N-Gage Review: Tiger Woods 2004

Even if it's missing features, has a terrible frame rate, and doesn't end up online, the basic golf mechanics of EA's golf franchise always make an enjoyable outing. The single N-Gage Tiger Woods entry (and only golf game for that matter) is a success. It has trouble in the area of features, and that because this is a port of a Game Boy Advance title from the same year.

The career mode is weakened from the home console. You won't be buying clothes or clubs, and you won't even be creating a character. You'll take a PGA Tour pro through various tournaments and events, which would equal a year or two on the actual Tour. That's hardly a career. Solo players can also tackle some mini-games, which are hardly varied. They come down to being put in various situations, and it's up to the player to get out in the fewest number of strokes.

Gameplay is simplistic, and the key to the popularity of the franchise. There's no question the analog swing revolutionized golf games, and while this franchise wasn't the one to invent it (import N64 fans will sing praises of St. Andrews Old Course), it's the one that refined it until it worked. That's fine if the console features an analog stick. The N-Gage doesn't, which means using a simple d-pad that makes it impossible to miss a shot.

That's a problem for a series that has consistently failed to provide any sort of a challenge. Needless to say, as it was on the GBA, this game is insanely easy. Putting is even worse. Caddy tips make their appearance, and without the processing power to accurately render the green's variances, you'll use a guideline. This shows the direct path the ball will take. Aside from a few distance putts that may go a little off to the side, you'll one-putt every hole on the five courses (three real, two fantasy).

Even with the ease of play, it's hard to fault Woods 2004. The mechanics are superb. Unless you're a complete golf nut who demands perfect physics, it's hard not to enjoy a few holes whenever you have the time. You can also play on the N-Gage Arena to unlock more bonus content, which is great if you use the service and can find someone to play. If not, you'll never be able to play on the Predator, a full, brutally challenging course you can earn only through online games. This should have been included from the start.

Sony's Hot Shots series featured the tagline "Golf for the people." While certainly true, EA needs to make people aware this franchise does not follow their usual sports titles. It's quite close to being an entry in their Street series. Knowing that going in, the odd "difficulty" isn't a problem, and aside from minor annoyances this is just as good if not better than the Game Boy Advance version of the same game.

(**** out of *****)

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