Not Just for Hot Shots: Everybody’s Golf Review

Posted in Kulturecade by - September 26, 2017
Not Just for Hot Shots: Everybody’s Golf Review

I feel like it’s gotten so much harder to market a golf game over the past decade. It’s one thing to have poster child Tiger Woods fall (like, all the way down) out of the public’s good graces, but not only has the sport failed to produce anybody capable of replacing him, but gamers along the way have grown more and more skeptical of yearly sports franchises more and more during that time, resulting in waning interest and cynicism each August when Madden comes to town, as well as the death of anybody who can’t keep up with the franchises that actually do manage to please fans consistently with each passing year, such as NBA Live and MLB 2K. It’s in response to this overemphasis on the more famous, TV-friendly version of a sport that golf couldn’t produce as readily as football or basketball that we received The Golf Club only a few years ago — a game not only bereft of almost any licensing, but focused all-around on creating the most true-to-life representation of a round on your local municipal course, no glitz, glamour, or excitement necessary. And in many ways, The Golf Club (and its new sequel The Golf Club 2) has been the superior product in the realm of golf games over the past few years, due largely to the active removal of anything resembling flash.

But of course, that approach won’t ever be the best way to engage with the majority of the gaming community, even if it creates a breath of fresh air for The Golf Club players — it won’t ever be truly exciting or accessible to non-golfers, and that’s why Everybody’s Golf, the latest entry in Sony’s ol’ reliable arcade golf franchise, has made such a successful and well-timed return. Despite never truly going away (the series has had two well-received handheld iterations on the PSP and Vita, respectively, since its last console release, Out of Bounds on PS3), it felt for a long time as though developer Clap Hanz’s flagship franchise wasn’t likely to return to consoles to fly the banner for the style of accessible arcade-style golf that it had, alongside Mario Golf, been so instrumental in popularizing since the late ‘90s.

The most important thing to remember when jumping into the cartoonish paradise of Everybody’s Golf is that despite the fact that the presentation has changed in this new installment, the controls and gameplay aren’t ever going to be anything other than what it says on the tin. The tried-and-true three-click swing meter that the entire style of golf games that Everybody’s Golf encapsulates is still the bedrock of the game and only minor tweaks, such as a third click for impact while putting (putting used to only require aiming and setting power), have been made which are both unimportant and quickly forgotten.

The structure of the game, on the other hand, such as character improvement and customization, has been almost totally revamped: whereas earlier titles in the series would utilize pre-set characters that would be unlocked through Vs. Play and would level up via loyalty, improving their skills as a whole through consistent, quality play. Everybody’s Golf eliminates the pre-set, unlockable roster in favor of a full, Mii-like character creation system that can be used at any time to replace not only clothing and accessories but body shape and facial features as well. Progression in this iteration instead applies to your character’s proficiency with each club in their bag, with a quality shot increasing the club’s power, control, backspin, and/or back door shots (the likelihood of the ball spiraling into the cup from a shot off the edge). The system works well largely due to the fact that it’s ever-present, tangible, and constantly rewarding, with any shots that aren’t a complete duffer helping at least a little bit to improve your abilities. This isn’t to say, of course, that this is an improvement, but it’s not a bad move on the part of Clap Hanz either — it’s merely a case of fixing something that wasn’t broken, but not ending up any better or worse than things were before, although some longtime fans may disagree with it on principle.

Clap Hanz’s only real missteps in Everybody’s Golf come from the elements of the gameplay that don’t involve golf, namely the additions of cart driving and fishing, as well as the rather cramped setting of the home island from which the player accesses the different areas of the game. What was implied as being a kind of open and expansive golf resort that would allow players to leisurely move between playing a hole, casting a line, and driving to your next destination instead takes place mostly on a tiny, overpopulated, and sharply juxtaposed set of sub-locales on a single island, from which players travel to the parts of the game where actual golf is played, both online and offline. Things would be much more immersive and exciting if the hub world were eschewed in favor of simply traveling between the five courses (a small number, but each is easily befitting the series’ high standards), and deciding what to do once you get there, be it the online or offline tournaments, a bit of fishing, or simply a drive around the course (though perhaps the fact that you can’t race the carts against other players in any official capacity is the biggest omission of all).

With almost every review I do on a game, one of the questions I always ask by the end to sum up the whole thing is “who is this game for?” So rare is the game that doesn’t have to be compartmentalized and clarified as to who should go out and buy it, even if it’s not that great, or who should steer clear of it, even if it’s excellent. Everybody’s Golf, however, is true to its name, as it’s so accessible in its concept and controls, so gentle in its learning curve, and so gradual in its progression that it’s almost impossible not to enjoy it if you are even the least bit open to playing a golf video game. Regardless of its failure to produce the sports genre’s answer to Animal Crossing with its layering of driving and fishing atop an already deep and deceptively sophisticated round of golf, Everybody’s Golf is one of the most inviting games I’ve played in quite a while, and a worthy entry in the series due to its enduring, charming approach to what many see as a dull and impenetrable sport.

This post was written by
He is a video game staff writer and dreamed of being a video game as a young boy. Then somebody told him that you can't really do that, so he compromised by doing a bunch of stuff related to that, playing video games, reading about video games, writing about video games, working at a video game store, and all those good nerdy things. Aside from video games, he's also a dork of all trades, with an interest in heavy metal music, wrestling, sports, and Magic the Gathering.
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