With the Hot Shots Golf series, you know what you’re getting. Developer Clap Hanz has taken the solid, predictable approach since taking over the franchise from Camelot more than a decade ago. It’s hard to blame them, as the formula works and getting more characters, courses and items is basically what you want when you buy a new one. World Invitational is another nice-if-unspectacular entry, though it tries a few more things than in games past.
The first thing you notice when you play is the aesthetic shift toward realism. Oh, don’t worry, it’s not abandoning its charming look. Now, though, you’ll see more believable trees and water, as well as golfers with somewhat-more-accurate proportions. World Invitational certainly looks nice on the Vita, even if it lacks a bit of the visual fidelity needed to be what you use to show it off to others.
The gameplay is what you’d expect: you work your way through a series of tournaments and one-on-one challenges, unlocking items, gaining cash and acquiring new golfers. Where the customization comes in is with swing styles: Clap Hanz gives you many swing meter options, from lines to Elite Beat Agents-style circles, so you can use something you’re most comfortable with. (They all seem to function similarly.) And you’ll be comfortable with something, because Hot Shots is a forgiving game that lets even beginners rack up a few birdies along the way. While things are largely intuitive, there’s unfortunately no actual training mode to test out clubs and golfers and learn the ropes.
The shop is a big part of the game, and it’s a lot of fun to customize your golfers with outfits, colors and clubs. You can save personalized outfits for each, and as it usually happens that you spend a lot of time with the one character ideal for your play style and build up “loyalty” (read: number of power shots per round), it’s nice to create some variety within that context. The characters themselves can tend to be just the tiniest bit stereotypical at times, but ultimately that’s harmless.
The game comes with an online pass, so you’d expect a great deal of activity to be online. There’s actually no head-to-head or friends play, though, as group tournaments are launched from lobbies. For some reason, you have a lobby avatar to use to walk around rooms while you’re waiting, and the little guy can be customized with little parts you buy randomly from a vending machine. So… sure. If you coordinate with friends, you can still join the same tournaments, but a matchmaking system (or even match play) would have been a nice thing to have.
There are silly Vita features for people who want that. You can activate a mode where you look at the hole but replace the sky with whatever your camera is pointed at. Yep. You can move your golfer to different points at the tee by pinching from the front and back and dragging into place. These are basically pointless, and a few even result in glitches that sign you out of PSN, but they’re totally avoidable.
Unsurprisingly, Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational is another solid Hot Shots game, and one of the better Vita launch titles. Just be prepared for it to hit a few sand traps along the way.
Pros: Same solid golf you’ve come to expect
Cons: More online options needed
Staff writer Andrew Passafiume contributed to this review.