Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Golf Games #4

Everybody's Golf a.k.a. Hot Shots Golf (1997)
By: Camelot Software Planning / SCEI Genre: Sports Players: 1-2 Difficulty: Medium
Featured Version: Sony PlayStation
Also Available For: Nothing

It's a bit of a spoiler but this is all ten characters!
As I've mentioned in previous posts, my favourite kind of golf game by far is the cartoony, arcadey type which those zany folks over in the Far East seem to do so well. There's quite a few of these around nowadays but the one which kick-started the whole craze was the first in a series which happily is still going strong today - the mighty Everybody's Golf! The original, like all subsequent instalments, was released exclusively on Sony hardware, in this case the original PlayStation where it was met with a reasonable reception without really setting the world alight. For some reason though, I was immediately taken with it despite having almost no interest in actual golf and not even being fully aware of the rules to begin with. I guess that's always been the secret of the success of the series though - easily accessible and full of charm! The series is a somewhat startling sixteen years old now though, so how does this début hold up after so many sequels?

The helpful, though hardly essential, tutorial mode...
As I soon learned, the rules of golf are not especially complex, and Everybody's Golf follows them without trying to change them or add any extra bits and pieces. What it does do is simplify the process of playing it. The first option screen offers the choice of some stats and config screens, a mini-golf game and tutorial mode, and of course the main game. Opting for this as most probably will takes you to another screen which offers the following play modes: Stroke (arcade mode, basically, for up to four players), Match Play (one-on-one match against a human player), Training (practise mode), Tournament (full matches against thirty(!) computer players), and Vs (one-on-one against a computer player). Initially there are two characters to choose from and just the one course is available, but success in the Tournament mode will eventually unlock eight more characters, five more courses, and even a secret new play mode featuring all manner of untold wonders (possibly).

Safely cleared a water hazard... just!
The secret to EG's arcadey gameplay, besides its anime-style characters of course, is its quick and fuss-free 'three-press' shot system. The power gauge consists of a thin bar at the bottom of the screen - one button press starts it moving, a second press stops it, thereby setting the power level, and a third press determines the impact. The marker needs to be stopped within a small red space near the end of the meter - miss this and character will miss the shot. Stopping it too far within the impact zone one way or another will slice or hook the shot while stopping the marker in the dead centre will hit the shot perfectly. The size of the impact zone depends on the ball's 'lie' - it will be at its biggest for the tee shot and much smaller if you're stuck in the rough or a bunker. You can choose any club you want but the most appropriate one is usually selected automatically (by your helpful caddy, no doubt) and, once you're happy, selecting a preferred destination for the ball as well as the amount of power you should apply to get there can be determined by swooping over the entire hole (giggity) with the various camera buttons.

Why thanks, I was quite pleased with it myself!
Once you reach the green the process is made even simpler. A grid is laid over it which shows all the slopes and bumps, and only two button presses are required this time - one to start the power meter, another to stop it! This all helps the gameplay flow nicely and makes EG a fast-paced game for its type. Some of the other golf games I've tried over the years require a lot of faffing around to take each shot but here it takes seconds; about the only thing you need to keep an eye on is the wind direction and strength which is represented by an arrow in the top-right of the screen. The relative simplicity of EG shouldn't suggest it's a shallow game that quickly grows tiresome though. The characters all have differing attributes, so mastering them all will take time. They can all put some simple variations on their shots, such as adding topspin or backspin, and each has a limited number of 'power shots' to use during competitions (which add a bit of distance to a drive). There are a lot of play modes and things to unlock as well, including some extremely challenging courses, and there's even a driving range to improve your whacking skills!

The 'Mini Golf' mode is a whole game in itself...
Each hole is previewed with a whirly 360° flyover before you start which shows the layout and location of the green, bunkers, and any watery areas, and each shot you take is accompanied by one of several different 'camera' views of your effort. The first course looks a bit plain these days with only basic features but it's well laid out and nicely drawn all the same. Later courses look a bit more distinctive - the second, set in Hawaii, is my favourite - and everything moves smoothly. The most appealing graphical aspect of the game, however, is the characters. As well as their differing skills, they all have their own detailed look as well including various 'happy', 'satisfied, or 'sad' poses after each hole depending on how well you've done. Seeing a cute girlie slumped distraught on the ground after a 'bogey' certainly inspires you to improve on the next hole! Unlike most golf games, the action (and it is 'action' compared to most other examples!) is accompanied by some surprisingly loud and upbeat music which is pretty appealing, not to mention catchy. The sound effects are superb too and are the most realistic thing about the game, oddly enough. It doesn't hurt to add a little authenticity I guess!

Bah! Stuck in a bloody bunker :(
Regardless of your level of skill though, Everybody's Golf was, at the time at least, a golf game quite unlike any other. It's one I played a lot back in the mid-90's and, although tough at times, I still found it tremendous fun, mighty enjoyable, and even relaxing as well. Since then I've played and enjoyed many other games in the series including what is in my opinion the best one on the PSP which I've spent an ungodly amount of time with. Compared to many of these later instalments, this series début does now look a little creaky. This is completely understandable, obviously, but the graphics are a little rough around the edges, and the many refinements made in later games are missed here when going back to it, especially the accuracy of the ball-placement which is slightly vague here. The fact that the series is still going at all is fantastic news though - I might even buy a PS Vita to try that version! So, the series has evolved, as you would expect, and if you have a newer Sony system (and I believe every one of them has an EG game) you're likely to go for that version, but I still have much respect for this original. It was and remains great fun and it's well worth playing if you don't go in expect too many flashy extras.

RKS Score: 7/10


  1. Which PSP version is your favorite, Simon--the first or the second? I have the first but have yet to play it :| Like I just told you on FB, though, I completely loved Hot Shots Tennis (Everybody's Tennis) on the PSP, so I'll definitely pop Hot Shots Golf into my trusty old PSP sometime soon...

  2. I have both of the PSP EG games but, being the way I am, I want to complete the first one and collect all the stuff in it before starting the second one. This is something I have yet to do but I'll keep at it! If I get stuck I might give in though :P And as I said, I'll definitely give Everybody's Tennis a try if I can find it. I trust Clap Hanz (who took over the series after this first game) to make it splendid :)

  3. You should maybe give also-Camelot's Mario Golf a try, if you can. Something that I can't quite put my finger on about this game just felt a little lacking to me when it came out, which may have as much been a bit of lacking polish. Mario Golf, at least to me, was everything I wished this one was.

  4. Hi mercatfat - the one for the N64, right? I always wanted that but never got around to buying it. I do have Mario Golf Toadstool Tour for the GameCube though, that's pretty awesome :)