Review: Hot Shot Golf is like Tiger Woods? It has its ups, it has its downs. But in the end, it's liked by all.
Golf may not be the most exciting sport. Golf may not be the most popular sport. I don't even play golf. But I can't deny the fact that some golf games can be plain fun to play, and one of these is Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee for the PlayStation Portable. Now, I don't own a PlayStation 2 so I was skeptical about this franchise when I received this game. However, skepticism quickly turn to admiration as this turned out to be quite an afternoon on the course.
It is fairly obvious that the developers of Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee were not attempting to make the most realistic golfing simulation. They were merely attempting to create a golf game that can be enjoyed by all. What are the ingredients to such a game? First and foremost, good controls are vital to the success of such a game. Fortunately, the developers nailed this aspect of the game.
The golf swing is executed with three easy taps of the X button. The swing is started by tapping X once, and then power and accuracy meters will appear. Each time you press X when the corresponding power and accuracy meets your needs, and the ball sails to a magical journey. Your shots can be enhanced with a variety of spins. Also, a certain number of power shots will be given to you, which allows you to hit the ball a bit further if necessary. Putting is more difficult, but that seems to be the case with all golf games. Getting the ball in the cup isn't very easy at first, and is quite frustrating. When you're on the green, a grid with moving dots will show up. This will tell you about the slope you're dealing with, as well as the distance to the cup. The ball physics seem to be fairly realistic, as even weather will affect your swings and putts. As you gain experience, it will come a bit easier to you.
Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee features three main modes of play: single-player, multi-player and training. Single-player actually features three game types: Stroke Play, Putting Challenge and a Challenge mode. Stroke Play allows you to bust out a game of golf on any course that you have unlocked, while Putting Challenge is a neat mode where you can practice your short and long range puts on every unlocked course. However, the bulk of my time was spent in the Challenge mode, which basically consists of various events and tournaments. Participating in tournaments allows you to upgrade your characters and unlock new items.
As you progress throughout the game by winning tournaments, your character will unlock a whole bunch of features. The most common unlockables are various items such as outfits and headgear. With all of these outfits, accessories and hairstyles to choose from, you can customize your character in every fashionable way. Acquiring these items also provides you with stat boosts. You can even upgrade the golf balls and golf club that your character uses to improve their stats. And the more you use a certain character, the higher their loyalty becomes, which provides that certain character with new upgrades like more power shots in each game.
Some of the events are special events, as they will be marked with golden stars. The completion of these gold star events will move your character up to the next rank, where even more unlockables will await you. As you win more and more events, new characters, courses and caddies will also be unlocked. Since you start out with only two characters, unlocking new ones is definitely a top priority.
And this is perhaps one of the flaws of the game. Unlocking characters and courses is incredibly difficult. The game boasts a total of 10 characters, 6 courses and 5 caddies. However, you have to play for hours on end to unlock new courses and characters. After a while, playing on the same three courses in hopes of unlocking another got to me, and I left the game sitting for a few days until I regained interest. Having at least ten courses and a few more characters that can be unlocked more quickly would definitely hold the attention of gamers with more ease. With the present settings, I think it'll take me a solid 30 or more hours of single-player action until I unlock everything.
As far as multi-player gaming is concerned, Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee only supports Ad-hoc wireless multi-player. To those that are new to the console, Ad-hoc is a wireless network that allows PSP owners located within a small vicinity to play against each other. Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee supports up to eight players simultaneously, yet unfortunately I cannot comment on this feature because I have not been able to track down people with a PSP and a copy of the game. However, the instruction manual talks about the ability to ruffle your opponent by pressing buttons while they are swinging or putting. If you do, apparently your opponent will be rattled a little, which might destroy their concentration. Unfortunately, online multi-player is a feature that is not present in this game, which is a shame.
Loading times plague all PSP games, as I am accustomed to the instant loading on the GameBoy Advance systems, which utilized cartridges. Since PSPs use UMDs, which are a form of disks, it takes a while for the game to load. It takes a good 30 seconds for the game to start up, and an additional 20 seconds or so for a course to load. This is annoying, but this is the case with all PSPs games. Unfortunately, loading times are inevitable.
Graphically, Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee is a nice, slightly cartoonish game. The environments are the highlight in my opinion, as the mountain peaks, the lakes, the luscious, green grass and wildlife add nice, bright yet subtle touches to the game. I also liked the visual effects, such as the trailing multi-colored particle effects that accompany each swing. This is a distinctly Japanese style that provides the game with some style. The characters are somewhat similar to each other, although the customization features take care of this issue. The lack of too many distinct character animations reflected their emotions after missing or making a shot is perhaps the only graphical downside.
The sound effects are somewhat bland, but epic scores and amazing voice work are elements that are unnecessary in golf games. The sound effects are your standard affair ? some water effects, some wind effects, and the sound of golf clubs making contact with the ball. The caddies are basically characters who provide commentaries yet are never seen on the grass, and they are fairly repetitive. The soundtrack is nothing spectacular, yet it does the job and I can't say that it is revolted. It is a compilation of some easy piano background music that suits the title.