to grab ahold of the game's mechanics quickly, and the 4-player multiplayer mode can prove popular as a party option for guests, friends, and family. Although I'm not a fan of playing the real world game itself, Hot Shots Golf: Worldwide Invitational is an exception I can never pass up.
Apartment Therapy Media makes every effort to test and review products fairly and transparently. The views expressed in this review are the personal views of the reviewer and this particular product review was not sponsored or paid for in any way by the manufacturer or an agent working on their behalf. This specific product was purchased by the reviewer for game review purposes.