Sunday, April 18, 2021

Clap Hanz Golf (iOS) Review

The Masters was last week, and the golf season continues to be in full swing--and yes, that was definitely some play-on words for you there on this Sunday. SPC brings to you the first review of its kind on the site--an Apple Arcade exclusive game review. It's Clap Hanz Golf, the first self-published game from the eponymous developer, formerly of Everybody's Golf fame. Is this first solo trip to the tee for Clap Hanz a Cinderella story, or is its golf game struggling? Let's find out with the SPC review!

How about a round of applause for this great game of golf?

I love the Hot Shots Golf / Everybody's Golf series. I love it because it strikes a brilliant balance of arcade-y golf goodness and simulation-style gameplay. It also doesn't hurt that Clap Hanz hasn't really bogeyed on an entry of the series yet, and this is after nearly a dozen entries across multiple PlayStation platforms. However, now Clap Hanz is on its own with a self-published, non-Everybody's Golf round on the links, and my admiration for the developer and its prestige games was the bait that got me to bite on an Apple Arcade subscription. The studio's first--and hopefully not last--self-published game is the not-so-creatively-titled Clap Hanz Golf, essentially taking the charm, the fun, and the accessibility of the Everybody's Golf series and giving it a mobile (back)spin. The end result is a solid round of golf for pros, beginners, and everyone in between!

If you've played a Hot Shots or Everybody's Golf game in the past, then you'll no doubt feel right at home with the presentation of Clap Hanz Golf. You have your similarly cartoon-y anime-style characters to play as, though they only show personality through their movements as there is no voice acting for them. You also have the familiar HUD elements, helpful menu prompts, and much more. 

Everything is pretty much Hot Shots Golf / Everybody's Golf with a new name. Though, that's not to say it's the same golf experience on Apple Arcade. Gone is the traditional three-click / three-button-press swing system from past Clap Hanz projects, where clicking once started the gauge, a second time set the power, and the final click set the accuracy. Instead, whether you're playing via touch screen or using a compatible controller, you're using a flick system to swing, drive, chip, and putt. 

Clap Hanz Golf is essentially Everybody's Golf on Apple Arcade.

This swing system utilizes a vertical bar that has you drawing a line downward to set the strength of your upcoming shot, and then flicking upward on the screen to initiate said shot. Depending on how straight your flick upward is, that determines if your shot will be hit straight or not. Of course, things like wind velocity and lie of the ball also affect your shot's trajectory. Flicking up all the way will result in topspin for your shot, which I found happened a lot until I discovered that the game just wanted me to flick halfway up the vertical shot gauge. However, occasionally my shot would peter out quite quickly, traveling but a short distance from my golfer through doing it this way. 

Furthermore, putting is a bit challenging, and I think the developers understood this as the greens in Clap Hanz Golf are nowhere near as steep or as complicated in undulations or curves as in the Everybody's Golf series. It was difficult for me to putt straight, oftentimes resulting in frustration when putts that would otherwise be a piece of cake in any other golf game with a different swing system would find themselves just short of the hole in any number of directions. Even with a controller and flicking the right analog stick upward to putt or hit, my shots often went astray. 

The greens are rather generous, but my putting ability in this game is certainly not!

That said, I must admit that part of that is because Clap Hanz Golf isn't the most accessible golf game for someone with my condition. I suffer from tremor in my hands, so it's difficult for me to use a touch screen or hit straight consistently with a controller's analog stick. Even so, I can't say I loathed the controls of the game or found them overly frustrating.

There's a good reason for that, too. Perhaps lessening the burden of lesser skilled players or for the mobile audience, Clap Hanz Golf isn't anywhere near as challenging a game as past titles from the developer. Even earning multiple pars on holes and the occasional bogey or birdie can result in a win rather than needing to be incredibly consistent like past games. Match play rounds often saw the AI hitting their shots in errant directions or missing otherwise easy putts. And tournament rounds didn't require high scores even late in the game's primary mode.

