Sony's Simple PS4 Golf Game Yet Another Gem In a Year of Great Games
The beloved 'Hot Shots Golf' is back under a new name, but it's just as good.
All images courtesy of Sony
Golf is one of my favorite hobbies. I'm utterly mediocre, and consider it a victory if I come away from an 18-hole day with a single par, but whenever the opportunity presents, you'll find me on the course, beer in hand. Since the birth of my daughter, though, it's harder to carve out four hours on a Saturday afternoon. And in the same way that I've never spent much time with Madden, despite a love of football, golfing games haven't taken up much of my attention, either. But when Everybody's Golf, the 12th entry in a series once called Hot Shots Golf in North America, showed up on my desk, I glanced at the dusty golf clubs in the garage and popped it in.
I've said this many times throughout 2017, a year rivaling some of gaming's best years, but folks, there's yet another game to love. I'm sorry! Everybody's Golf is a simplified take on the sport, one approachable for someone who's understanding doesn't go beyond hitting a ball with a stick, but with enough depth that someone with a working knowledge of golf's more advanced mechanics (i.e. backspin) will have plenty to keep them occupied while trying to work up the ranks.
Swinging a club, unlike in real-life, is simple enough. A meter at the bottom of the screen is where most of your attention goes. Once you tap X to initiate a swing, the meter begins to fill, and your press stops it on the level of power you'd like to swing with. (If there's a bunch of wind headed in the same direction as your ball, you might not want to execute a fully powered swing; it'd be possible to overshoot.) Then, the meter heads back down, where you must time your last press into a tiny box that determines how much control you have over the direction fo the ball. If you fall in the center, it'll go straight. If you fall outside the center, there's a chance it might shoot in a random direction (in golf, that's called shanking).
The game will automatically assign the "correct" club for the next swing, but you don't have to follow the game's directions. Maybe you want to risk using a larger club, in the hope you'll make it over that water hazard and shave a shot off the hole. Perhaps you want to play it safe, knowing you're a few strokes ahead of an opponent, and ease your way to the hole with a higher iron. More often than not, though, what the game tells you to use will be just fine, meaning you can
focus exclusively on hitting that meter right. The more you use a club, the more proficient your character becomes using it, letting you hit it further and with more control.
It's a forgiving enough game that you can pull off some really fun, ridiculous shots, like reliably chip-ins from 40 yards away. (One time, I actually managed to do this in real life out of a sand trap. All I heard were my friends screaming over the hill.) This gets even wilder when the game introduces holes with weird modifiers, such as tiny tornados looping around the cup, sucking in any ball that comes nearby, and allowing you to take a chance and nail shots from even longer distances. (You can turn on these alternative holes if you're looking for less of a challenge, and every once and a while, the game will flip them on for a variety's sake.)
The act of playing golf in Everybody's Golf is tremendous, but the game's real hump is the amount of grinding it asks in order to unlock, well, more golf. It took me several repetitive hours of play before I'd earned enough experience points and defeated enough "boss" characters to unlock another course, but this was long after I'd mastered the only one available, to the point that I was rushing through because I no longer needed to reference the mini-map to know where my ball would go. I was regularly coming in four or five strokes under par, meaning the courses had ceased being a challenge. Despite this, I was asked to grind through tournament after tournament on the same, basic course (sorry, a "mirror version" doesn't count) simplybecause it wants to stretch things out.
Here's hoping one of two things happens with the rest of the game: the courses are demanding enough to warrant playing through them a dozen times before you've wrapped your head around them, or the bar for unlocking more content begins to lower, as the game trusts you with the ability to determine whether you want something tougher. If this is how Everybody's Golf treats you the whole way through, though, that's going to be a problem.
Besides that, my biggest gripe with Everybody's Golf is that it's not with me right now. I'm no programmer, but there's little about the game that technically speaks for why Sony couldn't have found a way for this to show up on Vita, at least in some limited form. It's a game that demands portability, says the person writing this piece hundreds of miles in the air, wishing they were playing more Everybody's Golf.
At the very least, maybe I can generate some competition while I'm gone. Before I headed to the airport, I dropped it into my friend's mailbox with a note: start practicing, buddy.