Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational Review

Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational (Available exclusively for PlayStation Vita)
ESRB Rating: E
Players: 1 to 30
Genre: Sports
Publisher: SCEA
Developer: Clap Hanz
Release Date: February 15, 2012
PSN: Online Multiplayer

You must know that this is my first Hot Shots Golf game. Thus I don’t know whether the series has aged well or not, what improvements World Invitational brings to the table, or if it’s become repetitive. If you’re a first-timer as well, then my opinion should be very helpful. Others should use this as a guide to determine if this game is for them. HSG is also my first Vita game, so I’ll probably always have fond memories of it. It’s pretty addicting despite a few shortcomings.

For starters, WI is stunning on the PS Vita. There’s something about seeing crisp, HD games on a portable. It impresses no matter what. I say that because if you dig deep, Hot Shots’s graphics are noticeably outdated. The trees and buildings look off from a distance, and display low-res textures when zoomed in. The worst is the on-course animals, especially the bears. They’re not much different from the animal designs seen in original PlayStation games like Tomb Raider. Seriously. Even with the “old-school” graphics though, Hot Shots is very attractive. If this is the start of Vita games, I can’t wait to see how releases will look in a few years.

Golf games tend to suffer from complicated controls and ridiculous attention needed to execute even the simplest shots. Overall, Hot Shots provides a simple, fun, and challenging game of golf. You can pick it up and play for hours without needing a tutorial. Addiction quickly set in without bothering to learn the ins and outs. As I progressed, so did the difficulty, forcing me to adapt. Ultimately this is a deep golf experience with a few flaws. The biggest is the tedious difficulty. To unlock anything, you must finish first in events. Early on this requires little effort, but demands near-perfect accuracy later. For a game that looks casual-friendly and is marketed as pick-up-and-play for everyone, it proves unforgiving. The slightest miscalculation can damage your scorecard. A single point can result in dropping from first to second, to even fifth. Anything else than gold is useless, and means you just wasted 45 minutes.

There’s still plenty to do when you tire of defeat. The more relaxing stroke mode lets you play any of the courses unlocked. Play to your heart’s content and try to top your high scores. There’s also a robust online mode that offers weekly tournaments, which are a blast and maintain leaderboards. You can compare your results with friends. The game’s meat is still the challenge mode though. Even with its high difficulty (with the higher levels of course), the desire to improve kept me playing. Plus, you unlock a bunch of points along the way that can be spent on accessories, new characters and other goodies. There’s also match play at the end of every challenge round. The AI is suspiciously lucky from time to time, but it provides much-needed diversity.

Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational is a solid launch game. It has flaws, but is a game you can just pick up and enjoy. If you love golf games (or sports titles in general), Hot Shots has a lot to offer. It brings a great online mode and saves your stats so you’re challenged to improve. I was hooked early on and have trouble putting the game down when I boot up my Vita. It’s definitely one of the system’s best launch releases.

Personal Final Score: 8/10

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