Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee PSP Review

Resistant to change, the Hot Shots Golf series made a name for itself with easy to pick and play mechanics, quirky characters, and a surprisingly enjoyable game of arcade style golf. There's little reason for it to change, as the successful formula only requires more meat on the game outside of that basic gameplay engine. That's exactly what Open Tee on the PSP provides.

There's still plenty to unlock by plowing through the Challenge mode. After selecting from a meager choice of two characters from the start, players head into a variety of ways to play, from basic match play to tournaments. Each win releases a locked item, statistical upgrade, experience, or a new character.

Since fully powering up a character takes hours, there desperately needs to be a larger selection of characters from the start. There's nothing more frustrating than spending most of your free time with one character, only to realize there's another more appealing to you later. Even though it allows for various customization, it's not enough to make a golfer truly your own from the start.

On the wide variety of courses, gameplay is unchanged; they are all designed with fun in mind first. Each usually offers multiple paths to the hole, making for some exciting games when players take a risky shortcut when down a few strokes.

While EA's Tiger Woods series introduced the analog swing mechanic years ago, Hot Shots sticks with the basic 3-click swing method. Any adjustments - including spin, extra power, and direction - are done before the ball leaves the tee. It's hard to nail the proper timing, so this classic method is probably more unpredictable than the analog swing from the competitor.

Putting is a little more difficult, with little to go on other than a grid. It takes practice, and that's just what the putting challenge mini-game provides. It's the proper way to train a player, giving them both experience and useable items in-game at the same time.

Shortcuts to make the game more suited for a handheld are here, including the ability to skip the balls flight. After swinging, you can immediately set up for your next shot. You can do the same for AI opponents, but there should be an option to just skip them entirely. Two player ad hoc is available. No online play has been included, even though the game seems made for it.

On the screen, everything is bright and cheery. Textures are smooth and there are no seams in any of the polygons. A few weather effects add to the atmosphere, particle effects involving the sand and water, and special effects during those particularly strong swings. There are no frame rate issues at any time.

It provides all of this without a single load time problem, instantly making this a better handheld golf game than Tiger. Once the brief, initial load time has passed, each hole pops up in a matter of a few seconds. Tiger takes longer to load your next shot.

All the strange, high-pitched cheers from the players are present. They're annoying, especially during an extended session. The music is turned off as a default for a good reason. It's suited to the game, just not to a gamer's ear. To make up for it, there are a few ambient effects on the course for some distraction, even if they never seem to pull it off.

Whether or not the Tiger Woods or Hot Shots series is better is debatable… just not on the PSP. This is a far easier, more enjoyable golfing-on-the-go experience. Where the developers at EA were more concerned about making their game mimic the home version at whatever cost, SCEA made sure the game worked on the system is was being developed for. That extra effort makes this a must buy for fans of the series, console, and golf.

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