Review: Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational (PSV)
Title: Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational
Format: PlayStation Network Download (1.15 GB) / Game Card
Release Date: February 14, 2012
Developer: Clap Hanz
Original MSRP: $35.99 (PSN) / $39.99 (Game Card)
ESRB Rating: E
Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational is also available on PlayStation 3.
The PlayStation Vita card version was used for this review.
The audio review for this game is available on Episode 257 of the podcast.
Since the first one hit the PlayStation, I’ve been enamored with the style and deceptively technical aspects of the Hot Shots series. As someone who’s been a pretty serious Golfer since age 6, I at first thought that this was a kids game, with its cartoon-style visuals and over-the-top characters. But after playing a few rounds, I quickly picked up the fact that there were some deep Golf mechanics at work, and with every new entry in the series, these mechanics continued to expand and mature. Anyone that knows me or that listens to the podcast knows that this series is one of my favorites on any platform. Its infectious gameplay is tough to match, and the technical aspects rival even some of the most “serious” Golf simulations, it’s just that you may just not realize it.
The gameplay is very familiar to anyone that has played a Hot Shots Golf title in the past. I can’t even explain all of the different ways that you can hit now, since 5 different meter styles are available… FIVE! Two are available right from the start, with the other 3 unlocking on the shop very quickly. Choices range from a curved meter, to the straight power meter from the PS3 version, and hybrids using different but familiar styles. In other words, if you don’t like the first one, you’ll probably find a meter that fits your needs. New to the series are some interesting touch mechanics, including pinching the front and back touchpads to grab your character to drag him/her to a different spot at the tee box. Also, you can use the rear touchpad to gauge distances to the tee box and the hole, to check if that shortcut you’re considering will work or not. I find myself using this more than I expected, and when you find the spot, simply tap the front screen to set your new hit target. The touchscreen can also be used, in the map view, to rustle hidden items out of trees and shrubbery. I haven’t messed with this much though because I get too focused on the game.
If you’re a fan of this series, you’ll quickly realize that World Invitational is based on the awesomeness that is Open Tee 2 from the PSP. From the Challenge and progression system, to the fact that you can still search all over the course for hidden items, it’s all here, and then some. Now, when you want to search around, you can use the built-in motion sensors to look everywhere in Augmented Reality, even giving you the opportunity to look straight-down at the ball as if you’re standing in front of it when you’re hitting. Also, in certain cases, you can even change the time of day or the weather. Of course, some of this is just to “show off,” but it’s still really fun, and in some cases, makes life a lot easier than in previous games.
In terms of modes, there are more than a couple to choose from, aside from the online features, you’ve got some fun stuff in single-player, including the Challenge Mode, which is the heart of the game, and solo play which allows you to simply play any unlocked course using any character that you’ve unlocked, with choices such as 18 holes, or 9 holes out or in. There’s a decent amount of options, and it’s great to have if you want to practice for a particular tournament. You also have a Multiplayer option, which allows for Ad-Hoc play, including a ton of setup options. I haven’t able to play in Ad-Hoc yet, so I’ll have to report on that after MGC. Also, yes, custom soundtracks are definitely supported, as well as the Vita’s party system and group chat.
If you like the Hot Shots Golf aesthetic, you know what you’re in for. A new addition in this episode though is different lighting for the time of day. Hitting the final holes of a long round are stunning at dusk, and the lower lighting can even affect gameplay somewhat in terms of visibility. The first time it happened to me, I just stared for a minute or two, as it’s very apparent when it happens. I love it!
Menus, characters, caddies etc are typical Hot Shots fare, and that’s a good thing. The one thing missing is that unlike Out of Bounds, the caddies don’t sprint to the ball any more, which is something that always made me chuckle. The visuals are great, even with the occasional “pop” during the hole flyover. Everything is oozing with color, with excellent animation and easy-to-read text. There’s a lot happening on some of the courses as well, especially on the course that’s obviously inspired by Route 66. There are a ton of courses, and each has its own character, with excellent and challenging layouts from beginning to end.
Again, it’s Hot Shots. The caddy voices are good so far, but not great. The Golfers are a bit better, but what stands-out are the sound effects. From the club hitting the ball square in the sweet-spot, to waves crashing against the sea wall, they’ve done a great job at establishing a true environment. The music is decent, and like I said, you can either turn it off or you can listen to your own tunes if you so choose.
This is a tough one. First, there is no actual head-to-head online play, which is really disappointing to me personally. What is there though I’ve been playing way more than I expected, and that’s the online daily tournaments. Basically, each day they post a new tournament, each with own conditions such as, number of holes, weather, random hole order, and even specials like unlimited power shots or +1 stroke if you hit the sand. You can get through these in a decent amount of time, and you can only enter a specific tourney once, so you have to make it count. Then your score and accumulated points are posted to the global servers, and you are ranked based on how well you did compared to everyone else. I tell you, I’m loving these challenges, and I’ve played them every day so far, which is something I did not expect.
Also, as in Out of Bounds, you can enter lobbies to hang-out with other players, which you would think is kind of pointless. It is a fun way to spend a few minutes while waiting for a scheduled tourney, which run constantly with 10-15 minute intervals between them. You and a friend can definitely join these together, although it’s a toss-up if you’ll actually see each other or not. These are fun as well, but I’ve been working on the challenges first to try to unlock everything that I can.
Even with a couple of disappointments, namely the lack of actual head-to-head online play, this is by far my favorite Vita launch title. I’ve seriously become addicted to it, and every chance I get, I’m on the virtual links. The progression system is near-perfect, with a difficulty curve that’s silky-smooth. Controls are in place to make this enjoyable for pretty-much any player no matter what experience level you’re at. The daily tournaments have me hooked, but all of the accumulated points to unlock more and more in the shop keep bringing me back.
The game, as are the rest in the series, can be highly technical if you want it to be, by taking into account conditions such as you’re lie, the angle of the lie, if you’re on the fairway or in the sand, wind conditions, wet, dry etc. It’s incredibly satisfying and tuned to almost perfection. Can you tell that I love this game yet? Quite frankly, World Invitational has dethroned Open Tee 2 as the best title in this long-running series. Now to work on getting “crowns” in some of those rounds that I already won!
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