Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 Review (PSP)
When talking about androgynous cartoon golfers wearing tutus with boxing gloves and riding in a vintage convertible while playing 18 holes, only one thing comes to mind: Hot Shots Golf. While quirky and often regarded as nothing more than a fun arcade game, Hot Shots has always had a loyal following; and since the release of Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds for the PS3, the franchise has started to attract some more of the hardcore fans that have been put off by the staleness of the Tiger Woods franchise.
The most recent release for the PSP, Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 is not a sequel or port of its console counterpart -- but the title gave that away didn't it? It's actually the follow-up to the 2005 original released on the PSP. So if you're expecting something on-par (pun intended) with Out of Bounds you'll probably be a little letdown. And if you're expecting new and amazing gaming breakthroughs you might also feel shorted. But with all of that being said, it's still a very solid addition to the Hot Shots lineup and a must-have for anybody who wants to play a fun golfing game on the PSP.
If you're familiar with the gameplay of Hot Shots you'll feel right at home as soon as you fire up the game. OT2 features four single player modes and a new multiplayer mode that allows you to play someone over the Ad-Hoc connection or online using Wi-Fi. There is no story or career mode in Open Tee 2, as you simply play in various tournaments and challenges to unlock certain items and courses to level up the various golfers you also unlock along the way.
This may sound boring but you don't expect the deep career mode and other engrossing modes when you play Hot Shots. You expect to have fun with accessible gameplay, goofy characters and some crazy course designs. After all, the Hot Shots franchise will never be confused with Links or even Tiger Woods. But that doesn't mean Open Tee 2 should just be pushed aside as a "cartoony kiddy" game. Trust me, you'll have just as much, if not more fun playing this game than you will playing the defunct Links series or Tiger Woods.
In Open Tee 2 there are now a total of 12 courses to choose from along with 24 characters. They range from eight-year-old Irish kids (my personal favorite, Malachy) to grandmas who drive the ball nearly 250 yards (the unimposing Frau Ada).
To unlock these characters you need to complete challenges in the Challenge Mode. These are usually nine or 18-hole tournaments and go by very fast. If you win, you can unlock specific cards. These cards give you access to new wardrobes, hair styles/hats/bandanas, etc., and accessories (like boxing gloves or sunglasses or magic brooms). But these items go beyond simply changing how your golfer looks. They add to your golfer's attributes, such as spin and control. After you unlock enough cards for each difficulty level you get to play a new character in a match play event. If you win you unlock that golfer and can now begin building up his or her abilities. You may find yourself using one player more than others because the more loyalty you build up with that golfer, the more abilities you earn, like adding power shots or putting super spin on your ball.
That leads us to the gameplay. It's surprising how well the game balances arcade and pure entertainment with solid golf mechanics. For example all players have a particular ball flight. Some are straight shooters while others have a natural draw or fade. This is quite realistic and it sounds simple but it's something we haven't seen in the supposed sim golf titles.
However, the swing mechanic is simple and frankly dated. It's the run-of-the-mill three-click swing. You press X to start the meter, press it again to determine the power of the shot, and a third time to determine accuracy. It would've been nice to see the new swing technique from Out of Bounds used here but it's a minor complaint since the old system still works fine.
During the swing you can press the d-pad up, down, left or right to influence the height of the shot and whether you want to draw or fade the ball. A nice feature you unlock for each golfer after you build up his or her loyalty is the ability to add or subtract a little power by pressing triangle or circle for the third click of the swing. So if you accidentally give the shot too much power you can tone things down at the end.
Before each shot you're given the chance to use one of your limited power swings. This adds a few extra yards to your potential difference and really helps when you're on a long par 4 or are trying to get on in two on a par 5. To add super spin to the ball you need to start your swing, then press the d-pad in one direction at the top of the swing, then right at impact press the d-pad in the opposite direction. So if you want to put a ton of backspin on the ball you first press up then at impact you press down. It's a little touchy and sometimes it's better to use regular spin instead of spazzing with the controls and ruining your shot.
