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Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee

Crispin: Fans of the Hot Shots series on the PlayStation and PS2 know exactly what to expect from Open Tee. The simple, tap-a-button swing meter remains unchanged, as does the look of the supercutesy golfers and their caddies. In fact, if this installment came out on the big consoles, I’d consider it a bore.

But as one of only two on-the-go golf options for the PSP (the other being Tiger Woods), Open Tee is my pick for the game to get. It all comes down to the swing meter. Tiger forces you to use the PSP’s analog nub to swing—a tricky technique I could never quite master. Open Tee’s button-tapping formula just works better, letting you focus on making good shots rather than fighting unpredictable controls.

Unfortunately, Open Tee loses to Tiger in nearly every other department. You can’t customize how your character levels up—particular skills increase automatically after each successful game. And it takes too long to unlock new courses, forcing you to replay the same old holes until you’ve collected enough stars to move on. At least the pace is fast enough that you can finish most matches on one bus ride.

Shawn: Bobbleheads be damned—Open Tee’s Dorf-like duffers wanna be taken for serious golfers, which means you shouldn’t expect goofball modes where there’s a daycare-colored world. Here, practicing passes for a minigame. (Bonus doodads add some drive, but unlocking a single course takes longer than a cartless 18 at Boston behemoth the Pines, so that’s sort of a bad thing, too.)

Open Tee still finds the hole, only it’s somewhere between pick-up-and-play party game and serious golf sim. Its blinking grid marks the lay of the green better than most links games do, without taking the intuition out of putting. Its triple-tap club control beats Tiger’s (PSP) bogey-beckoning touchiness...even if it isn’t as fun.

Jennifer: Golf is a weird sport: Its snoozeworthiness in real life is actually what makes it compelling in videogame form. Repetitive, solitary, mildly scientific, surprisingly addictive—Open Tee is all of these things, and it’ll neither blow you away nor put you to sleep. Instead, it’ll require patience, practice, and occasional poking around in the dark. (You unlock new techniques like super top-spin and high trajectory shots, but after the initial explanation you’ll have to consult the manual for how-tos.) Perhaps a little too much patience is required to unlock courses, as Crispin and Shawn mentioned. But in general, this is a fun little portable outing, especially if you’re not serious enough for Tiger. And I have exactly three words for the golf snobs: unlockable trucker hats.

Putter Party

If you want to play Open Tee’s multiplayer mode, you better find some PSP-owning buddies who also have the game. Unfortunately, its Wi-Fi-only multiplayer options don’t let players take turns on one system. The bright side: Up to eight players can compete simultaneously in the tournament mode. But with match play still forcing players to take turns, why not just let ’em pass around the same system?

Good: Cinch controls, addicting gameplay

Bad: Takes forever to unlock courses

What We Really Want: A minigolf minigame

The verdicts (out of 10)

Crispin: 7.0

Shawn: 7.0

Jennifer: 7.0

Publisher: Sony CEA

Developer: Clap Hanz

Players: 1 (2-8 via Wi-Fi)

ESRB: Everyone

www.playstation.com

Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in Electronic Gaming Monthly.





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