When I bought my “First Edition” Vita bundle, which came with Little Deviants, I still sought out another launch title that I wanted to play, and after some searching of the store shelves I settled on Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational, figuring it would be a nice arcade golf experience until Tiger Woods, or something else similar, is announced or launches in the future.
Golf on the surface is not very complicated: get the ball in the hole with the least amount of strokes possible; however, to do this you have to know what each club can do, what club to play in certain situations, how to read the greens, and how to manage any complications that could come up when playing a specific hole. Luckily, for those who aren’t into golf as much as others Hot Shots will try and match up the best club for the situation at hand. That being said, you do have to be careful though as you will have to tweak your set-up for a shot more then a few times as the game tries to take the shortest distance from point A to point B at times, which may result in you facing a barn, tree or any other obstacle.
The two main gameplay modes are single player and multiplayer with the controls being the same in both modes. Starting off with your pick of a female or male character (8 others are unlockable through the Shop), you then pick your club set, ball, and shot type, as each one of them has its’ own strengths and weaknesses. I like to have a lot of power in my shots so I tend to pick my characters and equipment with that in mind as it allows me to make the green as quickly as possible. My putting is generally the weakest aspect of my game, so it would make sense to concentrate on skills to make that easier, but it seems no matter how much I bonus skill I add to this area I keep on missing crucial putts.
Challenge mode is where you will spend most of your single player time. You play through a series of challenge matches against a field of other golfers where you compete to end up in first place. Should you be successful you unlock a gold star. When you have collected enough stars open up a challenge that has you going head to head with another golfer in match play; win this match and you advance to the next round of challenges. Of course there is a training mode that allows you to select a course and hole that you can play over and over again until you get it right. I found that the training mode is not very helpful at all as it is much better to just jump in and play the game to learn the holes rather than doing it in training mode. I think that it might have been more useful this mode to actually teach you what different clubs are capable of or train you how to approach difficult shots out of bunkers, roughs, or even out of the water, but unfortunately it does not. Maybe the training mode could have been better named “Practice Mode” as it is more practice then training. Finally, Stroke play is pretty much identical to challenge mode except that you have no opponents or final head to head match to worry about.
Multiplayer is available in two flavours over Wi-Fi, either locally or on the Playstation Network. When playing locally there will be a host player who creates a room and sets up the game options which include the Game Format, Course, Number of Holes, Tee Type and if there are any House Rules. The two game formats are New Real Mode and Match Play. The big difference between the two is that New Real Mode allows up to 8 players to play simultaneously where Match Play is strictly for two player head to head with the player who has won the most holes being crowned victorious. Selecting the Course, Holes, and Tee is pretty straight forward where the House Rules provides quite a few options. First you can only pick two rules in total from the following catergories: Penalties, Fun Mode, Limited/Unlimited, Weather and Cup Type. Some will make the round of golf incredibly easy while others will definitely create some challenges that you wouldn’t normally expect in a golf game.
Online play mainly consists of playing in the Daily International Tournament where you enter a tournament play through a round of golf and post your score to see how you match up against the other players on the Network. There is an “Enter Lobby” option in the online menu which is a meeting place for fellow golfers to chat and a place to organize people to sign up for tournaments. It is neat that you can have your own avatar to head online with that you create in game. There were not a ton of people online, but there were people there to interact with so not is all lost. I think only time will tell for Hot Shot fans if this catches on or not. I am hoping that cross platform play will be allowed in the next Hot Shot game to allow Vita and PS3 owners to mingle amongst each other.
Throughout your gameplay you earn points for making great shots, as well as making Eagles, Birdies and pars as well as completing the single player challenges. Deductions to your point total occur when making errors like shooting into the rough or straight into a bunker. These points you earn are used in the Shop to unlock characters, outfits, clubs, balls, courses, lobby character parts, and an assortment of other items like concept art, music and closet expansions. This does add a little bit more to the replay value for completionists, but for the most part new clubs and balls are the most preferred as it will help boost your game.
Hot Shots is a great looking game overall with great views, a variety of courses, and exceptional details throughout each fairway, green, and the surrounding environments. The different foliage on each course from trees, shrubs, and of course the nice lush greens, works well together. You will also see clouds slowly floating by or the wind picking up leaves, twirling them around as your ball launches of the tee. I have to say that the amount of work that went into the visuals looks great given all the little things that are included on each course and each hole.
The characters you choose from are designed much like characters you would see in some Japanese anime film or series, with wild looking hair, huge eyes, and over the top physical movements. The over the top antics definitely shines through the rest of the look of the game too because only in Hot Shots will you find chicken & squirrels on the golf course, ladybugs crawling around on your golf ball , jack o’lanterns at the starting tee, and birds flying around your golf ball as it flies through the air.
The sound throughout the game is fairly generic with nothing really standing out musically while all the right sound effects are in place. The background menu music is very upbeat, but honestly, I found it very annoying as it doesn’t seem to fit into a golf game at all as it seems to belong in a DDR game. The only other place I found music in the game is after you finish a hole with either an uplifting ditty that is supposed to make you feel victorious or something downbeat to signify you bombed that hole. There is a little bit of voice work but it mainly consists of the hole number, the par for that hole, and an encouraging remark or two when you make a great shot or approach. Your character also makes a few comments here or there mostly in regards to the shot they just made, but nothing that makes one think that the voices are amazing. In regards to the Sound effects, they are well done with the striking noise as the club hits the ball off the tee, the thud as a ball lands in the bunker, or the wind blowing as a ball glides through the air. Animal noises are affluent in game with birds chirping in the background and chickens clucking away. I found that the sound effects were the main highlight in the audio as it should be when it comes to a sports game.
Hot Shots: World Invitational is a good launch title for golf loving fans looking to hit the virtual links and smack a few virtual golf balls around some courses. Hot Shots has the traditional addictive gameplay with some decent graphics, although it doesn’t necessarily show off the visual strengths of the Vita. Golf fans looking for a realistic experience will probably not get as much enjoyment out of this title as it is likely that they will view it more as a mini-golf game when compared to the Tiger Woods series, but in the end Hot Shots for the PS Vita is a lot of good old fashioned arcade golf fun that is quite enjoyable.