I am very fond of playing golf in real life, but I really seem to take it to another level with my love for playing golfing video games.
It’s damn near impossible to get me off of the virtual links. One quick round usually transforms into at least three or four quick rounds. In fact, I bet that I have logged more total hours playing the Hot Shots Golf and Mario Golf games than I have with countless beloved titles and acclaimed classics. These two golfing series don’t always spring to mind when I’m thinking of my all-time favorite games. Still, even if we just consider the total playtime alone, it’s clear that both franchises have a special place in my heart.
On that note, Everybody’s Golf is actually the latest (and by far the most plainly-titled) release in the Hot Shots Golf series. Everybody’s Golf was the original title in Europe and Japan, so the developer, ClapHanz, pulled off a bit of a “soft reboot” when they launched the IP’s first PlayStation 4 release in 2017. I’ve loved the games going all the way back to the original PlayStation. Plus, I put more time into just HSG 3 on PS2 and Open Tee on the PSP than most of the games I played on those consoles.
So…how does Everybody’s Golf stand among its predecessors?
Just like previous entries, Everybody’s Golf has a charming cast of cartoonish, big-headed golfers (and caddies) with a wide range of unique personalities and cosmetic styles. But in this game, there is a lot more emphasis and focus on the creation of your own unique avatar. EG allows you to customize up to four characters, using either the presets and clothing items from the other characters in the game, or by buying outfits and accessories with gold coins that are earned as you play along.
I’m always a fan of customizing a female character, so I chose to create Claire: the tall, blue-haired, nerdy goth girl – three stars as face tattoos, Chuck Taylor-style sneakers, pink-colored fishnet stockings. Just for laughs, I gave her a seductive voice combined with an utterly ridiculous-looking, one-handed swinging motion. She also had a 320-yard drive that would put Happy Gilmore to shame, and a better short game than Tiger Woods at the absolute peak of his career.
Clearly, I had a lot of fun tinkering with my created character throughout my playtime with the Career mode. I found myself getting just as excited for my skill progression as I was for all the cosmetic items and custom animations I could choose between. It was a refreshing change from the character selection screens of the past – though I definitely would have liked to see familiar faces like Mel, T-Bone, CJ, Zeus, and Bertha.
The six courses that are offered straight out of the standard version of the game are based on common themes and locales, such as a country club, a tropical seaside course, a heavily wooded area, and a place heavily based on imperial castles and architecture. Everybody’s Golf lands securely in that bizarre middle ground between a sim golf game and a cartoonish one; it’s nothing like simulation golf games (PGA Tour, The Golf Club) but it looks realistic enough that it steers clear of the outlandish themes and course layouts in Mario Golf. I do wish there were a few more courses, or even a basic course editing mode to make my own, but I’m not exactly counting this against Everybody’s Golf.
Each of the courses has a “Mirrored” version of both the front and back 9 – the “OUT” and the “IN”, respectively. Each course provides four different tees to play from, ranging from the normal tees all the way back to the Championship tees. There are special conditions and rules that you can apply to any round, such as “Mega Cups” that are twice the size of a normal hole, “Tornado Cups” that act like a vacuum toward the pin, and various penalties for certain actions, such as landing in the bunker, smacking into a tree, or using a Power Shot. You can even punish dilly-dallying golfers with an extra stroke for taking more than 15 seconds to complete their turn at a shot. This variety of play modes definitely helps to keep EG’s modest selection of courses fresh. The gameplay is always fast-paced, with each round taking only ten minutes or so to complete.
Another reason I can’t be too harsh on Everybody’s Golf is because there are five DLC courses available to be purchased individually, with a price range between $3.99-$5.99 depending on the course. Look: I’m not a huge fan of the paywall between the standard version of the game and the “full” version with all of these courses included, but I actually didn’t even notice the DLC in the game’s Shop until I was quite far into the Career mode.
It’s also relevant that I purchased EG for $20 on the PS Store. So I never really felt like I wasn’t getting some kind of value, especially considering how much time I spent hacking away at each new course. Ultimately, I was just very happy to boost the total number of locales from 6 to 11, though I think it would have been an even better value (and made for a deeper Career experience) if all these courses could have just been unlocked at higher ranks. Hell, even if they dropped all of them after you completed the Career mode, it still beats a pesky paywall.
One could argue that EG‘s bonus stuff is a prime example of DLC that really could have been included with the original game. I’d make the same point if the game came out fifteen years ago, but at least a fan of the gameplay can get more bang for just a few more bucks.
