Ever since I was a kid, golf has always intrigued me. My dad would take my brother and me to the driving range, and we would hit a bucket of balls. I even tried the Happy Gilmore swing, which led to me hitting concrete and sending the golf club head 100 yards down the range and the ball one foot to my left. But, I found it incredibly boring to watch, and I lacked the skills (and patience) to take on any courses. So, I tried golf in video game format Tiger Woods was always too serious for me, so I popped in Hot Shots Golf and found that the style was just right.
With its colorful look, a good collection of characters, a ton of collectibles and the fact that a lot of golf knowledge isn’t needed, Hot Shots Golf stole my heart, but it also frustrated me quite a bit. With Hot Shots Golf World Invitational, the series makes its first appearance on the PS Vita. And while it stays true to the other iterations, it keeps their frustrations as well.
When I first starting playing, there was only a couple of players to pick from, along with default clubs and balls. Like in past games, you have to play through challenges to unlock new stuff like better clubs and balls and clothes for your player. Before I ventured into the Challenge mode, though, I decided to try Practice first to see if the gameplay has changed. I was particularly interested in how the front and back touch screens would be used. So, I went into training and picked my player and the shot gauge I wanted to use (there was only one available with the others unlocked by beating challenges) and was then ready to hit the course. Now, with a name like “training,” I figured that it would teach me the ins and outs of Hot Shots. I was way off. Training plays out like a normal mode, but it doesn’t keep stats and you have an unlimited amount of do-overs. I never got “trained” on anything. So, needless to say, my skills were never perfected, so I decided to try Challenge mode.
Challenge mode puts you against AI opponents in a competition for first place. There are different difficulties of courses that can be unlocked with beginner being (obviously) the one to start with. This course was pretty simple, featuring only a few hazards and light wind. Of course, the opponents were pretty bad, so that helped me a good bit. Unfortunately, the one thing that always hurt me in the past also took its toll in this game: the putting. I never figured it out before, and I never managed to get my head wrapped around it in World Invitational. I am pretty good at it when I’m really close to the hole, when there is no wind or on a hilly green, but if you throw all those factors in at the same time, I am totally clueless. Like the past games, a grid covers the green when you are putting. For those that know how to read it, I’m sure putting is pretty simple, but since I have no idea what I’m looking at, long puts on a hilly green are impossible for me. This is where a proper Training mode would be helpful. It should actually train players to properly play the game and include a putting green for new players and the putter-challenged can figure it out.
As I progressed through the beginner’s course and made my way to the harder courses, I soon figured out that the putting would be a distant second thought. In the other courses, there are more hazards, and the wind plays a bigger part. This is where my other big problem with the game comes in. The wind meter at the top right of the screen never shows how fast the wind is blowing (except while putting). It only shows what direction. I don’t know why it doesn’t show the speed, but I can only guess that, in real life, the players have to guestimate how fast it is blowing. Hot Shots must be trying to include those “real life” elements. That is fine, but I’m not outside playing the game and I’m pretty sure I can’t feel how fast the wind is blowing on the screen. I did figure out that if I press down on the d-pad, my character drops a handful of grass that gives you an idea of how fast the wind is blowing. After learning that trick, I found that I actually started to better compensate for the wind. But for those that are new to golfing and just want to play for fun, the wind meter not showing how fast it is blowing might be problematic.
At the end of each challenge course, you are given a different kind of star depending on how well you did. The frustrating thing with this is that, if you come in any place besides first, you don’t unlock anything or move on to a new course. I found myself starting over a good amount until I was able to come in first. This annoyed me a good amount, but it made me a better player in the long run- except in putting.
The controls are just how I remembered them. The x-button hits the ball, square changes the shot type, triangle and circle zoom in and zoom out the camera, and the bumpers change clubs. As mentioned earlier, there are different shot meters to unlock but, for the most part, they all use the hit the x-button three times method. The game does use the front and rear touch screens, but only for different views of the course. You can use the front touch screen to move your player into a different position, too.
Besides the two modes I talked about, there is also Stroke mode in single player. There are multiplayer options available for use with ad-hoc or wi-fi. There is also a daily tournament you can participate in if you feel up to it. Now, I thought I could invite my friends to play with me using wi-fi but I was wrong. That can only happen using ad-hoc, which makes no sense to me. I really wanted to play with my friend who lives a good distance away. The only thing we were able to do is meet in a lobby and chat.
In all, I can honestly say that I am addicted to Hot Shots Golf World Invitational. It still has a lot of collectibles, a good challenge and, overall, a fun experience. The only things that irked me are minor problems that can be overlooked, but also can be frustrating to deal with at the same time. Don’t let those problems turn you off from playing this game, because you will be missing out of a fun experience.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.