Mario Golf: World Tour: A links between worlds

April 24, 2014


In the past, the Mario Golf series has been defined by two separate, equally-viable tracks: the console one, focusing on party play and maintaining a low barrier to entry, and the handheld one, crafting a more personal experience with progression and customization. We live in a different world than we did when the series last appeared on the Game Boy Advance and GameCube, though, and now a handheld game has the potential to be both of these things at once.

Mario Golf: World Tour is certainly attempting this hybrid model. It builds on the foundation of Mario Tennis Open, which generally tried to be a 3DS edition of the home Mario Tennis titles, but it seems like developer Camelot realized some of the ways in which it was stepping away from the strengths of a handheld. It unfortunately doesn’t carry all the progression elements of the Game Boy Color and Game Boy Advance titles, but in many other ways, it tries to remind veteran players of that experience. The Castle Club mode, which contains a large part of the single-player experience, is modeled after those games, with a similarly-designed hub world and references in the tournament structure.

It’s not totally devoid of customization, either, but it chooses to go about it in a way that is more about tuning your character to your specifications instead of raising stats. The more you play, the more equipment and clothing you’ll unlock, and each has a modifier to at least one of your stats: distance, height, control and accuracy. There are statistically-identical options, letting you put just a bit of thought into your character’s aesthetics, but you’ll still sometimes choose between wearing a garish hat or hitting the ball just a bit less powerfully than you’d like.


Online tournaments

Much of the lasting appeal of World Tour will be in its online tournaments. These are just as varied as the single-player elements, with restrictions on characters or items driving some contests and coin collection featured in others. In addition to national and world contests, you can also host or join private ones with friends or strangers and customize parameters to your liking.

The golf itself feels very similar to what it used to be, though here’s where the Mario Tennis Open sensibilities saw the fewest modifications. The bottom screen’s used mainly for large buttons that duplicate button presses, and when you jump in, you’ll find that all the settings are at their simplest by default. You can give yourself more control if you’d like (and you probably should, as long as you can handle it), but those already used to things like button-based spins and manual accuracy would probably like to see something else on that second display.

As you’d expect, World Tour embraces the 3DS’ special features, though none of it is particularly useful. The 3D effect is fine here, but it misses out on the potential to help with aiming; the camera’s more dynamic than it is usable. Most of the time, you’re better off starting every stroke by hitting X and aiming from the destination camera, anyway. You can also use the gyroscope to look around… we haven’t found a legitimate use case for doing something like that, but it’s here anyway.


Downloadable content

World Tour will sport three add-on packs, each with two courses and a character, and a Season Pass gets you everything for $15. With a $30 base price, the extra cost is palatable, and the 126-hole core game is fully-featured enough without them, so follow your heart on that purchasing decision.

Much of World Tour seems to be geared toward getting players into the tournament scene. The skills challenges and increasing course difficulty of Castle Club mode let a player build up to a competitive level, as do the quicker one-off challenges. Even if you’re never as good as your friends, you can still have fun with Handicap Tournaments, which adjust players’ scores based on skill to even up the competition. There’s still something about them that seem weird, as a better round will lose because of how the game expects the player to do, but to just get people around and playing, it takes a lot of the strain out of the situation.

Even if you’re not a tournament person, World Tour has you covered. Once you use the Castle Club mode as an entry ramp of sorts, you’ll be ready for the variety of the other modes. Sure, there’s standard stroke and match play, as well as speed golf and point tournaments, but the item-and-character-unlocking Challenges will draw most players’ attention. You’ll access extra courses and powered-up “star” versions of characters through these, and you’ll do it by collecting coins and shooting through rings in quick-fire trials, squaring off against the computer in match play, racing through holes quickly and trying your luck at Club Slots.


This is also when you get to the more gimmicky of the game’s courses, as the Castle Club ones more closely resemble real-life conditions (sort of, anyway), while locations based on Peach, Yoshi and such are a bit more creative. These Mushroom Kingdom courses are largely nine-hole settings, and they’re not just full of weird colors and fantasy backdrops. Nope, you’ll need to take advantage of boost pads and bounce blocks, avoid Bob-ombs and generally take on whatever bizarre twists the game throws your way.

Mario Golf: World Tour successfully balances dual audiences in almost all aspects, including difficulty, immersion, portability and connectivity. There are a few things missing we would have loved to see — think leveling up, Download Play support or customizable touch-screen configurations — but in general, it’s a big step up from Mario Tennis Open and a welcome return for a deceptively-dormant series.

Pros: Diverse courses, varied challenge types, callbacks to GBC/GBA games
Cons: Less stat progression, repetitive sounds, typical Nintendo hand-holding

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.