Look at that ball fly!

While we're on the subject, Clap Hanz Golf's primary mode is Tour Mode. This mode has you collecting characters and going up the ranks by earning stars from completing different events around a world map. The higher the rank you get, the more characters, courses, and events open up to you, the more challenging the latter gets, and the more stars you earn from completing said events. 

It's a golfing expedition around the world in Tour Mode.

Rather than taking one golfer in a round in Tour Mode, Clap Hanz Golf mixes things up considerably. Instead, you take a team of golfers into a round, and on each hole, the preceding character "tags in" the next character. There's a bit of strategy involved in picking which character to use on which hole. Obviously, you don't want to select a character who can't strike the ball far to lead off on a Par 5, for instance. 

Tag! You're it and you're IN!

Aside from 3, 6, and 9 hole rounds of golf, which can be suspended at any time in a mobile gaming-minded way, there are other event types to play through as well. Match play rounds pit you and your team of golfers against one computer-controlled character. The winner of the most holes serves as the victor. If you end of winning, you get that character added to your team. There are also drive challenges and closest-to-the-pin challenges, where you and a CPU opponent both get three shots to hit as far on the fairway or as close to the hole as possible, and the average distance of all three determines the winner. Unlike tournament-style rounds, these events don't earn you stars. Instead, winning unlocks new costumes and color variants for each character. Tour Mode also throws in different rules occasionally in events, such as mirroring the courses, playing a round without any wind, or the much maligned by yours truly "bunkers are out of bounds" or worse yet, "rough is out of bounds" rules.

You can build up quite the impressive assortment of golfers, each with various unlockable costumes and color variants.

Regardless of whether you win or lose an event, it's worthwhile to play through the round. Characters that participate in an event, even they don't step onto the tee, earn experience just for being on the team. Leveling up increases their maximum driving distance by a small amount, but this adds up with continued levels earned. Additionally, each golfer has a specific ability (such as being great at playing out of bunkers) and club that they favor, allowing them to make otherwise impossible shots possible, especially on-the-fringe-chip-ins that would otherwise never happen with a 3-wood, for example. 

Speaking of an alternate costume and color variant, here's one right now.

If you want a traditional round of golf where you play as one character for the entire round, then Score Attack is the mode for you. Offering the ability to play a nine-hole round of golf on any course you've unlocked with any character you've already unlocked, this mode offers plenty of fun. Depending on your character's score on a given course, they earn a ranking, which in turn, earns them points--up to five per course. After reaching certain point thresholds, they earn new costumes and color variants. Another way to unlock additional content outside of the Tour Mode.

Touching and pinching the screen to move around the camera and zoom in/out respectively
feels quite natural on the iPhone/iPad.

Clap Hanz Golf contains plenty of fun and content to keep players enjoying themselves on the links. However, the lack of any online multiplayer or even leaderboards is a bit disappointing. (CORRECTION: I was made aware on Twitter that there are online leaderboards for Score Attack and Survival modes.) Only local multiplayer is available currently with no news on any plans for online multiplayer. Furthermore, there is no way to record memorable shots to view them later. Past Clap Hanz games have had a way to view memorable shots and holes, so it's also just as disappointing that there is no such feature in this particular game. 

Between the over 20 characters to join your golfing team, 6+ themed courses taking place in locales like New York City's Central Park or the Egyptian pyramids, and hours upon hours of thrilling golf gameplay, Clap Hanz's first foray into self-publishing is a great success. While the swing system takes a lot of getting used to, as it has a somewhat steep learning curve, the overall difficulty of the game isn't that high that it creates a ton of frustration. Sure, I wanted to curse the golf gods when yet another shot of mine went off track or I missed a simple putt, but ultimately, I kept plugging and putting away, enjoying myself with Clap Hanz Golf. 

[SPC Says: B]

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