When I was a younger man, I had a brief but enjoyable crack at becoming a casual golfer. I’d like to say that it was to develop my patience and precision within an athletic realm but truthfully, it was mostly just to cruise around in golf carts and feel a bit fancy for a few hours. Being Scottish I have a natural affinity for the sport and even now I wouldn’t turn down an offer to send a few Titleist balls down the back nine, so long as there were refreshments waiting at the 19th Hole. That being said, I don’t think I’ve willingly played a golfing video game (or any popular sports game for that matter) since Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07, back when I was rocking my Argyle jumpers and Herringbone cap. The sports genre is not one that I’m immediately drawn toward, but it does occasionally produce a few titles that will pique my interest and Everybody’s Golf is one such example. Although the core mechanics of the game are familiar, the latest iteration of the long running franchise from Clap Hanz brings a unique charm and refreshing experience along with it.
The single player mode of Everybody’s Golf is an intensely personal journey for two reasons. The first thing you do after your plane lands on Golf Island is use the surprisingly robust character creator to craft a suitable (or unsuitable) golfing prospect, to represent you on your quest for fame and glory. Not only does the game provide you with hundreds of customisation options fresh out of the box, but as you progress you unlock even more clothes, accessories, voices, swing styles and mannerisms, to make sure you’re truly playing the character you want to. The other RPG like element to the game is the club development system, in which the clubs you use the most level up to become more effective and powerful. It’s a great way to customise your playthrough, giving you the ability to prioritise skills like distance, control or putting, depending on your preferred golfing style. However this can be a bit of a double-edged sword, as the clubs also become harder to use as they increase in level. For instance, I’ve almost doubled the distance my 1-Wood can send the ball, but the effective hit window has become so small that I sometimes find myself changing clubs, just to make the shot. It can be frustrating at times, but it definitely makes you feel like you are crafting your own experience, balancing your skillset against the more powerful and difficult to use equipment.
Making a monster is serious business
If you’re willing to put in the time, Everybody’s Golf has a huge amount of content on offer. There are five different courses to unlock, each with variations on their 18 holes, like mirrored layouts, more challenging tee placements and ranges in cup size, from the terrifyingly teeny to the almost too easy tornado cup. The bulk of the single player experience is made up of the tournament mode, where you play a regular game of nine or eighteen holes against fifteen computer controlled characters to gain experience. As you progress, you square off against ‘Boss Golfers’ in 1v1 matches that showcase the different rules and scoring options available. Once you beat them, you unlock their outfits and mannerisms, which further expands your character customisation wardrobe. If you’re feeling confident, you can take your golfer online and play a few rounds in a shared space with other gamers and compete in daily hole rankings (I know, it sounds filthy right?). There is also the ‘Turf War’ mode, which takes the normally slow and patient game of golf and turns it into a fast-paced and frantic competition. You team up with other players online and race around a featured course to get the best score possible within ten minutes, at the end of the round the team that scored the best on the most holes wins a hefty share of coins and of course, bragging rights. Turf War was actually a lot of fun and does a great job at breaking up the sometimes monotonous nature of the sport, the only down side being that it can be hard to find a team in matchmaking and it would have been great to include an option play offline against bots.
The only kind of clubbing I do these days
The atmosphere that Everybody’s Golf generates is one of infectious cheer and inclusion, but underneath the bright colours and catchy music, the game is not nearly as accessible as the name would have you believe. Whilst it has a tonne of content to unlock, it takes a long time to do so and even after fifteen hours of solid golfing, I’m still restricted to the first out of five courses available and haven’t yet been able to enjoy the fishing or carting mini-games. Even the local multiplayer is limited to the basic course until you’ve unlocked the rest in single player mode.
The traditional “3 Button Press” system of swinging can be brutally unforgiving at times and changing it to the simpler “2 Button Press” method takes away the control you have at the end of the swing, but can be just as unpredictable as if you tried to land the 2D slider in the sweet spot yourself. Your UI is filled with gauges and indicators, providing all sorts of feedback like wind speed and direction, ball condition and the angle of the turf, but gives no real explanation as to how these all affect your game or how to take them into consideration. Compared to other titles with a similar feel (Mario Kart, Wii Sports) this isn’t a game that I could invite my friends around to play over a few drinks unless we were all super into golf and understood things like club selection and green overlays.
One of the gorgeous locations…that I still haven’t unlocked
I actually had a lot of fun playing Everybody’s Golf and I’m sure that I’ll keep chipping away (pun intended) at the single player campaign to wind down after work, I’m just not really sure who the target audience for the game is. I wouldn’t say it was simple enough for anyone to pick up and play as implied by the name and aesthetic, but I don’t think it takes itself seriously enough for hard-core golfing gamers. Fans of the series will have an absolute blast with the latest instalment and if you’re looking for a bit of a challenge in a fun and friendly atmosphere, I’d definitely recommend giving it a chance.
Reviewed on PS4