Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational PlayStation Vita Review
Don't let the adorable and clearly Japanese inspired characters fool you into thinking Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational is a pushover. Sony's PlayStation Vita launch game doesn't have the backing of a major celebrity like Tiger Woods, or come branded with the PGA license, but the latest from Clap Hanz knows its way around the links, and will punish you for making the slightest mistake, even if it means restarting an entire tournament.
Intimidated? We hope not, because what you have is a user-friendly and accessible experience that, while admittedly tough, also rewards with a variety of smartly designed courses, exaggerated characters and a points system that lets you purchase a plethora of things from the virtual shop, including balls, clubs and golfers. There's even an RPG system in place that helps you earn heart points that'll level up your character, increasing his or her stats.
That said, you don't go into this game thinking the developers will just give these points away. You'll need to earn each and every one by studying a course, identifying the slope of the land, accounting for wind direction (weather conditions in general), choosing the proper club and mastering a three tap control system. Hot Shots won't hold your hand the whole way, through. Mess up even a hair, and the ball will fly into a sand trap, or worse, water.
On that note, Challenge Mode dominates the single player experience by presenting over 50 different tasks to complete, some lasting minutes, others taking a half hour or more; you'll even see bonus objectives. The idea is to net as many points as possible, yes, but you're also in search of gold stars that may or may not drive you insane to acquire.
On the positive side, Clap Hanz gives you as good a shot as any to nab them all, thanks to a plethora of options displayed along Vita's five-inch screen. Here, and for the most part, touch inputs make sense, letting you adjust the camera with a press and slide motion (you can use the gyroscope to look around), or touching a landing spot cursor to see, well, where the ball will land.
The only thing that doesn't work so well is the mechanic behind the Extra Power Shot, which asks you to tilt the Vita towards you and then back while at the same time hitting the ball. Tough to pull off and a bit weird all the same.
On the multiplayer side, you have an Ad Hoc mode for two to eight players, along with Infrastructure support with tournaments comprised of 30 people, max. That stuff's cool, but we're even bigger fans of the National Daily Tournaments, which let you play three tournaments per day at your leisure, then post the scores to the game's online leaderboard.
Unfortunately, you will need to enter an Online Pass Activation Code (included with each new copy) to enable the online features.
A more pressing issue, though, involves content and visuals. Basically, if you never liked the Hot Shots series, we doubt World Invitational will suddenly win you over, largely because it provides more of the same. Clap Hanz caters to a specific audience of fans and that's fine.
As for the graphics, it's without question the best looking portable golf title we've seen, but it hardly maximizes Vita's true potential. Instead, the game appears stuck somewhere between the PSP and PlayStation Vita. The courses look nice and the characters are as cute as always, but there's something weird about the overall clarity of what's being displayed.
At the end of the day, none of this should prevent you from picking up Hot Shots if you're in desperate need of a quality golf game, which it most certainly is. The deep single player component, in-game shop and multiplayer will keep you putting for weeks, and with the possibility of downloadable content, perhaps even longer. Not the most casual golf title on the market, but all things considered, definitely one of the best you'll find on a handheld.
Review copy provided by Sony.
What's Hot: Deep Challenge mode, a variety of things to purchase at the shop, quality multiplayer, easy to learn controls, surprisingly in depth golf experience, daily tournaments.
What's Not: Failing to score a gold star after investing a lot of time, graphics don't stand out much, Extra Power Shot controls fail to impress.