Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational (PS Vita) Review

Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational (PS Vita) Review

 

Game: Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational
Developer: Clap Hanz
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
# of Players: 1-4 (Ad-Hoc) 1-30 Online
Rated E for Everyone

Golf is one of those sports (like tennis!) that I hate to watch but for some reason love playing in video game format. That’s why I picked up Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational for my PS Vita at launch and although the game has some frustrating quirks, I am very satisfied with my purchase.

Let’s get this out of the way: Hot Shots Golf is not what it seems. Underneath all the accessibility of big-eyed characters, flashy graphics and tons of positivism (the game screams “Nice Shot!” while colorful letters appear on the screen) this is NOT an easy game. The game demands patience, planning, luck and plenty of skill. Things can and will get borderline frustrating sometimes and the game’s main single-player mode, the Challenge Mode, has an inherently flawed progression system.

You see, in challenge mode you progress through a series of tournaments that range from 9 to 18 holes and have their own set of rules. For example, you might be given thirty seconds to complete your shot and if you don’t you get penalized with a +1 stroke. Or you might get a +1 every time you hit a tree or land in a bunker. Not to mention the variety of environmental conditions that range from rain to snow to really strong winds. Successfully completing a tournament earns you a star and after a certain amount of stars you can compete in a one on one match-up against another golfer. Beating him unlocks him in the shop (so you can purchase him) and moves you up to the next tier of challenges. This makes for a long and meaty single player experience that will last you a long time. But why is it flawed? Well, because the only way to get stars is to finish 1st in every tournament. Since the game gets so hard, prepare to repeat challenges dozens of times. Since some challenges can last up to 45 minutes, well do the math. Nothing sucks like leading a tournament for 15-16 holes and then making a few critical mistakes in the last two holes that cost you the win. Does this happen in real golf? Yes. But sometimes I feel like the game cheats a little. How can I play so perfectly in the first 16 holes and suddenly EVERYTHING goes wrong in the end? The same can be said for the one on one match-ups since A.I. characters have a natural tendency to play the final holes perfectly even if they sucked before. Even the Easy Mode, which lowers your opponent’s scores, doesn’t really help much.

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Winning tournaments earns you points you can spend at the shop. There is a ton of stuff to purchase, from new characters, costumes and color sets to new balls, clubs, character artwork, course memberships (that allow you to “unlock” the courses for other modes), game music and avatar parts (more on that in a bit). This is also flawed. I mean, you spend such a long time to beat these characters and then you have to buy them too? And they are super expensive as well! In the end, chances are you will focus on buying all the balls and clubs first (since they boost your character’s stats and are pretty much required to win the higher level tournaments) and skip everything else until you have all the best gear.

Thankfully the game has a few extra modes to keep you entertained. You can practice or play single rounds, compete via ad hoc with other players (which works great) or go online were you can compete in daily tournaments or enter into a lobby, complete with bubble head-like avatars (which is where the avatar parts come into play). From the lobbies you can chat with other players and enter tournaments. The Daily Tournament challenges are also great, since you only get one chance to post your best score and then you get compared/ranked against the rest of online players. I have finished in the 400-ish range from about 1800 players, which surprises me since I am awful at this game.

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Don’t get me wrong, the game does it’s best to help you out. You get access to a wide variety of shot types (although all of them are a variant of “stop the line/ball/icon at X moment on the bar/line/meter and then stop it again in a different section”.) although most of them need to be purchased at the shop. Chances are you will find a shooting type you like. You also get access to a wide variety of cameras that allow you to study the course and plan your strategy and several more helpful indicators that include how strong the winds are, how deep is the ball and how much strength it will lose because of the surface type. For example, it might say “98-100%” in the fairway, but that can drop to 54-60% in deep sand and so on. In the end, it is still hard to determine where everything will go since you have to take your character’s stats into consideration and of course, that great equalizer we like to call luck.

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Vita specific controls are limited to switching the camera angles by touching the camera icon on the screen (although I found this is easier and faster with the buttons), touchscreen menu navigation (can also be done with buttons) and the silly ability of touching anything on the screen just to see what it does, like shaking a tree or sending an animal running. In other words, there is nothing here that couldn’t have been done in the PS3 or PSP. This feels like a missed opportunity: no cross system play with Hot Shots Golf Fore!?

Where the game shines is in the graphics department, showcasing the Vita’s muscle and making everything look on par with the PS3 games. Sure, you can see the odd polygon here or there, but everything looks great, there is no pop-up or slowdown and loading times are short. The sound is better than adequate, with cheery music that fits the game well, high-pitched Japanese voices that resemble the characters they are playing and crisp sound effects. Hitting a power shot really feels like blasting that ball!

Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational is a solid entry in the series. Great graphics, fun (if frustrating) gameplay, great online options and a ton of stuff to unlock make it a worthy purchase. Just be prepared to endure some frustrating moments!

Pros:

– Great presentation

– Tons of unlockables

– Long single player experience

– Excellent online integration

– Satisfying gameplay

Cons:

– Difficulty spikes make for a frustrating experience

– Can get repetitive

– Progression system in challenge mode is flawed

 

Final Score: 7.9/10

 

 

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