Hot Shots Golf, for those who have yet to play, is a rare
exception in sports games. While the game is true to the idea
of virtual golf, the gameplay is fun and open enough for everyone
to enjoy. Hot Shots spices up the classic video golf formula
with additions like power shots that turn your golf ball into
a fireball, challenge matches against AI opponents, RPG like
stats that increase, and items to collect to customize your
Like in any other golf game, your goal is simply to get to
the hole in as few strokes as possible, and do so better than
your opponents. With Hot Shots though, this takes on a whole
new meaning as you hook around mountain peaks, skip across
water hazards, and earn yourself cooler items, all while raising
your stats and abilities.
For the most part, Hot Shots controls
like your standard video golf. One push starts the swing,
one sets the power, and a third sets your accuracy. Where
things differ most however is that with Hot Shots, it’s all about you and your style
of play. Spins and hooks are all extremely responsive, so long
as your character is even moderately good at them. With practice,
you can literally stop the ball on a dime or send it rolling
right where you’d like. If you’d rather have all
out power, that’s certainly possible too. With the right
character and equipment, you’ll be sending fireballs
near the green with ease.
Although Open Tee’s controls are very easy and minimal,
there’s no shortage of depth or realism to the game’s
psychics. There’s very little guesswork involved as you
can pan the camera anywhere, switch to overview and cursor
cams anytime, and always see a marker and grid representing
the lay of the land where the ball should fall. You’ll
be given wind meters, a line graph representing height of objects
in your path, slope, lie conditions, and more. At first the
dizzying array of items on the display can be a bit overwhelming,
but give it a few holes and you’ll be setting up even
the tricky shots in just seconds.
But there will also be plenty to keep
you on your toes. Wind has a very real and very important
effect, as does weather conditions like rain and snow. Slopes,
hills, water and sand traps will all play on your ball very
realistically, and even if you know the general landing area
of your shot, a miscalculation in air time or roll can still
send you straight into the hazards. The game’s collecting
and customizing aspects work their way into play seamlessly,
as you can easily train and equip your character to suit
your style and pad out your weaker areas.
Although Open Tee does have the standard
18-hole stroke play, the bulk of the gameplay will be in
the Challenge mode. Here’s
where you earn your new courses, items, and characters. You
can compete in fast paced grudge matches against other opponents,
which are scored by win/loss on each hole, rather than by overall
strokes. To keep things fresh you will also play in mini tournaments,
which are judged by stroke count and points earned by fairway
shots, good or difficult shots, and long putts.
Graphics and Sound
Hot Shots has a friendly and colorful
look and feel to it that really sets it apart from most golf
games. Everything is bright and colorful, but not sickeningly
so. It also has a heavy Japanese style that, if you’re
as in to that kind of thing as I am, will be sure to earn
it a few points. Otherwise, some things might best just be
described as a bit whacky. All of the characters take on
a chibi style as anime fans may know it, which basically
just means shorter and cutesy versions of what you would
expect. The 250 items to collect really gives no end to the
amount of customizations you can do to really make your favorite
character your own, from hair style to complete outfits,
angel wings to fox tails.
The courses themselves look absolutely
excellent, filled with detail and extremely easy to glance
over and get the layout. From mountains to deserts, sun to
snow, the terrains and effects all look great. The only loading
to speak of is a slight pause at the start of a match, during
which a very helpful tip is displayed and the entire course
is loaded. From then on, it’s
seamless until you’re finished. The camera moves in real
time anywhere you’d like, switches between angles and
views at the push of a button, and the animations and optional
replays play without a hitch.
There’s not a whole lot of sound to speak of in Open
Tee, but what’s there is great. The music, which defaults
to off, is subtle and mostly instrumental. The characters all
have various quotes and the caddies, who basically just occasionally
quip about a good shot or a chance at a birdie, are quiet but
well voiced. In a golf game, less is usually more when it comes
to sound, and that’s pretty much the case here.
Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee brings the “golf for everyone” fun
straight to the PSP. While the number of characters has been
reduced to 10, and the number of courses to a respectable six,
there are still over 250 items to collect to customize your
characters exactly how you want them to be. There’s no
odd graphical glitches, no glaring mistakes, overall just one
very solid, very fun title.
Pretty much everyone would have loved
to have seen online play here, and a pass the PSP style turn
based mode would have been great, but these are mostly just
things that can be chalked up to 1 st generation titles.
Open Tee still includes seamless 8 player wireless support.
I would certainly hope to see these things in a sequel if
one is made, however. Hopefully we’ll
see the return of the mini golf mode as well, even though the
putting challenge is great for honing your skills on the green.
Like games such as Mario Golf, even
if you’re not a
sports fan and you’ve never played a round of golf in
real life, Hot Shots Golf can still leave you hooked. If regular
virtual golf is just too dry for your tastes, Open Tee may
be just what you’re looking for.
Playing Hints and Tips
Again, the manual is your friend.
You’ll find a ton
of really good tips about spin, controls, the heads up display,
and more. The loading screen dispenses a ton of useful advice
as well, so don’t ignore it.
Choose a character that matches
your style, and remember that the flaws can be ironed out
with items and training. It’s more important to have
a character that plays the same way as you.
Spend some time, or a lot of time,
with the putting challenge. It’s absolutely vital
to be confident on the green. The last thing you want it
to have a chance at eagles and birdies, only to blow it
with poor putting. Sinking a long distance putt is always
a thrill, and it can pull you out of tight spots and net
you the win.
Wind speed is very important here, as is weather conditions.
Pay close attention, and adjust your shots accordingly.
Use your spins! Slices and hooks will not only get you
around tough obstacles, but will also send the ball in the
direction you want as it lands on the fairway or green. Top
spins will send the ball rolling nicely and under obstacles,
while back spins give you good air and can stop the ball
quickly when landing. Great for landing on the green!
Even though it’s a portable game, easy to pick up
and play, and fairly easy to save and leave off (or use sleep
mode), you should really play when you’ve got time
to focus for a few minutes. Hot Shots Golf is tricky, and
if you’re not focused you’ll probably be frustrated
pretty quickly. Take it slow and plan your moves, and go
for the perfect shot.
Ratings (scale of 1 to 5):
There’s a lot of visual polish
here. Each of the 10 golfers features a good deal of fluid
animation, and the 250 items that can be mixed in matched give
a heck of a lot of character customization. With a few edits,
your custom character will hardly resemble the stock choice.
The courses all look wonderful, the camera moves smoothly,
and the HUD is informative without being intrusive.
The music is good and unique enough to
be identifiable, but it’s really nothing all that memorable
or special. This is golf, after all. A few weird choices like
dogs barking or farm animal sounds add to the wacky feel, but
do little overall to really enhance things. The sounds of the
green, the whack of the clubs, and other small touches are
well done. Voice clips tend to wear thin after a bit since
they repeat a lot, but thankfully they’re confined to
sparse use when appropriate.
Open Tee is about as fun as golf gets.
The stroke play is good for a slightly more traditional game,
but the challenge mode is fast paced and pure fun. Although
you’ll basically be doing the same thing a lot, the slow
but sure increase in challenge, ability, and characters will
keep things fresh. It manages to be both fun and easy to play,
while still retaining the depth of controls and physics to
master the challenge with skill instead of luck.
For a lot of the game, you will be doing
the same thing… but the slow release of new characters,
stats, courses, items, and more will keep you coming back,
as well as the simple ease of play. There’s a surprising
amount of challenge here, and winning or making that perfect
shot is no small or easy feat. If you like to customize and
tweak things, you’ll easily spend a lot of time tweaking
your characters just so. And if you like stats, your performance
is tracked and you’re notified when you’ve improved
in various fields like par pace, longest putt, etc.
While wireless multiplayer is nice, swappable turn based gameplay
and especially online play obviously would have put this well
over the top in terms of addictivity. Even downloadable extras
would have helped, but it does the game no real harm that it’s
missing. It’s simply hard not to wonder what if.