On the dawn of its 20th anniversary, Everybody’s Golf has returned with a stellar iteration that exemplifies what every golf game, both arcade and sim, should look, feel, and play like in the year 2017. Striking a perfect balance of fun, skill and relaxing gameplay, Yokohama-based development studio Clap Hanz have driven home a hole-in-one in what might be my favourite golf game to date. With an extensive single-player mode and endless experiences in a slew of Online offerings, it should be considered par for the course in any sports gamer’s 2017 roundup.
Clap Hanz’ star franchise has consistently scattered quality arcade golf titles across the last two decades. What was once known as Hot Shots Golf in the North Americas now aliases the Everybody’s Golf name worldwide. Upon launch, you’re greeted with the grand old introduction of character creation for your future career as the world’s best golfer. To little surprise, character customisation in Everybody’s Golf is near endless, with an almost exhausting number of items and gear to compliment your player’s persona. You’ll be met with a weird and wacky selection of hats and headgear, to the fun and fashionable outfits, and funky shoes and accessories to boot.
Before you’re given the opportunity to go crazy with the game’s in-game currency (which is awarded for your efforts in both offline and online modes), you’ll be given an incredibly flexible character modelling system, which found me first modelling a character to my own likenesses, but later moulding wacky recreations of celebrities, familiar faces of the gaming industry, and my favourite anime characters. As I often do, I dedicated one of my characters to the late head of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, which was as cool as it sounds (despite the irony of plonking him into a Playstation exclusive).
Without cutting too much grass from the fairway, the core golfing mechanic of Everybody’s Golf is solid, with almost no learning curve. The two-click and three-click system of build-up, set and swing works extremely well, and only coupled with other gameplay mechanics does difficulty begin to ramp up. My experience with the initial single-player tournaments was that of complete ease; Average two or four under for each tournament, as you’re very much eased into the complex and precise nature of your single-player career. Opponents will seem almost lifeless at first, but will close the gap on your resounding lead in later tournaments and challenges.
In order to distance yourself from the competition, you’ll need some bigger and better gear in your golfing arsenal. Everybody’s Golf focuses less around the acquisition of new gear, and more around upgrading each piece of the puzzle. To build a stronger, more precise golfer, you’ll need to upgrade each club type – this is primarily achieved by performing excellent shots with each club. For example, in order to upgrade your driver, you’ll need to perform consecutive perfect shots. To increase your backspin, sidespin, or topspin capabilities, you’ll need to perform the respective skill, and to a high standard. There is, of course, the ability to change your set of clubs and ball types, each of which offer a boosted stat in an area of proficiency. To be the eagle on each course, you’ll need a balance of quality gear and increased proficiency to match, and it’s a striking combination and balance that Clap Hanz have implemented here.
The multiplayer offerings in Everybody’s Golf are both extensive and rich, with a number of modes that provide a solid base for tackling the online community with your friends or as a solo golfing maestro. Open Course is the ladder leader for online modes, and touts itself as a free roaming, ‘anything goes’ experience. You’re given the option to explore and traverse across an open field of holes, choosing to putt and play on a particular hole as you wish. If you’re strapped for time, you’re in luck, as you can duck in to a one-hole session to gather XP, or choose to run the 9 or 18-hole collective. My experience in Open Course was lag free, and gave me little grief when pairing up with a bunch of other players in the near community.
While traversing the dynamic hub world and trying your hand in Open Course covers a fair wedge of your online experience with Everybody’s Golf, Turf War offers a fresh take on a team-based golf amalgamation. Got a golfing buddy or fellow stranger you’d like to take under your gold jacket for online golfing glory? Turf War is made for a golfer like you. As a two-player team, you’ll be plotted against another random team via the online matchmaking system. A two vs two ‘golf deathmatch’ plays out just as well as it sounds, and offers an incredibly fun premise, and even more so if you’re playing with friends.
Graphics & Sound
In Everybody’s Golf’s 2017 return to the spotlight, Clap Hanz has stayed true to the franchise, presenting a game that both feels and looks like an arcade game. That’s not a bad thing, because in often, arcade games are built for simplicity, and you’ll magnetise this trend the more you play through. While the UI is built with simplicity and cleanliness in mind, courses and environments look lush, vibrant, and popping with dynamic colours. Character models are well designed, and return in a cartoon meets quasi-chibi appeal, despite lacking the sharpness you’d normally expect from a Playstation 4 title. Amongst the colour and popping visuals, textures do seem a little dated, and I do feel that Everybody’s Golf could have taken just another run of polish to clean up the picture overall.
The sounds of Everybody’s Golf are just as you’d expect, striking a balance of cartoon and realism, with thwacks, pops, and that all-too-well knowing sound of hitting that unforgiving bunker. The soundtrack, albeit forgetful, provides some ambience amidst demolishing your competition.
Everybody’s Golf stands, in my opinion, as Clap Hanz’ best entry to date, and maybe my favourite golf title to date. Its remarkably simple – solid golfing mechanics, a smorgasbord of customisations, an expansive character creation system, and an online system and community that has been built to truly welcome any player with open arms. Skip the realism – Everybody’s Golf is just screaming out for you to have fun, and if you like fun (and golf of course), it’s an easy recommendation and solid arcade sports title you should add to your Playstation 4 library.