Gameloft release a highly polished sequel to Let’s Golf, but is it all glitz and no substance? We take a look…
Let’s Golf 1 was a great little sports title, taking cues from many a golf game before it on platforms such as the Gameboy, DS and PSP it followed a tried and tested formula: bigheaded characters, themed courses and most importantly the power meter. It had the luck of being released before EA’s Tiger Woods on the AppStore, and no doubt picked up a fan base. For me, I actually had more fun with Let’s Golf than Tiger Woods. Sure, Tiger is more realistic and makes use of some great touch and slide-based controls. But to me that realism is a reason why I don’t play real golf, it’s a little dull! Call me shallow, but if I’m going to play the game, it better have wild course designs in equally wild locales, and, even though I’m a big supporter of touch and tilt based controls of games on iPhone, for me I prefer a good old un-realistic power meter for my golfing.
I’ve been know from time to time to whip out a quick game of Let’s Golf and even played it recently on my iPhone 4. We’re coming up to three years of iPhone gaming, and in that short space of time, even I can see that despite solid graphics and presentation of the first game, it is looking a little dated. Cue then Let’s Golf 2, as much as a visual upgrade as it is one of content. Don’t expect any revolution here, not even evolution! Instead they’ve taken the first game, polished it to a fine sheen and added all things the first game should have had.
Visually it looks a lot better than the first game, and runs better too. It may not look like it, but play it side by side with the old version, and you’ll see that the first game was pretty low poly, and it also suffered from serious environment pop-up. That is all gone in this game and both the courses and characters feature more curves and detail than ever-before.
Nowhere can this be seen more than on the iPhone 4. I played it on the day of release, and at that time it didn’t support the retina display, but it still looked good. When the updated did come though, I was surprised by how much it made a difference, not only in the resolution and added detail, but also to the gameplay itself. For example, the most obvious area where the resolution makes a big difference is with the putting grid. This is a visual aid that appears when you get to the green and are lining up for a putt. The grid shows the topology of the green and which way it slopes. In the non-iPhone 4 optimised version these looked fine but were a little blurry, however in the updated version the lines are so thin that it’s far easier to make out the terrain and line up your shot. It’s not a huge deal, with the game looking great on any device, but if you have an iPhone 4 it’s a great addition. Other visual nice-to-haves are real shadows cast by both the ball and the characters, instead of the blurred sphere. This is enhanced by the lighting, which looks great and gives the courses more depth and substance.
Gameloft have gone further with the thematic presentation of the courses, than the last game. Then you still had places like England with its stereotypical castles, and the Scottish highlands with its chilly looking mountains. In let’s Golf 2 they are still there except they have taken the stereotypes further and added new ones. England looks quainter than ever and features fully animated foxes on the courses. New themes such as Mount Olympus in Greece feature clouds sporting the likeness of gods, and the Kenyan courses are overrun by the local flora and fauna. The most ambitious of these as far as theme goes is the Antarctic theme complete with penguins, polar bears and greens made of clear ice that you can see the fish swimming underneath.
While we all like great graphics and presentation, perhaps the main areas of improvement are in the game play itself. Let’s golf 1 had pretty good playtime, but once you’d played through the holes there wasn’t a huge amount to return back for. It did feature multiplayer, but only local via pass’n'play or local wifi. Let’s Golf 2 though is all about offering more in almost all areas. The biggest of these is the Career mode. Each 18 hole course now features multiple ways to play, so instead of just an 18 hole run, 1-9, 10-18 and a random nine holes, you now of options such as shoot out (elimination style), closest to the pin, match play (against live AI), and timed stroke. These new ways to play are not pointless either, as most of the courses and ways to play are locked to begin with. Each requiring a set amount of gold medals to progress further. Not only that but each course also has three hidden medals to find, so if you are playing a particularly bad gamma you may want to wander the course looking for the medals instead. Course are not the only things you will unlock either, new outfits fro your characters can be unlocked which you can customise your characters with, they are a little pointless visually but gameplay-wise they do upgrade your characters stats, from accuracy to power, so do have a role to play. More importantly perhaps though are the other characters to unlock. In let’s Golf 2 they have added special abilities, which are unique to each character. When powered up through successful shots, you can unleash this ability on your next shot. These range from an extra 20% power (yardage), the ability to rewind time (or do a mulligan), lay magical fairway over a rough spot where you’ve landed, and no wind… plus more. This unlockables add far more replay factor to the game, and the eventually the same old courses and holes.