The single-player Career mode is ultimately a bit of a grind, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. As I rose through the Ranks, the standard rounds and 18-hole tournaments definitely became more competitive (but also more rewarding). Beyond just tackling courses and earning experience points toward your Golfer Rank, I could also challenge an assortment of new characters, and if I beat them in special “Versus” matches, they became playable characters (and their cosmetic items became part of my massive clothing wardrobe). Each Rank put me up against three new characters that I progressively earned the chance to play against, as I stockpiled XP from finishing the standard rounds of each Rank. I knocked them off one by one, and had to adhere to some truly ludicrous playing conditions. For example, one Versus match penalized me for going into the rough, the bunker, and forced me to play with “Teeny Cups” that are half the size of the standard hole. I also enjoyed the matches with “Special” characters that I unlocked by completing career milestones such as “100 birdies,” “20 eagles,” etc.
The sense of progression is consistently satisfying and bombards you with rewards, with a copious list of characters to meet, caddies to hire, cosmetic items to purchase and unlock, and even golf carts to drive around the “Home Area” (and on each course in free-roam mode). The unlocks even continue after finishing the Career mode, with Versus characters that you can re-challenge each day to earn even more rewards and secrets. These matches are a lot more difficult, naturally: many of them pile on the penalties and extra strokes, turbulent winds, heavy rain, and so on. These rounds are anything but the standard game of golf, and they range from being quite easy to win, to completely infuriating, sometimes requiring you to play an almost perfect round with almost no room for error on a single shot.
There are plenty of other distractions beyond just playing golf to be found within the “Home” area of the career mode. There are hidden items to find laying around on the ground, which encourages exploration of the hub zone and each of the 11 courses. There is another NPC (shown above) that quizzes you with three increasingly-difficult “golf trivia” tests; I actually loved going through these, and I even learned a thing or two about the rules, lingo, and culture of golf – even though I’ve been playing the game since I was in grade school.
Last but not least, I eventually learned how to swim and fish in the crystal-clear waters surrounding the island, just by defeating two of the Versus characters I mentioned before. The fishing mini-game may not be very sophisticated, but there are a couple different fishing spots throughout the Home area: these fishing holes are split between Freshwater and Saltwater. Each spot offers up roughly a half-dozen types of fish to catch, and there is an encyclopedia of fish that charts your total catches and your personal records for each species.
To be completely honest, I actually didn’t realize until very late in the Career mode that each of the 11 courses also contain fishing spots that you can explore. These spots are where you can catch some really rare and exotic species – the grand total in the encyclopedia checks in at a whopping 85 types of fish. Not bad for a fishing mini-game that’s a highly unsuspected surprise bundled within a golfing game (which could easily be ignored or overlooked)…eh?
Seriously, there’s quite a bit of content here, and it’s not just for solo players. Everybody’s Golf caters very well to just casually playing golf with your friends online, or even on the same screen. There are tournaments, different match types, and all kinds of crazy rules can be applied to each round. In fact, the robust online features and real-time “lobbies” are bustling with players nearly all the time: for the online mode, you spend a lot of time in the free-roaming, Open Course mode, which is where you’ll do so much of the exploring, item-hunting, and fishing. I rarely played against anyone directly, but I liked that there were daily challenges that I could participate against other players by simply submitting my best scores for a 9-hole round.
Instead, I spent about half of my play time of EG sitting next to a friend on the couch, passing the controller back and forth every three holes or so. Frankly, I had a blast playing through the Career mode this way, even more than I did by myself, or while playing the proper competitive multiplayer modes. Occasionally my friend or I would really screw up and blow a round, just after the other player had birdied or eagled a few holes…but it was really no bother. We often made better shots and had better results being each other’s real-life caddy while playing side-by-side. It was quite obvious that both of our skills had improved and we had progressed quite a bit over time, and despite the fact that we played cooperatively on each other’s Career mode saves, we always got a kick out of beating each other’s longest drive records, longest putts, best round scores, and so on. (I’m proud to admit that I was the first of us to get a Hole-In-One, but it didn’t really “count,” because the game doesn’t track your records during the “unofficial” rounds that feature outlandish rules, like Tornado Cups and Mega Cups.)
