Birdies And Bogeys

ImageAfter playing a few hours of Mario Golf: World Tour, one thing is pretty clear: the game has much more content and value than any other Mario sports game that preceded it, and it does measure up to the high standards set by Toadstool Tour. The GameCube outing, considered by many to be the peak of the series, has met its match.

This is still the Mario Golf we all know and love. The shot mechanics are intact, given that they could not really have been made any better. As players approach the ball, they will have all the information they need to calculate what needs to be done. The wind, the stance of the character, the lie of the ball, and their altitude in relation to the green all come into play if the shot is to land on the desired location.

Even if some of the courses are indeed a bit too easy – after all newcomers do need a friendly place on which they can get a hang of all the mechanics – the game does occasionally punish players whether they fail to work with all the aforementioned variables or do not to execute their planned shot with precision. It is fair, it is competitive, and it is a blast to play.

ImageThere is little to complain in regard to gameplay modes. Challenge mode features, scattered across each of the game’s eight courses, over a hundred varied tasks, which include collecting coins, scoring a par while grabbing a trickily placed star coin, beating characters on one-on-one matchplay, shooting through a number of rings while managing to save par, or even complete a set of holes with randomly selected clubs.

In addition, players can undertake friendly rounds on the courses with endless set-ups, play in online tournaments of varied natures that are available weekly, look for online matches on the user-created communities that allow for high customization of the playing rules, and buy equipment to increase the stats and change the looks of their Mii character. By all means, there is a lot to do in World Tour, and those who fall in love with the game will have more than enough content to tackle for months.

The question that had been haunting the game on the weeks leading up to its release was whether it was going to feel like a complete package without its DLC or if its core would be just thin. The answer is loudly positive. The extra six courses and four characters acquired by giving Nintendo extra cash feel like the icing on a thick cake rather than elements without which the software would crumble.

ImageThe packed-in characters sport very varied stats, and the ten original courses amount to a whopping 126 holes. Although the course design is not as inspired as it was on Toadstool Tour – there is nothing here as brilliant as Peach’s Castle Grounds or Bowser Badlands – the fields are great, encompass a large array of themes, put forward different types and levels of challenge, and house beautiful scenarios.

There are three 18-hole venues, the Forest, Ocean, and Mountain Courses; six 9-hole clubs themed around Mushroom Kingdom staples, including the pink fairways of Peach’s course and the underwater Cheep Cheep Lagoon; and the 18-hole Sky Island, solely composed of par 3s. The six 18-hole DLC courses come straight from Mario Golf 64, but they have been so brilliantly retooled and occasionally re-themed that it is hard to recognize them. If all of that is added, you have got quite a mammoth.

World Tour’s biggest issue is bafflingly primary: its content is poorly structured. The game is divided into two modes: Single-Player and Castle Club. The former features menus that lead to challenges, online communities, friendly rounds, and local multiplayer. The latter is a charming hub on which it is possible to access a meager three tournaments, a store in which to purchase equipment for your Mii, training mini-games, and the regional and worldwide online tournaments.

ImageThe Castle Club ends up being ridiculously hollow, because once the three tournaments on the 18-hole courses are won, the only reason players will have to jump in there is to either buy clothes for their Mii or to enter the regional and worldwide online tournaments. The split becomes even more confusing due to the fact that instead of consolidating all online features in one entry point, Camelot has actually divided them. Mii-only tournaments are accessed through the Castle Club, while other tournaments and communities are reached via the Single-Player menus.

It is a very puzzling configuration. It forces players to go through the hassle of switching between Castle Club and Single Player if they want to, for example, go from playing on the currently available regional cup to facing their buddies on their private community, or buy new equipment for their Mii so they can try it out on a non-competitive round of golf. It is an organization that does not make the tiniest bit of sense and might even alienate younger players from finding all content the game offers.

ImageCamelot should have, undoubtedly, consolidated everything either on the Castle Club or on simple menus. It seems like the company could not decide whether to truly embrace the visually pleasant Castle Club or bet on a simpler presentation. The final result is a game that – in its structure – is not sure of where to go, making its players equally bewildered.

Yet, when you are out on the course having fun, World Tour’s qualities are hard to ignore. This is a great golf game with touches of Mushroom Kingdom charm and incredibly varied online options. It shows that, when it comes to Mario sports franchises, Mario Golf is definitely the crowning jewel of the collection.

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