Crispy Gamer

Games for Lunch: Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds


Developer: Clap Hanz

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Release Date: March 18, 2008

System: PS3

ESRB Rating: E

0:00 I've never played this popular series, but I have put a lot of time into Mario Golf, which I hear is similar . If they're at all alike, I should have no trouble liking this.

0:01 This minute spent watching a mandatory install screen crawl from 0 to 7 percent.

0:02 16 percent.

0:03 26 percent. Y'know, why don't I just meet back up with you when it's done.

0:12 12 long minutes of Web surfing and waiting and we're installed. I can't say this is an inspiring start.

0:13 Introductory cutscene time. Beautiful helicopter shots of some bright, beautiful courses. A ball flies through the air with a streak of white behind it. Super-deformed, short and squat players tee off. They fall over, emote over missed shots, and set off fireworks of light when they sink putts. I love how expressive the characters are.

0:14 "Don't you just love golf in the morning?" asks the bubbly, bouncing menu screen attendant. That remains to be seen.

0:15 Challenge mode is where you unlock stuff, so it's where I go now. My menu model wishes me "Good Luck" in a chirpy, fake-enthusiastic voice.

0:16 The "Hole Shuffle Newbie Match" sounds about my speed. That's right, I can admit that I'm a newbie.

0:17 There are only two initial characters to choose from: cowboy-hat-wearing Nick and visor-wearing Jasmine. I guess they want you to have incentive to keep playing, eh? I choose Jasmine and the "Advanced" shot mode, because it adds 15 yards to my drive and because I'm a cocky son-of-a-gun. "Let's do it," says Jasmine. That's what she said! Really, it is.

0:19 A slideshow explains that the "Advanced" shots are simply a matter of watching the backswing for the power, then watching a contracting circle close over the ball for accuracy. I like how they seem to have done away with the gaudy power meters and such that clog up most golf game screens.

0:20 The assembled crowd applauds my entrance, complete with comic-book-style "clapping" sound effects that appear over their hands. Cute!

0:22 My first shot is nearly perfect. The backswing and accuracy circle are slow enough to make things easy. My caddy runs off after the ball as soon as I hit it and arrives next to it as soon as it lands, panting. I'm rolling on the floor here. It's just too precious for words.

0:24 My caddy calls out and endearing "Fore" for the second shot, which bounces off a walkway and stops just short of a bunker. When the camera zooms in on the ball's lie, I can see a ladybug fluttering on top. Awww.

0:25 I try to go less than full-power on a chip shot and it dribbles way short of the green. The lack of a marked power meter does seem to make these things harder to gauge.

0:26 Putting time. My caddy cries, "It's downhill. It goes left," with some wholly unconvincing voice acting.

0:28 I like how the game shows a phantom ball rolling down the green to help me determine what kind of putt power I need. Despite the slick system, I end up three-putting for a double bogey. Janice looks inconsolable. The sun was in my eyes! I swear!

0:29 19th place. I'm ahead of a guy named Abel, but considering what happened to him in the bible, this isn't that encouraging.

0:33 I get greedy on hole two, and get stuck in the rough when trying to cut a corner out of the suggested path. A long chip onto the green, then a two-putt for a single bogey. My continued difficulty reading greens puts me back to 20th place. Pout.

0:35 So far, I'm very unimpressed with the shot aiming system. Planning your shot means moving the camera using a complicated mess of buttons, none of which seems to do exactly what I want. The result is a lot of unnecessary time spent fiddling with the camera when I'd rather be hitting.

0:36 Helpful bystander quote of the moment: "This is difficult." This is said in such a matter-of-fact manner as to be totally hilarious. I guess you had to be there.

0:37 My first par comes after a chip that goes just to the left of the hole. I jump up to 18th place. "Yes, I did it!" cries Janice, and I want to cry with her.

0:39 I try using one of my limited "Power" shots to try and get a few more yards on my drive. Sure enough, the ball goes a little farther than it did before. This was much less interesting than I thought it would be.

0:40 My caddy is so cute. She cries "Please stop!" as the ball goes rolling towards the fringe of the green. It's heartbreakingly adorable.

0:41 My beautiful putt just rims out of the edge of the cup. There's nothing more infuriating. Not famine, not nuclear holocaust, nothing.

0:42 From the stands: "Get it in!" That's what she said! And I do! Up to 13th place, just by getting pars. Everyone else must be sucking it up. I know this is the newbie course, but jeez.

0:43 I get on the green in one on a par three and am rewarded with a vaguely homoerotic cutscene where Janice and her caddy are kneeling disturbingly close together as they read the green. Maybe I'm reading too much into it. Or maybe I'm reading too little.

0:44 I finally judge a green correctly and plot out a dead-on shot that comes to an abrupt stop half a foot from the pin. I think I just found something more infuriating than a lip-out. Still, I'm up to eighth place, only one behind the seven golfers tied at two over par.

0:45 "Here you are," my caddy cheerfully chirps as she hands me my driver. "Why, thank you!" I reply with ?lan. These characters are just too darling, and the caddy running after the drive never gets old, either.

0:46 The game is amazingly good at choosing the right club and direction for shots. Most of the time, all I have to do is trust and swing. It's kind of nice, but kind of depressingly simple, too. I want to have to plan these things a little, y'know?

0:48 Another two-putt on a green that slopes ridiculously left. Despite my par, I jump to first place as all seven people ahead of me double bogey. This is ridiculous. I feel like they're letting me win.

0:49 I totally didn't see that sand trap when I was looking at the hole. This aiming camera is really starting to annoy me.

0:50 It doesn't seem to matter -- the hitting doesn't seem to get appreciably harder from the sand trap. Another par, ho hum.

0:52 Whoo! My first birdie. The camera does a nice little zoom in on the hole as the ball rolls around and lands with a comic-book "tink." I'm now four shots ahead of the collapsing field going into the last hole. OH MAN, THE PRESSURE!

0:53 My caddy has stopped running after my drives and started simply standing on the fairway where she thinks they're going to land. What a gyp.

0:54 Helpful advice from the peanut gallery: "Aim carefully." GEE, THANKS, I WOULD HAVE NEVER THOUGHT OF THAT ON MY OWN!

0:55 Anything less than a full-power shot seems to go horribly awry. I don't know why I bother.

0:56 Janice cries to the heavens: "No, that was... awful!" as I bogey my final hole, but I still win the tournament handily. Lots of clapping and jumping and spinning on the winners' stand. "Yeah, good effort," someone cries from the crowd. Do I detect a hint of sarcasm? Or maybe boredom?

0:57 I get to pick a random prize from some overturned playing cards. It's the rights to hire Bonnie as a caddy. So we're trading people like cards now? Creepy! My "Loyalty Lvl" filled up about one-third of a heart, whatever that means.

0:58 A soothing video of clouds over a sunset plays over the message "See you next time." That remains to be seen.

Would I play this game for more than an hour? Probably.

Why? While the gameplay is a little simplistic for my tastes (you can't even put backspin on the ball) , the super-cute presentation and pure precociousness are right up my alley.

This column was based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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