Another mode separate from the Career mode is challenge mode. Here you partake in various challenges that test your skill. They are little easy in my opinion, but again add replay values to the game. These include Catch the star, which is similar to finding the medals in the main game, but with more of them and within a time limit; and Birdie or bust, where you must get 1 under par within the time limit or its game over. These are fun diversions from the main game, and are a nice feature, though I think they could have made more of them or featured a few in career mode.
A huge new feature to this game though, and perhaps the biggest incentive to pick this up over other golfing games out there, and that’s online multiplayer. Much like other Gameloft’s games with this feature, it’s very easy to find a game and get going using Gameloft’s own live service. You can either join a hosted game, or host one yourself and wait for someone to join you. It’s limited to 2 player only, but it’s a huge leap in the right direction for the game, and adds unlimited replay value. I had no trouble at all getting into a game, and despite some player dropping out, due to them being sore losers, I was happy to see that I still gained the winning points to my online account.
Now these are more gripes than downright problems, but I think you should hear of them nonetheless.
Starting with the visuals. I’m all for the extra resolution, detail and fun themes. But sometimes less is more. It seems here that Gameloft have tried to throw too much into each course or hole. And it can become a little distracting at times to say the least. The foxes for example, and other animals, on more than one occasion actually covered my view of the shot. As cute as he was, I didn’t really need to see him licking his hind legs while trying to take a winning putt. Other smaller critters that float around you are even more annoying, not only do they distract you but also are pre-rendered and don’t gel with the rest of the graphics.
I’ve also encountered a bug or two, and some inconsistencies. The one main one is the ball bouncing out of a bunker. This simply doesn’t happen in real golf! They pretty much stop dead with the occasional role back. Another was one of the AI opponents, during matchplay, decided to turn a full 180 and continually make an out of bounds shot on an infinite loop. It was on the last hole with me in the lead, this meant starting that contest from scratch!
Sound is also a little grating to say the least; yes you can turn it off and even play your own tunes. But the supplied music is very sickly, and the voice over work is even worse. Not only is it incredibly stereotypical, with the resident coloured guy talking 70s jive, but the samples are very repetitive. I don’t need a random voice shouting that I’m on the green every time, and that on completion of a hole, being told that ‘We’ve made it’ by a pre-pubescent teen.
The above are little niggles really, but gameplay-wise there are a few things that may put you off. The main one of these is difficulty. While some courses do get trickier, and the matchplay opponents also improve. Overall the game is a little on the easy side, and more so than the last game. Gameloft are guilty of hand-holding in many of their games, possibly to please the casual market, of which there are many. But I’d like to be able to switch to a pro-mode, where the best club and best course route is not automatically set up for me. The game even limits you to certain types of clubs, but despite being stupid, if I want to use a wedge on the green, why can’t I?
The other and final one is the control options. I’ve already stated that I love the power bar, so this isn’t a problem for me. But in the first game there was a second option, a bit like a pro option, that instead of a power meter you had a slider. Here you started your swing at one end, slid back your finger at to the other, and then quickly slid back towards the ball to initiate a swing. It was a little like Tiger Woods, but not as well implemented. So I was a little disappointed to see that they hadn’t taken this mechanic, improved it, and implemented it as a pro mode for higher difficulty.
The bottom line
As I said at the start of this review, Let’s Golf 2 is more of a refinement to the first game. If you liked the first game, then you will love this. It’s career mode will last you many days of play, and when that’s over you can play online against real players for more of a challenge. It now feels like a more rounded package. However, it’s relatively easy gameplay and cutesy characters and critters may put some of you off from a taste point of view.
For that reason I’m sticking with the same score of 4 (Great) as the first game, as I still think there is room for improvement.
However, with the online component added I’m adding a half score and upping it to a 4.5 (un-missable). It’s up to you then to make you purchase decision on what kind of gamer you are; single player? online? or both?
Let’s Golf 2 is out now for $4.99. Get it on the