Ace in the Hole
Can you believe it has been just shy of a decade since we’ve basked in a Mario Golf game? I was shocked at first, but the more I thought about how much I missed the Mushroom Kingdom clan on the links, the more I realized that now is the right time to bring the series back. Nintendo is finally starting to embrace the online scene, and Mario Golf: World Tour is the perfect template going forward. It is brimming with features that will keep you engaged and provides plenty of goals to strive towards. There are a few divots, but they are small in comparison to the sheer amount of addictive content.
The menu screen is deceivingly simple, displaying only two game modes–a quick round with Mario Golf or the campaign style via the Castle Club. The latter puts your Mii as the hero in training, stepping into the posh Princess Peach Castle inspired country club and greeted by all the citizens of the Mushroom Kingdom. This grand palace sports many facilities to discover, some practical and others superfluous. Whether you stroll into the training room to chat up a Shy Guy on a treadmill or mosey into the women’s locker room to mingle with Birdo, you’ll find useful golf tips and guides to the club grounds whomever you talk to.
Your initial task is to make your way to the first of the three 18-hole courses, the Forest Course, where you must complete a practice round to receive a handicap. This score adjusts depending on how well you play through a full round of golf, and becomes a useful tool for the game to keep tournaments evenly matched between scratch golfers and novices. After getting comfortable with your swing, the course championship match awaits, likely the first event that can award you a sparkling trophy to be displayed in the club’s trophy hall. As you can probably expect, the Forest Course has trees dotted around each hole, mostly covering doglegs, though the course itself is quite simple to master. As is the Seaside Course, which yields plenty of sand traps and water hazards. The final course, the Mountain Course, with its high winds and sloping greens, is the only one that may require more than simply hitting the button at the right spot on your swing’s power meter.
The controls will feel familiar to anyone who has played the series before. With a full bag of clubs to choose from, you can make a regular shot or chance a power shot which costs one of its six uses unless you nail the target on the power meter. On Easy mode you simply have to hit the meter once, but on Manual mode you most hit the power marker, then hit again within the sweet spot to avoid topping the ball. Each style lets you use the Thumb Pad during your swing to mark a spot on the ball, adding a fade or draw shot, or giving it more or less hang time. The advantage to Manual shots is that you can add topspin or backspin on the ball, which becomes crucial on the harder courses with nasty pin placements.
All of the controls have button configurations, but the touch screen can also be used in every respect. However, despite the touch screen’s simple presentation, it’s much easier and quicker to use buttons, ultimately leaving the lower screen a clutter of touch windows. The game also allows you to free roam the camera using the system’s gyroscope, but again this is a useless tool, and of course does not pair well with the 3D in effect, which serves a much more practical purpose by providing you with a better sense of distance to the flag.
Though three courses may seem underwhelming, Mario Golf: World Tour has plenty of non-traditional activities to keep things interesting. A short walk over to the Royal Garden will reveal more Mario style courses. This collection of unlockable 9-hole courses comes packed with launch pads on the ground to send your ball zipping forward, tons of coins to collect with well placed shots, and a handful of item power-ups to exploit. The Boomerang Flower gives your shot an intense curve, while Bullet Bill lets you blast forward in a straight line, with several other items to discover. Afterwards you can head to the Royal Room (aka VIP Lounge) to chat with Yoshi, Peach, Bowser, and the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom elites (as well as DK and Diddy). Some will encourage you, others will taunt you, and for some odd reason, neither Mario nor Luigi will talk directly to you, opting to use a Toad interpreter instead.
But remember, this is a world tour, and the online options are plentiful. In the Quick Match mode you can connect with up to three other golfers either locally, through your online friends list, or with strangers around the world. Choosing either your Mii or your favorite Mario character, you can play the standard Stroke Play (lowest stroke count) or Skins Play (most holes won), see who can complete the holes the fastest in Speed Golf, or collect points based on the fewest stokes per hole in Point Tourney. The big ticket matches are the regional and world tournaments, which pits you against many other players in a showdown of skill on the links.
No matter what mode you play, completion rewards you with coins to spend on new equipment and clothing. There is tons of gear to unlock and purchase, and most provide a statistical upgrade rather than simply being superficial. You can even summon Kamek to exchange your system’s Play Coins for in-game currency.
Aside from the boldly colored and item filled courses in the Royal Garden, the traditional courses are sparsely populated with landscaping, making them rather dull to play through. The characters are nicely animated, though as I explored the Castle Club, my Mii always looked like he was racing to find the bathroom. His cheers and groans on the course also sounded a little too childish, and it would have been nice to have different voice options to choose from. I was also not impressed with the music score. Motoi Sakuraba has a long history of composing great melodies for video games, but the tracks in Mario Golf: World Tour are almost too mild and unmemorable, even for a golf game.
Despite a few control issues and the desire for more engaging audio and visuals, the brimming content and excellent gameplay in Mario Golf: World Tour leaves the flaws well behind. The pace is perfect, whether you spend just a couple of minutes on challenges and training minigames, or breeze through eighteen holes in under half-an-hour. The collectibles beg to be purchased, and the bragging rights through the multiplayer features are beyond anything we’ve seen in prior Mario Golf titles. It fits the system perfectly, it will fit your schedule perfectly, and it always has something enticing to come to back to.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.5 Graphics
There’s a good variety of color and animations, but the traditional course are sparsely populated and not very lively. 3.9 Control
Every step of the swing is extremely tight, but the touch controls are a subpar alternative to button controls, and the gyroscopic camera is an annoying tool used merely for sightseeing. 3.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
It’s all passable and unobtrusive, but it doesn’t have any memorable sounds that should be ever-present in a Mario game. 4.6 Play Value
Great single-player and multiplayer components make this the best golfing experience the Mushroom Kingdom has ever seen. 3.9 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best