|System: PSP||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Clap Hanz||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: SCEA (SONY)||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Jun. 3, 2008||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-16 (Online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Jonathan Marx
May 6, 2008 - I had the pleasure of reviewing the new Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds for the PS3. When the opportunity came to get some hands-on time with Clap Hanz's new offering for the PSP, I jumped at it. As I figured, I wasn't disappointed. This time around, Hot Shots Golf fully utilizes the power of the PSP; the graphics are excellent, and there is a full-fledged online multiplayer component. Additionally, there is a veritable smörgåsbord of unlockable items, including challenging courses, that should keep players busy for hours!
If you're not familiar with the Hot Shots series, it's a first party cartoon-like golf franchise developed by Clap Hanz and published by Sony. It is a simplified and quirky version of EA's golf offering, but it still has a host of challenging courses and unlockables that make it an enjoyable title for almost everyone. The copy I received was nearly in its final stages. I had tons of courses, characters, items, equipment, etc. to play with, and the overall experience was great! After creating a save file, I had access to four modes of play including Challenge Mode, Stroke Play, Mini-game, and Training.
Challenge Mode takes players on a golfing tour while opening up twelve courses, gear, accessories, skills, and abilities. Challenge Mode has a variety of competitive formats to choose from including matchplay showdowns and stroke play tourneys. Stroke Play mode allows you to play a course that you've opened, achieve your personal best, and even accrue points.
As the name would imply, the Mini-game section only had one game to select. I'm not sure if this will change in the future, but it is unlikely. The mini-game featured a nine hole, hole-in-one challenge that has you gun for one of three cups on a green. Each cup is worth varying amounts of points depending on the difficulty of its placement. Landing on the green simply isn't good enough; you have to actually sink the shot. Don't worry too much though; the cups are all placed at the bottom of wells on the green. The biggest challenge is selecting the right club and judging the wind and the roll just right to make sure you get the ball into the right cup. This mode was quite fun, and sinking shots directly from the tee box with different iron selections is a great way to work on your approach play.
Finally, like other Hot Shots titles, a full-on Training mode is included. Training allows players to choose any hole from any course they've opened. Moreover, you can change hole selection at any time, redo shots or even advance to the next hole on the course without actually finishing. The Training mode is very flexible, user-friendly, and does a very good job of helping you master the most difficult sections of specific holes.
Unfortunately, I didn't have the opportunity to try out the game's multiplayer component. That function was not yet supported, but it looks as though it will be one of the big draws of the title. In Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 you will be able to play with up to seven other friends locally via Ad-Hoc function or online with a total of sixteen players including yourself. Online tournament play on the PS3 was smooth; the lobbies and speed of play was excellent. I assume the PSP version will take cues from its big brother and also have a perfectly designed system for internet play.
The presentation is classic Hot Shots! The upbeat tunes, cutesy characters, and nature stills are all present and accounted for. Despite the fact that this was preview code, I noticed no visual problems whatsoever. The game, especially the courses, looks great, and subsequently, the game plays great.
Lastly, there are a lot of options you can change as well, even some you can unlock. For example, I really liked the data function. Video clips of important accomplishments such as Chip-in Birdies, Hole-in-Ones, and Double Eagles are saved to be reviewed later. Furthermore, a host of statistics are kept so you can keep an eye on your golfing skill. These stats can be viewed by character, course, putts, and even online results. This level of player control has me anxious to play the commercial version!
We will have to wait to see what the full review copy has in store for portable gamers, but it looks like it is shaping up to be a very good effort. Though online functionality wasn't supported in this copy, Clap Hanz's pedigree and the attention to detail paid to the other elements of the title bodes well for internet play. Moreover, the single-player Challenge Mode has twelve tough courses, loads of fun characters, and so many unlockable items there should be hours upon hours of gameplay. Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 will hit store shelves on June 3, 2008. Look for the full review to get the skinny on the complete package!
CCC Lead Contributor / News Director