It might not be the first game title that pops into your head when you think of Sony consoles but Clap Hanz’s big-headed, Japanese-styled golfer has long been a stalwart presence for the company’s consoles. This latest iteration doesn’t change much — it doesn’t have to — but it does have a few tricks up its argyle-patterned sleeve.[drop]First, let’s address the baffling array of titles this game has for our international readers. In Japan, it’s called Minna no Golf 6 (we’ve tested this version too). In the US, it’s Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational and in Europe it is simply Everybody’s Golf. It’s a new title in the main series, rather than a sequel to previous portable outings, so were a future game to be released on a home console, we’d expect it to be treated as Minna no Golf 7 and whatever convoluted nomenclature that translates to for western releases.
The courses are all new, although some similarities exist between Maple Leaf in this version and the Highland Golf Club in Everybody’s Golf: World Tour (Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds in the US). There’s only so much you can do with grass of varying lengths and bunkers filled with sand though, so similarities are easy to live with. There is a nice spread of difficulties, hazards and quirks across the various courses on offer here and some of the scenery plays an important role in how some holes need to be played.
The hidden depth of the Everybody’s Golf series is here in all of its glory. Those cartoonish stylings belie the surprisingly tactical approach that is often needed for each hole and each course. For example, some holes require you to play around a tall hazard, be it a tree, a windmill or a motel sign. Later in the game, once you’ve unlocked different clubs, balls and strokes, you might be able to simply play over those previously troublesome obstacles, or spin the ball around them. Likewise, the hole lengths are finely tuned so that early in the game you might be well advised to be cautious in your approach play but later on, with better equipment, you’re able to find more economical routes to the green. It really is quite impressively tuned.
Unlockable skills, traits, equipment, characters and costumes are all here too, with upgradable equipment which levels up the more you use it. You can even unlock concept artwork and soundtracks as you earn enough points to pay for them.
The whole style of the game is very definitely Japanese in origin. Characters have big heads, huge almond shaped eyes and costumes that look like they’ve been donated by the wardrobe department of a manga series about teenage pop stars. This is no EA Sports simulation, everything is exaggerated and overblown.[drop2]The three-press shot technique is forgiving and the gameplay is simple — at least initially. Later in the game, as you unlock new versions of the swing meter, things can become more tactical but to begin with, it’s just a simple button press to start the swing meter, one to stop it for power and another to determine accurate contact with the ball. That’s perhaps the most striking thing about Everybody’s Golf though, it is so accessible that anyone could easily pick it up and enjoy it. But it grows with you, the difficulty of the courses — and particularly the greens — increasing as you unlock clubs and balls with new traits and abilities.
There’s plenty of content here too, enough to keep you playing for many hours and much, much more if you’re intent on unlocking plenty of different characters to play through the challenges multiple times.
There will also be a “Daily International” tournament where you can pit your skills against the rest of the world in a new one-off competition each day. This element is locked out of the game until the official European launch date (22nd February), as is the online matchmaking and lobbies (said to be coming as part of an update).
- Plenty of game time to progress through the Challenge mode.
- Lots to unlock and upgrade means you’re constantly rewarded from progress.
- Has a deceptive amount of depth and finely tuned difficulty.
- Looks fine, with bags of character.
- Character and equipment options are limited out of the box.
- Occasional frustrating area of a single hole makes an entire good round wasted.
Everybody’s Golf is potentially the dark horse in the first party launch line up. Many will discount it, particularly in the west, in favour of Uncharted or WipEout. That’s not something we’d necessarily discourage, golf games aren’t to everyone’s tastes, but that’s not to say it isn’t well worth your consideration. It works to a well proven formula and there’s nothing revolutionary about this iteration but this game, on this system is a pretty good match and we’d encourage every new Vita owner to at least take a look at it.