Tiger Woods PGA Tour Nintendo DS Review

There has been a number of surprising portable golf games over the years. Tiger Woods has been EA's poster boy since they nabbed exclusive PGA Tour rights in 1999 and the on-the-go versions have been seriously hit or miss. The DS version is an obvious rush job, one that suffers from a number of nagging problems. It still manages to be highly enjoyable, but it does scream "wait until next year."

Borrowing almost everything from the home system version, "TWPGAT" allows a player to customize their own golfer and take him into the Legends Tour. It's not quite a fully-fledged career mode, but the sheer variety offered here makes up for the lack of tour play. As is the norm, basic exhibition holes are available as is some expected multi-player gameplay.

On the course (you can select from 6), you'll be using the stylus to hit the ball. This totally unique system offers up not only a challenge, but also accuracy not available on any other console. "Swinging" the stylus in a U-shaped motion, you control your backswing and downswing. Power is determined according to where you started the swing. You can add a boost by rubbing the screen off to the right. It's much easier to get a powerful drive off in this version, but staying straight is much more difficult. Note that it can be brutal to hit accurately while bouncing around in a car.

It does have some other issues, notably a lack of consistency. There are times when you'll hit the meter at the peak and only get 80% power. For a sport that requires such precision, this is unacceptable and will lead to some shots in the drink. As time goes on, you will learn to be more careful, but whether it's the touch screen or the programming, at least one or two holes will give you trouble on a course.

Putting is an easier affair, especially if you have spent time with any of the recent home console versions. Simply use the D-pad (you can use the touch screen, but the d-pad is far more accurate) to aim according to the caddy tip and hit A. That's it. Even with the simplicity, it still has some issues. Those caddy tips are critical. There are far too many instances where they just aren't available. Had the greens been readable, it might not be an issue, but the graphics engine just isn't strong enough to show the flow of the greens properly.

The interface is a tad clunky too. In order to change your shot from a chip to a flop for instance, you need to wade through two menus on the touch screen. Information like this should be readily available. There are times when you don't even have a choice, a critical mistake that should have been remedied. When on the fringe of the green, if the AI thinks you should putt, you putt. You do not have the option of trying something different. Toss that in with caddy tip issue and you have a set-up for extreme aggravation.

Saving this one is the overall package. It's quite simple really: when this game is on, it's on. When everything clicks, from the proper power to the simplistic putting, this game is a blast. Leveling up your character is an addictive experience, one that keeps you playing round after round. It's just as much fun as its console counterpart in this regard.

The graphics engine tries to mimic those massive systems too. All of the courses are modeled in the same manner, shaving off a polygon here and there to save on system resources. Player models are fair and since you never get a real good look at them, they seem just fine. Swinging animations are just about perfect, though the cinematics are extremely choppy. Backgrounds objects are better off not being mentioned. The two screens provide separate viewpoints of the action to help line up a shot, the bottom one mimicking the first Game Boy Advance version.

Audio is a sour point; one that truly shows this game was under a far too short development cycle. Notably, there is no commentary to speak of, something that really breathes life into the home versions. Sound effects, especially the infuriating sound of waves crashing on Pebble Beach, annoy more than add to the experience. Only the sound of the club connecting with the ball sounds about right. Menus are accompanied by generic music that hardly takes advantage of the hardware.

If you need a golf game for a road trip, "Mario Golf" on the GBA is a better option. However, if the games characters and locations don't appeal to you, this is the best golf game currently available on a portable system. If you haven't played a console "Woods" game yet, you'll go through some frustrations early on. It's nothing a little time won't cure. Oddly, that's really what this game needed more of.

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