1997 was a great year for entertainment. Titanic was making waves and not avoiding icebergs in cinemas, Puff Daddy’s ‘I’ll be missing you’ jostled with the walking shampoo advert known as Hanson, and various classics blossomed in gaming, including Grand Theft Auto, Fallout and Everybody’s Golf. Twenty years later and the three gaming franchises are still going strong. Hanson, less so.
A mainstay in Sony’s catalogue, Everybody’s Golf has found a home on every PlayStation generation, offering a deceptively deep, yet accessible package for people who love golf games. It exists as a conundrum of sorts as I’d argue it appeals primarily to those who like playing golf games, as opposed to those who like playing or watching actual golf. I’m one of the former – I love playing golf games but can’t name a golfer that’s not Ernie Els, Tiger Woods, the dude who replaced Tiger Woods in the EA games, and Gary Player.
Formerly known as Hot Shot Golf in the states, developer Clap Hanz has gone the Pro Evo route and standardised the name across markets. Returning fans can expect a familiar, comforting experience, akin to dining at your favourite steakhouse, while new gamers get to lap up the balanced difficulty curve and experience the joy of a game that focuses more on fun than a debate on simulation versus arcade.
The game’s infectious theme by Owl City sets the tone for a radiant open-world experience, filled with interesting characters, enjoyable activities and a considered progression system that evokes memories of another popular PlayStation franchise, Ratchet and Clank. One of Ratchet and Clank’s best features was that your guns upgraded the more you used them. Similarly, your clubs improve as you use them, with the four stats, power, back door, backspin and control all influencing the way you play. This incremental reward is necessary as the game can be punishing and unforgiving, especially if you make a few errors. I admit to rage quitting a few times, with a few misplaced shots making the difference between first and third.
The character customisation is easy to use and I managed to whip up a virtual MJ that looks a little like me, and a lot like an Indian version of WWE Superstar Shinsuke Nakamura. Speaking of WWE, 2K should take notes – as Everybody’s Golf’s interface is impeccable.
One of the first things you notice when you tee off is how manic the game is. The CPU doesn’t stick around and wait for you to hit the ball. The characters do their own thing and the screen lights up with activity. It’s very endearing and reinforced the idea that everyone wants to have fun, even the computer-controlled players (it’s like the opposite of the Truman Show). It proudly proclaims – this is not an elitist game. This is Everybody’s game. These principles carry over to online, and it gets quite bonkers at times. I particularly enjoyed Turf Wars – a timed group event where you’re scored on a number of holes, with the team with the most points taking that hole.
The single player mode is equally enjoyable, with the Boss challenges adding a twist to the proceedings. You’re frequently rewarded with customisation options so the impetus to keep playing is really strong. There are distractions like fishing and kart racing, but unlike the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time where you can spend hours just fishing, I spent most of my time on the green.
Local multiplayer is a treat and my resident and often unwilling player two (aka wife) immediately started a career after our first game. At the risk of mansplaining golf’s scoring system (birdie versus bogey etc), she reminded me that she was all too familiar with the details because of GTA 5. On an aside – GTA 5 is a masterpiece, and Rockstar has taken care to ensure that the side activities excel, rather than act as serviceable simulacra. I’ve compared full-price retail games that specialise in an activity to GTA’s version and found that GTA often did it better. MX vs ATV Supercross is one such game. Same goes for most tennis and golf games, and I skipped the last EA Rory McIlroy as GTA scratched that itch. Everybody’s Golf, however, still makes a compelling case for gamers to purchase it. The price is reasonable (two-thirds the price of a new release) and it’s likely to be a game you’ll keep returning to.
Last Updated: September 6, 2017