Mario Golf: World Tour Review
If you ignore the (hugely successful) implementation of motion control, videogames that depict the sport of golf haven’t changed a great deal since NES Golf, which is now almost thirty years old.
Playing a round of golf with thumbsticks and a few buttons still involves, essentially, fine-tuning quick time events for yourself; pick the right kit, line up the perfect shot, and try not to fluff the power meter mini-game.
Hot Shots Golf may look nothing like Tiger Woods PGA Tour 14, but they were both built on the same dependable groundwork.
So it’s impossible to criticise Mario Golf: World Tour for not breaking the mould.
Mario Golf: World Tour – Castle Club
In a minor break from series form, you’re given a small selection of ridiculous gameplay systems to play around with – you can tinker with wind speeds and use items to manipulate the way your ball moves in flight – but they don’t upset the pace of something which is very much a traditional golf game.
The package is essentially split in two anyway; a blend of hazard and power-up ridden romps through the Mushroom Kingdom and the more straight-laced courses of the Castle Club.
Castle Club is also the name of the game’s campaign mode, which has a deeply straightforward structure that’s been designed around an utterly, utterly superfluous hub world.
Some might say that this wouldn’t be much of a Nintendo game if it didn’t involve trudging around and exchanging inane pleasantries with idling Shy Guys and Goombas, but this side of the game initially looks and feels like weary padding.
Running into Bowser and Mario relaxing together in the clubhouse is charming at first, but that mild positive is far outweighed by the world’s gameplay machinations, which amount to little more than irritating hurdles expressly designed (or so it seems) to waste players’ time.
Even once you’ve learned where the tournament sign-up desk is (and where each course is located) continuously walking between them gets old very quickly.
That said, this almost certainly won’t be the case for very young enthusiasts.
Mario Golf: World Tour – The Gameplay
What’s so good about the aforementioned Goomba pleasantries is that they’ve been primarily written to introduce children to the rules and terminology of the sport in question.
In addition to that, there’s a crazily extensive glossary tucked away in the menus, where you can learn what Birdie Break Rates and Lag Putts are, and what the difference is between Tee Time and a Tee Up.
Sports games all too often demand extensive prior knowledge: this iteration of Mario Golf wants to stir youthful enthusiasm for real-world golf.
The actual, core game itself is equally extensive.
Even the basic single player component offers four options: you can play for the lowest stroke count, attempt to win the most holes, complete the course in the fastest time or play for points based on each hole’s individual stroke count.
Gameplay settings can be about as simplistic or complex as you need them to be, and the game’s most demanding difficulty setting – in conjunction with the hard-to-master Manual Swing mechanic – will challenge even the most seasoned of golf buffs.
The brilliance of some of it – such as the outstanding putting grid – only becomes apparent after several hours’ worth of play.
That grid (a genre mainstay designed to help you to judge the dimensions of the putting green) is uncommonly subtle here, with dips and troughs highlighted by tiny animated droplets and (very) slight hints of illustrative colour.
At first this subtlety is annoying; after fifty plus holes, the air above you won’t stop getting punched whenever you nail a fifteen metre putt. Like all good golf games, it’s surprisingly nerve-wracking for something so simple.
Mario Golf: World Tour Review
The gyroscope is great for scoping out the land ahead, but (as always) it’s rendered entirely useless when the 3D slider is at maximum.
Some of the celebration animations – especially ones performed by your Mii – are initially funny before becoming frankly disturbing, and as with Luigi’s Mansion 2, Nintendo seem to have forgotten that this is supposed to be a handheld game.
If your battery dies on the seventeenth hole of a vital tournament, it’s back to the drawing board with you. Which, in this day and age, is pretty much unforgivable.
The game’s most intriguing ingredient – the asynchronous online contest suite – is adequate but agreeably compelling.
You can create your own tournaments (either for all comers or just for your friends) or alternately you can join one of the constantly updated roster of official competitions.
At present these are all fairly uninspiring (most of them are Coin Rush battles or short contests that force you to play with a couple of specific characters) and the lack of a decent scoring system means that you’re always drawing with hundreds of other people… but there is real scope for Nintendo to do some interesting things with the service.
And even if they don’t, the community surely will.
The online competitions may not be quite as compelling or slick as they initially sounded, but Mario Golf: World Tour can still basically be classed as a robust and enthralling near must-have. Perfect it isn’t, but that age-old formula clearly still has quite a bit of pep left in it.