With so many good titles appearing on the PS Vita since its launch a couple of days ago, Mini Gamers had a little bit of difficulty deciding which of the UK launch games to review first, so we have chosen that 'oldie but goodie' of a franchise - Everybody's Golf (also known as Hot Shots Golf in North America).
The original Everybody's Golf series has proved incredibly popular amongst casual sports fans on the PSP in the past, and we couldn't wait to get our hands on the latest (Vita) version to see what had changed...
Well, it seems that the brainy guys at Clap Hanz have subscribed to the old adage of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' with this title, as very little in the main gameplay seems to have changed. Players can still set shot power and distance via the 'X' button, take part in various Single Player or Multiplayer tournaments, and unlock various upgrades and customisable options for their on-screen avatar.
However, the main game does have some new features, courtesy of the PS Vita's front touchscreen capabilities: Touch the ball at the beginning of the game to reposition it on the tee, touch your character to have him or her speak to you, or even rustle the leaves on nearby trees.
The graphics are also greatly improved from the original handheld versions of the game, and now look sharper and more realistic than ever before, making the graphics seem closer to Home Console quality,whilst still retaining their rather colourful look.
Nevertheless, it has to be said that the real beauty of Everybody's Golf on the PS Vita exists mostly in its online abilities and features. For example, the Online Club House acts as the central hub. From here, players can enter any one of the floors or lobbies available.
Once in their chosen lobby, players can chat to other virtual golfers from around the world. This is done via text-based speech bubbles, and is fairly easy to master after the first attempt.
Players can select from a set of well chosen phrases by pressing the L button, or if they are feeling adventurous, they can try to type a message on the Vita's touchscreen keyboard, by pressing the R button but this only allows for a minimum of characters and can prove difficult sometimes.
The Online Clubhouse is also a great way to make new 'friends'. Simply tap on any of the avatars in the online lobby and you will see a summary of their online profile, including their screen name, age range (if given), gender (if given) and country of residence. Press the Triangle button to send them a 'friend request' message.
If you decide that you want to add them to your Vita's Friends List, you will then be notified everytime your new 'friend' is online. Plus, if your 'friend' happens to be in the Online Clubhouse at the same time as you, a little yellow square with a smiley face will appear by the side of their chosen lobby.
Furthermore, the same little yellow square symbol will also appear in any Online Tournament Booking Lists, so you can always make sure of booking the same tournaments as your online 'friends'. Incidentally, players' lobby avatars are shown as tiny dots in the on-screen map. Lobby colours are as follows:
*Blue: Male Players
*Red: Female Players
Yellow: FriendsDisclaimer: *This is just an approximation. Although we found both red and blue dots in the lobby, we often found that players had chosen to disguise their real gender by choosing avatars of opposite genders. Please remember that there are some strange people out there in the real world and online, and choose your virtual 'friends' as carefully as you would choose your real ones...
Once you have added friends to your list, you can also use the triangle button whilst in the lobby to communicate to any friend who is also playing the game at the same time as you, and you can use the Group Messaging or Party Chat functions of your PS Vita to send private messages or even speak to them live over the internet.
There are two types of Online Tournament: The Daily International Tournament, and Unofficial Tournaments.
In the Daily International Tournament, players can choose to take part in three separate tournaments, all with different rules and regulations to test the skill of even the most professional of golfers.
The scores from these tournaments are then uploaded via the PSN store, and can be viewed by other Everybody's Golf users. Rankings change daily, so this is a good way of measuring your golfing prowess.
Meanwhile, Unofficial Tournaments are small online golf matches between various players. The tournaments run every half an hour throughout the day or night, in order to cater for various world time zones, but must be booked by the allotted time. Press triangle whilst in the online lobby to view tournament details.
Scores from the Unofficial Tournaments are NOT uploaded, but are a fun way to play golf. Players can also use the L or R buttons between rounds to communicate via text with other players in the tournaments.
Pre-selected text phrases include things about various scores, general chit-chat and congratulations for winners. Furthermore, all phrases which apply to that particular round (such as I scored a bogey) appear at the top of the phrase list, so they are easy to find. This helps to give the game a much more realistic feel to it.
Winning tournaments or achieving high scores during the game may also help to unlock new trophies, which also adds that extra incentive to play.
In conclusion, whilst the main gameplay of Everybody's Golf hasn't really changed too much on the PS Vita, this is not such a bad thing, as it gives the game that kind of cosy, familiar feeling for fans of the original series, and also serves as a brilliant introduction to the franchise for new players.
The online features are what really make this game a good launch title though and is where the game manages to impress us the most. If you are looking for a fun and quirky game with loads of online interactivity, then this is definitely the best PS Vita game for you to own. Overall rating: 10/10.