Moving on to the general gameplay, the three-button swing mechanics work as well as they ever have in the Hot Shots Golf franchise. It is just as intuitive and easy for beginners to pick up and play as it is for advanced players who want a tougher challenge from their outings. It is still possible to put backspin, topspin, and sharp curves into your shot, or use “Power Shots” to get some extra distance. For any Hot Shots game, this is par for course – pun fully intended. I did like the fact that I could use more than my finite supply of Power Shots in a round, but at the cost of making it much harder to get a “Perfect Impact” on my shot. While this almost guaranteed that my average drive was well over 300 yards, it also makes it very easy to completely mis-hit the ball and end up completely off-course. On the other end of the spectrum, you can use “Auto” mode to help with the button timing for the “impact” part of your swing – this ultimately makes every swing a bit random, but you’re still a bit less likely to completely shank your ball and end up two fairways from the hole you’re actually playing.
I also liked the fact that I could select from special ball types before each round: for example, if the course was full of sand, I could try the “Sand Viper,” and my worries about the bunkers disappeared because my shot power wouldn’t be so dramatically decreased. I also enjoyed the low-flying balls that essentially cut through the wind, making all but the strongest gusts a non-factor for each shot. I wish there were more types of balls, and I felt like it was always a bit of a drag to run out of a certain type of ball – they need to be purchased with your in-game coins or earned as a reward for completing a full round in Career mode. While I never really ran out of coins to spend, especially later in the game, I always liked using my coins for cosmetic items a lot more than on these single-use special balls. If I didn’t choose wisely, I had no guarantee that I would have a better score on the round, and all things considered, I probably wasted half of the special balls that I ever purchased simply because they weren’t the right kind of ball for the particular set of rules enforced in that particular round.
There were a few tweaks to the core gameplay that caused me to scratch my head: despite the fact that the game still plays quite well, I just cannot understand some of the decisions that the developers must have made for this one. First and foremost, even after dozens of hours with this damn game, I still cannot get around the fact that there is no visible line for your shot trajectory, and only a vague landing zone for where the ball might actually land. That means it’s often anyone’s guess if your shot trajectory will actually clear a building in front of you, or go under the branches of a tree beside you, or smack straight into the completely solid object or thick bushes that you ended up putting your previous shot behind. I’m sure it goes without saying that there were plenty of strokes added to my score during some rounds that I felt I should blame on the absence of this very simple feature for the HUD in almost every single golf game to date. Second, I felt like using the three-button method for putts was an odd choice, and a first for the franchise that really didn’t need to happen. I didn’t often completely mis-hit putts, but even the handful of times it happened were somewhat infuriating, considering that past Hot Shots games always used the two-button method for putting. Third, there is a noticeable lack of advanced swing types and golfing techniques, and it just isn’t very simple or intuitive to perform things like a flop shot, a punch, or a true pitch-and-run. (Hell, just having the option to try a proper flop shot or a punch shot would have helped to mitigate that whole “shot trajectory line” problem that I just mentioned!) Finally, I found it very strange and quite frankly limiting to my abilities on the virtual links that I could not use “Super Topspin” or “Super Backspin” shots until a certain rank, and I also couldn’t pull off some of the advanced stuff, such as “Homing Shots” and “Spiral Shots” until reaching the last few ranks in Career mode.
On a similar note, I did not like the fact that I couldn’t use “custom clubs” with my own preferred stats and abilities until I finished the entire Career mode. I especially did not appreciate the fact that the easiest way to upgrade your Custom Clubs was not actually to use them, but to spend actual money on special “tickets” that boost their stats…one point at a time. With a maximum of ten points, you are able to change the parameters of your custom clubs more than you are allowed with any of the pre-set club types (like the “Big Air” and “Infinity” sets). Nonetheless, I felt like it made almost no sense for these clubs to be “rewarded” after I spent so much time raising my individual club skills with the pre-set clubs through dozens of rounds in Career mode. Sure, I felt a sense of reward every single time one of my skill levels increased for a club (such as the Backspin ability of my wedges, or the Power of my fairway woods)…but I also felt like it limited the club selection before each round for far too long. Essentially, I always had to choose between the “power” clubs that would send the ball the furthest on each drive, or the ones that made it a bit easier to control the spin of the ball. Unlocking the Custom Clubs earlier in the game might have made the experience a bit more nuanced, and tailored to my individual playing style and shot tendencies. I definitely wouldn’t have spent my entire Career being so Power-hungry with those damn Big Air clubs.
