When it comes down to golf games, you have your Tiger Woods PGA Tour
and you have your Hot Shots Golf
. Tiger's game will provide some insanely deep gameplay with analog controls and a greater understanding of the game, but for a game that still provides plenty of links action with a cartoon look and some miniature golf, it's time to turn to Hot Shots Golf Fore!
, the latest from developer Clap Hanz. With plenty of additions to the game including a new online mode, this title keeps the franchise alive and well and thriving. For those who love golf, but don't take themselves too seriously, this is still the game for you.
At the core of it all, Hot Shots Golf Fore! remains extremely faithful to its predecessors. Cartoonish characters golf across the different courses, using a set of clubs to whack a tiny little ball into a hole that's initially absurdly far away, but I'm sure that you're familiar with this basic concept already. After picking a club and a direction, players then start the three-tap process of actually hitting the ball. The first tap starts a meter, the second stops it for strength and the last tap is used for accuracy in the shot in the impact zone of the meter. Mess up the second tap and the ball will be hit at an incorrect strength, but if you mess up the third tap and the ball can shoot off towards the rough. The only exception to this is putting where players only tap to determine the length of the putt.
On top of the strength and accuracy, players can tweak the angle of the shot and the spin of the ball by pushing on the d-pad during the taps. Hit the ball at an upward angle with a backspin and the ball will sail higher and further. As an added bonus, if players nail the accuracy exactly on the line, the ball will sail and land with a wicked backspin that will pull the ball back even after it's landed. By mastering these basic techniques, players can soon move their ball around the course and even get some birdies.
Still, the timing on the shots can get a little tricky and Clap Hanz has added an extra way of inching the power up or down even after it has been chosen. The third tap is usually hit with the X button like the others, but if players use the triangle or circle buttons the strength will be slightly increased or decreased, respectively. It's a little tricky at first, but the difference is huge in terms of refining one's shots.
If players want to really mess with some fine-tuned aspects and live on the edge, there's a new area of the impact zone to play with. The old impact zone had the pink middle and the red sides. Stop the meter in the pink section and the shot will go straight. Get into the red zones and the ball will hook or slice. If players didn't stop the meter in the red or the pink and the shot gets whiffed and the ball whimpers off to the side while a cute skull icon appears on the screen to let you know, cutely, that you just messed up badly and embarrassed your ancestors.
Now, the edge of the red has a tiny dark red border. By stopping the meter in the dark red the skull will still appear, but it means something different. The ball will shoot sparks and fly straight and true and farther than a regular shot. It will also die upon impact and barely roll along the grass at all. For nailing a precision shot onto a tiny target, nothing can compare to this new tool. The downside is that if the meter is even slightly off the mark, players will see their balls shoot way off to the side or go nowhere at all. There's no room for error here.
For taking out any error whatsoever, there's the Hot Shot Club. Made for beginners, this club eliminates the third tap of the shot meter which means that the only thing to choose is the direction and the strength of the shot. It's a weaker club and it removes the ability to put some spin on the ball, but it's a good training wheel for those who are new to the game.
New Shot Graphics
Another huge change in planning a shot is that there is now a cross section display for every shot taken. While planning each shot, there is a line above the shot meter that shows the topographical levels of the terrain directly in front of the golfer and it goes as far as the range of the club selected. Before, this was only used for the putting so that players could get an extra advantage in reading the green, but this makes it much easier to tell where each and every shot will be going so that golfers don't need to guess about shots going uphill or downhill. It's something so simple and yet it improves the game by so much.
After the shot has been hit, there is now a new option to skip the shot. While this could be done in the old game by just tapping the circle button to skip to the next shot and is still available here, the triangle button has an even better option. By tapping this, the game zips the ball to its destination and shows an aerial view of the shot with a white trail of its path through the air. Instead of trying to follow the ball's path and mentally calculating what went wrong with the shot, this cuts to the chase and helps others understand the physics of the game.
Overall, the graphics just have a greater attention to detail with some of them, like the cross section, providing assistance to the game itself. There have been several other improvements as well that help to flesh out the game. The courses and characters have been given a cleaner look and the trees and character clothes can sway with the breeze. While there's still a wind meter to show which way the wind is blowing and how hard, it's nice to have stronger visual cues for why the ball will hook to the left on the long shots.
New Characters and Courses
As for the characters themselves, the roster of golfers has been bumped to 24 with 10 different caddies to help them out. Tiffany, Lin, T-Bone, Louise are all back and our old friends Rachet and Jak have made an appearance, each with Clank and Daxter as their caddies. While there's still no character development like there is in Tiger Woods PGA Tour, there are plenty of characters to choose from with different characteristics. What's even more important than that are the new courses.
Hot Shots Golf Fore! packs in the five full courses from Hot Shots Golf 3 with seven new courses for a dozen courses in all. In addition to that there's a couple of mini-golf courses and one par 3 nine-hole course for those who are afraid of commitment. The mini-golf courses are cute and provide some gameplay for when you're in an extra goofy mood, but they didn't do much for us. The goal is to nail the longest possible putt from the beginning to the hole and after figuring out a few different paths, the fun quickly ends. Still, with so many other full-on courses to try out, we weren't saddened by this fading treat.
With the core of the game solidly in place and the new improvements making things even better, the new courses provide some excellent new arenas for virtually beating up one's friends. The old courses are the same as they ever was and the new courses fit right in in terms of difficulty and providing many different approaches for each hole. We spent several hours playing through the new courses and didn't even come close to getting to the level of mastery. That'll happen in time because we're trained experts and we're more than happy to keep digging through the new set.
While there are some "recycled" courses here, it's impossible to ignore the sheer scope of what's going on this time around. There are seven new full courses that look and play even better than before and an improved classic set of courses. For those who haven't played a bit of Hot Shots Golf 3, this amounts to all 12 courses being band new. All of this and there's some online action as well.
Going online, there are two forms of action: playing a small tournament with up to three others and playing in a large tournament with up to 49 others. The small tournament is where four people can meet up for a game that's just like the offline version with other players able to heckle the other player who's up to bat. The larger tournaments involve 50 people playing at the same time, but not seeing each other. Players can check their standings among everyone else and win by getting the lowest score of everyone. All of this works out just fine and enables virtual golfers to meet up for some serious competition without having to train their siblings for an in-house rivalry.
While the four-person action was a thrill, we had more fun in the large-scale tournament mode simply because we didn't have to wait for others to play through. Also, since there's no voice support for the four-person game, it's a little less fun. It would've been nice to be able to taunt strangers with horribly faked British accents rather than the usual sound effects. Still, the whole online experience is done cleanly with lobbies and a menu system that perfectly matches the offline game. In other words, the online works just as advertised and that helps the hardcore to keep playing and challenging each other long after any real people within reach have gotten tired of losing badly.
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