Putting is sort of random as there's no real way to determine break outside of the normal grid and guessing where to place the marker. Also it's difficult to determine how the elevation changes will truly affect your shot. You're .5 feet up or down from the cup but I've still yet to figure out how that translates to the power meter when it comes to adding power or hitting it less than I would normally need. Whenever you're in reach of the hole however, there's a helpful little flag icon on the power bar that tells you how much power you need for that specific club. It doesn't take into account wind, lie and elevation so that's where you have to figure out the specifics.
There's nothing revolutionary here, as we've seen this all before, but if it isn't broken, there's no need to fix it. It's all finely tuned and responsive. If you miss your shot you get punished but if you nail it you'll be rewarded. For comparisons sake I think of the original PGA Tour Golf game for the Sega Genesis while playing this title. Obviously Open Tee 2 is not as basic as PGA Tour, but it feels similar. It's easy enough to figure out what you have to do and how to do it, but still takes into account most of the challenges you see on the course, so you really need to know what you're doing to post low scores.
At first the game may seem simple enough as you breeze though tournaments and match play challenges, but as you advance the difficulty of both the courses and the competition ramps up and you suddenly find yourself in a real struggle. You'll probably get the most play out of Challenge Mode as Stroke Play and Training are exactly that and offer nothing more.
There's a fun mini-game mode where you play nine short holes and each hole has multiple cups that give you differing point values. The tougher cups can yield up to 50 points and the goal is to net the most points possible after nine holes. All you get for your efforts is memorabilia of your great games but it's a fun diversion from the other modes. I have to say I was a bit bummed that there wasn't a mini-golf mode. It seems like a natural fit but it's not a deal-breaker by any means.
Out of Bounds on the PS3 introduced multiplayer on the consoles and its also debuted in Open Tee 2. You can play in either a tournament or match play game so there's not a ton of depth or features here, though up to 16 players can compete at once. There's also not many players either but when you do find someone to play with, the gameplay is silky smooth and quite enjoyable. You can also play locally via Ad-Hoc with up to seven other players through a network. In fairness, I don't know of anybody else who owns a PSP and Open Tee 2 so I wasn't able to test this feature. But I would assume if Wi-Fi multiplayer is a near flawless experience, so is Ad-Hoc.
A few other features include the ability to save replays of memorable shots and the chance to view the stats you accumulated through your various gameplay sessions. Graphically, the game looks nice but isn't amazing either. The characters are kind of simple but the courses look very good. Some of the locations are bland but others (like the Egypt and Greece equivalents) look fantastic.
On The Course: This has always been the hallmark of Hot Shots Golf and it's as good as ever. It's challenging yet easy to grasp at the same time. We've seen it all before but it still stands up well.
Graphics: For a portable game the graphics are solid but not outstanding. Some courses look very nice though.
Sound: Annoying voice work takes away from the decent sound effects taking place on the the various courses.
Entertainment Value: It's Hot Shots Golf!! Of course it's going to be fun! The mini-game mode is a nice change of pace as well as the new limited multiplayer feature.
Learning Curve: Even if you're a Tiger Woods addict or not much of a golf gamer at all, it's very easy to pick up and play. At times it might seem too easy but tougher courses and opponents should change your mind quite quickly.
Conclusion: Hot Shots Open Tee 2 feels very similar to just about any other Hot Shots game, but that's not a bad thing at all, assuming you're already a fan. The gameplay is very fun yet challenging, some of the quirky characters and courses are still enjoyable, and the varying game modes always offer you something different. Online play is a bit stripped down but it plays as good as it would offline. Open Tee 2 should appeal to sim golfers and casual fans alike as it's not just an "arcadey" kid's game but it's also a great way for golf newcomers to be introduced to the game in a way that's accessible and enjoyable.