Thursday, August 14, 2008

Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee (PSP) Review

The week of putting and driving continues with a look back at the very first Hot Shots Golf title for the PSP in Open Tee. Rest assured, the sequel will be reviewed-- just not this week.

Putt and drive in the palms of your hands.

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The Hot Shots Golf series is known for its accessible gameplay and surprising depth in each title. Does a foray into the realm of portable gaming make the experience as shallow as a kiddy pool? Thankfully enough, the answer to that question is no. Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee is the series' first entry on Sony's Playstation Portable, and the series holds up remarkably well in its transition from console to handheld gaming.

Most gamers (unless they have friends nearby with PSPs and copies of the game of their own) will play the most in Single-player Golf. The modes consist of Stroke Play-- a simple round of golf on one of the courses already unlocked, Challenge Mode, Training-- to help get the ins and outs of the golfing experience, and Putting Challenge-- where players will test their putting abilities on multiple greens with multiple degrees of slopes. Players start off with a limited number of options, characters, and courses offered to them, but by entering Challenge Mode they can unlock a wealth of new presents. Challenge Mode is the balls and clubs of the Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee golf bag. This mode is where players will partake in match play and tournaments (have the lowest score at the end of nine holes and the players wins) to increase their rank. By winning certain challenges, players will earn stars. Earn enough stars, and you'll move onto the next rank and level of challenges. These become particularly difficult in later levels as expected. However, earning stars isn't the only reward for completing challenges. Some challenges offer new characters, caddies (who do nothing to assist the player unless non sequitors are their pleasure), costumes, headgear, accessories, and new equipment in the form of balls and clubs.

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The courses are lush, detailed, and varied.

A big part of Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee is character customization. Players earn new clothes and equipment by winning challenges. Players aren't able to create a character from scratch, but they can take the characters they unlock and outfit them at their leisure. There's four main modes of customization-- headgear, body attire, accessories, and golf gear. Headgear regards hairstyles and hats, body attire are the different costumes, vests, and dresses, accessories are things like sunglasses, jewelry, and more, and golf gear are your standard balls and clubs-- each with their own specialties much like the golfers that use them. There's two different outfits that players can save to a character which is nice if one wishes to vary things up a bit. Additionally, by playing a round with a character, their loyalty for the player will steadily rise up. Reach certain loyalty levels with them and they'll be able to perform more power shots (needed for extra distance on drives), new types of shots, and better control. This makes just playing as one character fine, but having the highest loyalty rating for each character a fun and rewarding goal to achieve.

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One of the many costume/character combinations.

There's six total courses in Open Tee, and while players only begin with the Southern Alps, by playing through Challenge Mode extensively all of the courses will be unlocked. From the fall countryside of Autumn Pagoda to the dusty gulches of Golden Desert, all of the courses are well-designed and are enjoyable to play upon. Players can also unlock mirror and back tee versions of all the courses as well offering new twists on old favorites.

Open Tee features a simple interface for drives. Hit the X button to start the meter. Hit the meter at the left side to set the distance, hit the meter when it falls back to the right side to set the impact. Holding the directional pad in various directions as you initiate distance and impact can give the ball topspin or any other form of impact twists. Triangle and Circle adjust the camera to give the player some bearing on his or her surroundings. The analog nub can also be used to look around the environment as well. Checking wind conditions, the distance of the hole, the height of the hole, and the degree of slope the player is on are also considerations besides simply swinging for the fences. On the other golfer's mitt, putting is as simple as checking to see the slope of the green (indicated by white lines which run along the putting grid), adjusting as fit, and initiating the putting meter. One press to start the meter, and one press to set the putting distance. It sounds easy, but mastering putting is another thing-- thanks to a useless caddy whose best advice is "Good luck".

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Bogey?! I thought you said fogey! Aw, I'm old...

While an excellent addition to the Hot Shots Golf series, the title isn't perfect. Challenge Mode is amusing, but playing through the same course over and over again to advance to the next rank and stage of competition can become tedious even with the unlockable costumes that come with it. However, there's far worse things to be doing over and over again, and thankfully playing Open Tee isn't one of them. Additionally, this title lacks an online mode, so unless one has a friend with a PSP and a copy of this game they're left to play by their lonesome in a rather quick single-player mode.

Those problems aside, Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee is a very impressive PSP title, and there's a lot to play through and enjoy on one UMD. The character customization is fantastic, the course design is superb, and achieving course high scores or watching replays of nailing that chip-in eagle or that incredible hole-in-one are incredibly rewarding. Any PSP owner who has even a mild or perhaps even nil interest in golf should try out Open Tee. It's an excellent addition and a great alternative to actually packing up the golf clubs and heading out to the links.

[SuperPhillip Says]

Graphics: Beautiful backgrounds, textures, and deformed anime character models offer something pleasing to anyone's eye.

Gameplay: Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee plays amazingly well as a portable golf title. From driving to putting, Open Tee has the control aspect covered.

Sound: Voice clips from the characters and caddies are welcome, the music is memorable, but the sound effects are rather weak.

Replay Value: Challenge Mode has legs, and unlocking all that there is to unlock in that mode gives this golf title legs.

Overall: 8.25/10
- Great. The flaws don't outweigh the fun, so PSP owners, pick this title up!

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