Developer: Clap Hanz
Release Date: June 3, 2008
The Hot Shots Golf series has been a mainstay on PlayStation systems for quite some time. Starting with the PSOne, the series has taken the game of golf and made it a simple and cartoon-like affair, giving everyone the chance to pick it up and enjoy it without having to learn too many details. The formula obviously works, since so many other golf games try and go for a similar arcade-type experience. Now, three years after appearing on the PSP for the first time, Sony and Clap Hanz return with Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2. The experience, while still feeling the same, is different enough that fans and newcomers will want this game.
For newcomers to the series, Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 is an arcade-style golf game. All of the courses are made up, and all of the golfers are fictitious characters done up anime style. Players start off with two golfers and two golf courses to play with, and over the course of the game, you unlock new characters, courses and accessories. You also begin to build up attributes for each golfer; the more you play with one golfer, the more you unlock things such as power shots, better spin, better control and so forth.
Open Tee 2 contains four single-player modes. Challenge mode is where you will spend most of your time, since this is where characters and accessories can be unlocked. It's also where you'll build up your stats for your golfer. Stroke Play is where you go through the unlocked courses and try to beat the course in as few strokes as possible. The Minigame mode is where you try to make as many hole-in-one shots as you can in the nine given holes. Finally, Practice mode, which is new in this version, allows you to practice in each hole of every course that you've unlocked so far. Considering that you will play these courses often in the main single-player mode, this is especially useful for getting better scores and for trouncing your competition in multiplayer.
While Open Tee 2 offers an average amount of modes, it's the item collection and leveling-up of characters that give this game legs. With at least 12 golfers and courses to unlock through tournaments and match play, players have a good amount of incentive to keep playing. This is further fueled by the fact that you also have different accessories, clothes, hairstyles, clubs and golf balls to unlock for each character, all of which are earned in the main single-player mode. To add to the plethora of unlockables already available through normal play, all of the characters and accessories from the first PSP game are also included here. With those, however, you unlock them by traversing through all of the golf courses and looking for sparkling areas. As long as you hit the ball in that general area, you can get that prize.
The leveling system for characters is a bit different this time around. Unlike the original PSP game, where you went through tournaments or match play earning accessories in order to build up your stats, in Open Tee 2, you actually get to select the stat that you wish to improve. You can choose between building up your spin, control, or power for your golfer by participating in the event. Collecting five cards in that category will allow you to level-up that ability and bring you one step closer to unlocking the next level and the next golfer. No matter what you end up building, you always power up your loyalty meter for the golfer you use. This, time you have 10 levels of loyalty instead of five, allowing you to open more for your golfer than before.
Graphically, Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 is exactly the same as the first title, which is both good and bad. As mentioned earlier, the game's anime style makes it look very colorful. The characters and backgrounds look great, and the same can be said for the courses, which sport the same color palette as the characters and look just as good. However, the fact that the graphics look exactly the same as the first game, including the jaggies on any object, isn't comforting for those who have waited years for the sequel, only to see it look exactly the same.
The sound is also solid, with the music ranging from being light-hearted in the menus to pulse-pounding when you try to sink a putt, but it never gets to the point where you want to permanently turn it off. The sound of the club hitting the ball is as good as the sound of the ball hitting the tin cup. The only point of contention would be the voices. Despite keeping the Japanese look intact, the voice samples all got re-dubbed in English without the option of changing it back to Japanese. The voice work is average at best, though very few of the voices will make you want to turn down the volume.
The gameplay is where Open Tee 2 really shines. The game employs the very simple three-click system: The first press of the X button starts the swing, the second press determines the power level, and the last press determines hitting accuracy. Using the d-pad during the swinging process determines where you want the ball hit if you aren't aiming for dead center, while using Circle or Square instead of X helps determine things such as ball spin. The breadth of options really allows for both amateurs and pros to play the game the way they want to while having lots of fun in the process. The saving system is another convenience the game has that caters to the portable crowd. Instead of making you go through a full nine or 18 holes of golf before any saving can be done, you can manually save the game between holes and pick up where you left off later. It's a great way to promote the pick-up-and-play style and ensures you're having more fun with it instead of being frustrated with it.
Like the original title, Open Tee 2 features Ad-hoc play for up to four golfers. While this still plays smoothly, the game also offers Wi-Fi Infrastructure play if you want to battle golfers around the world. Unfortunately, as of this writing, no online matches could be found. It is a big selling point, and while the game still stands up well without it, it would have been a much better title if the community were active enough to ensure that an online game is occurring almost all of the time.
All in all, Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 is a very good PSP title. For veterans of the series, the sequel will feel very much like the three-year-old predecessor. It shouldn't surprise anyone, really. The graphics are the same as the first game in every possible way, and the same can be said for the sound and gameplay. While this may sound like a knock on any other game series, Hot Shots Golf fans really wouldn't have it any other way. The formula has always worked in the past, so any changes to it now would be perplexing. I'd consider it a worthy purchase for any PSP owner out there, whether or not you own the original title.
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