I have just one primary complaint about Everybody’s Golf that I really can’t seem to shake: the courses just leave a bit to be desired, and not just because you need to purchase almost half a dozen of them from the PlayStation Store just to add some meat to the bones of the game. Specifically, my real issue is that too many of the holes on each course just don’t seem to stand out with much of a memorable challenge on their own right, and some of them feel like simple filler holes, particularly some of the Par 3’s. They rarely demand the player to change the style of approach, or preferred playing style: at least half of them can just be blasted over with a 300-plus-yard drive.
The exceptions to this rule don’t really show up until the later courses, when there are suddenly very dramatic elevation changes between the tee box and the green – on top of the different types of terrain that must be played on, or avoided. Things are definitely a bit more insane on a few of the DLC courses, especially with the greens: they were absolutely nuts, even on some of the “easier” DLC courses. Even the simplest holes on these premium-content courses usually proved to be a challenge when it came to the short game: sometimes it would be a ridiculous pin placement that was nearly on the fringe at the back of the green, other times the greens were tiny and required the precision of a surgeon just to avoid overshooting completely, and nearly all of them had insane elevation changes to consider before you even think of putting the ball.
Truthfully, I still wanted something a bit wilder from the selection of locales…almost like Mario Golf’s lava- or snow-themed courses, perhaps even an underwater course, or a sky course based high in the clouds. This wasn’t because I felt bored with the visual aesthetic, or even unhappy with the general layout of each course…it was just because I wanted to be challenged a bit more often with my shots, and I wanted each hole to leave an impression. Whether it was a tricky drive off the tee box, or some kind of bizarre obstacle stuck in the middle of the fairway, I just wanted to see more on each hole that made them memorable. Everybody’s Golf keeps things pretty grounded, and a bit more based in realism, which is hardly an issue – but it’s hard to deny that the average city course or country club in real life would definitely feature a lot more variety in terms of the challenging shots, obstacles, elevation changes, and other surprises from hole to hole.
The other comment I wanted to point out is that each course in Everybody’s Golf has at least one or two holes that I absolutely love playing, and one or more that I dreaded playing every single round. Examples of the former were almost always those short Par 4’s and long, straight Par 5’s – holes that I could nearly count on dropping an Eagle every time. Examples of the latter are those holes that you never seem to remember on the course, and they always seem to pop up and put a damper on an otherwise relaxing and enjoyable round of video game golf. There are holes that could easily make or break my entire round on almost every course: this was particularly frustrating if a tough one was near the end of an 18-hole round, or if I ended up blowing my chances at a personal course record with just one bad hole. Depending on the wind and weather conditions, some individual holes range from being fun and completely acceptable, to utterly nightmarish and nearly unfinishable. I’m being completely serious: under certain conditions, it can actually be nearly impossible just to drive the ball off the tee box and land safely anywhere near the recommended spot. Things only get worse if you end up in the rough, or plugged deep into a bunker, because the game won’t let you use your full range of clubs or shot options in certain situations.
I often had to slow myself down and look at every part of the in-game HUD before setting up my shot: I learned not to trust the game’s automatic recommendation for each shot. On some devilishly tough holes, I was convinced that the game wanted me to hack up the fairway until I had no choice but to “Declare As Unplayable” and take a bunch of penalty strokes – with little to no choice of where to actually drop my damn ball – until I hit the maximum limit for strokes, and had to “Give Up.” (It pains me to admit that one of the courses ends with an 18th hole that I still have yet to walk away from with anything better than a Double Bogey – I ended with +5 strokes on my first attempt, and I’ve never come close to saving Par.
To conclude this unintentionally lengthy review, I would like to say that none of the aforementioned “flaws” in Everybody’s Golf ever really made me bat an eye, aside from the lack of a visible trajectory line: every single time I picked up the controller, I found myself having just as much fun with EG as I ever did with HSG 3 or any of the other installments in Sony’s long-running franchise. I guess that answers the question of how it compares to the others, but in general, it’s just a damn fine golfing game that boasts quite a bit of content – with or without purchasing any extra DLC.
If you have ever played and enjoyed the game of golf, or the HSG/EG series, or you’re just interested in a casual and accessible way to learn some of the basics of the game – you really can’t do wrong with this one, especially for just $20. As I said before, it’s definitely worth forking over twice that much for all the extra content, just not some of the money-grubbing stuff, such as those damn tickets for your custom club upgrades, or extra character creation slots.
(Seriously, though – NO! That’s a bad, greedy developer/publisher!! BAD BAD BAD!)