Tiger Woods 2004 Game Boy Advance Review

Hardly any other company catches more flack for their sequels than EA. Their sports line is constantly under fire for not providing enough new content with each release. For once, that doesn't apply. "Tiger Woods 2004" is a remarkable improvement in every area from the huge disappointment that was the first installment on the GBA. There's still work to be done with plenty of room for improvement.

Taking pretty much everything that made the home console versions such a blast to pick up and play, "Tiger" on the Game Boy is just as enjoyable in handheld form. The menu screen doesn't seem to offer much at first. Digging deeper shows there is some real meat this time out. The career mode has actually been included, though not to the extent of its console brethren. You cannot edit a characters look, but instead pick a standard avatar from a list of real and fictional golfers. Performing well in either tournaments or the pre-determined scenarios earns cash, which is then used to boost statistics.

All of this leads up to the final challenge, a crazy 12-round tournament named the EA Sports Crown. Finishing first in each round should allow you to completely level up your character. Side games are numerous including numerous trophy balls and the ever so frustrating eagle hunt. That requires players to eagle every single par 5 on the six offered courses.

Unfortunately, it's all too easy for a variety of reasons. Most obvious is the new swing system. It feels great and it's an admirable attempt to mimic the analog swing. There's just simply no way to hook or slice the ball on accident with a D-pad. You can press down and then quickly go up millions of times and never once screw up. Putting extra power on the ball requires rapid tapping of the trigger buttons (as does putting spin on the ball) and even with that slightly awkward system, you never hit the ball anywhere else but straight ahead.

Decreasing the difficulty even further is the simply ludicrous putting mechanism. The caddy tips, which tell players how far/wide to aim are still present, though here they serve no purpose. New is a red bar that shows the player the EXACT path the ball will take. Just get the line in the hole and you're almost guaranteed to nail it. Where's the sense in that? Finally, with only four categories to level up in, you'll waste no time reaching the top levels that guarantee 300+ drives every time.

The graphics engine here is a bit deceptive. Using the rather blocky voxel technology for the main screen swing, it appears everything is about to use this view. It allows players to see elevation and depth a bit better, even if it hardly comes into play. Instead, the majority of the action takes place from a simple overhead view.

A price is paid for that new engine too. Switching from the main view to the swing screen requires the game to load the view change. It's quick, but still gives the game a choppy, unfinished feel. There's little reason why you can't aim and swing on the same screen, which would save time, giving the game a much needed pacing boost. Elsewhere, golfer animation is nothing short of stunning (all pre-rendered) and the rain moving in the direction of the wind is a nice small touch that adds a sense of realism to a very arcade style golfing game.

It's not saying much when you can turn the volume completely down and not miss anything. The music is left to the menu screens and is hardly noticeable. A few ambient effects (bird calls and such) bring little life to the course. The nice thwack of the club hitting the ball is one of the few, if only, notable effects.

If you want a golf sim, then you should stay as far away from this series as possible. This is supposed to be a fast and fun golfing title. It succeeds in that partly. If your definition of fun is wailing on computer opponents by over 15 strokes every round, then you'll be fine. If you just want a simply game of golf to pass the time, then this works on that level too. If you actually want to be challenged, then this is simply not the game for you.

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