A great Mario sports title is one that crafts a solid foundation in the advertised sport before plastering Nintendo’s world of plumbers, princesses, apes and reptiles over the top. Like ketchup to a plate of chips, Mario and buddies should be there to embellish the fun; you should be able to imagine it being perfectly serviceable without the extra, but all the better for it. A bad Mario sports title is one that seems to use the ‘tache and company to justify itself, trying to hide lacklustre gameplay behind their raw star power. That situation is like ketchup to a plate of burnt chips: even the wonders of pulped fruit can’t redeem the bad taste.
The 3DS now plays host to one title from each category. Mario Golf World Tour belongs, thankfully, to the former.
One note before this review goes any further, mind: Mario Golf World Tour does not include a true RPG mode. There is a golf clubhouse to toddle around as your Mii, with a few nice secrets and bits of dialogue to find, but this is little more than a glorified menu. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but those expecting to take their Mii on a life-affirming Golf-based adventure, akin to previous handheld Mario Sport offerings, should know that Mario Golf World Tour will leave that itch un-scratched.
There is a stat-altering meta-game to Mario Golf World Tour but, much like its “predecessor” Mario Tennis Open, all of the number tweaking is done through unlockable attire and tools rather than traditional levelling up. But before you start pulling grumpy faces it’s worth pointing out that ability tweaking here is stronger than in the Tennis title. Even if you suit up with one of the unlockable character kits there are still four other items (club set, ball, under shirt and under trousers) that you can change to tweak every element of your swing, leading to a game with much stronger customisation, even if it’s not handled in the traditional manner.
The real triumph of Mario Golf World Tour comes from just how good its ball thumping game is. Anyone who has played prior Camelot-developed Mario Golf titles, or other games of this ilk such as Everybody’s Golf, will likely refer to them with that predictable phrase – easy to learn, difficult to master – but it’s absolutely true. Anyone can enjoy Mario Golf World Tour, but there’s more than enough meat here to make the learning curve from novice to master an enjoyable and rewarding one.
Lay of the land, type of land, wind direction, wind speed, shot curve, where to hit the ball, how hard you should hit the ball, which club you should use to hit the ball, whether or not now is a good time to spend a power shot – Mario Golf World Tour gives you a list of things you need to consider with every shot, and that’s before you even begin worrying about timing the button presses to actually hit the dang ball.
Mario Golf World Tour does a fairly good job of suggesting a shot straight away, but you’ll never pull off a hole in one if you blindly follow its “recommendations”. There’s a methodical, mathematical precision to each and every swing of the club in Mario Golf World Tour which helps make every shot something truly satisfying, or something painfully devastating should a brave punt turn sour through a slight miscalculation.
Of course, it’s worth reminding you that all of this is presented with the friendly, cushioned veneer of Mario, making it easily approachable. In fact I consider some of the individual character animations in Mario Golf World Tour to be quite inspired. Having Bowser slobber on the screen after a solid shot is a 3D-justifying moment if I’ve ever seen one, and DK’s putting motions are comedic gold. But it’s the fact that under that PEGI 3 approved rainbow of colour is a golf game that is exactly as deep and rewarding as it needs to be.
It’s a good thing hitting the ball is such considered fun, really, because you’ll be doing an awful lot of it. There are plenty of courses. Three 18-hole “traditional” courses are joined by six 9-hole Mario themed offerings, all of which add “zany” elements and items that thankfully embellish play rather than pervert it. Items, such as fire flowers and bullet bills, work purely to help your next shot, and their implementation feeds into the logic of golf surprisingly well. As, too, does nailing a tricky shot into a Donkey Kong Rocket Barrel.
There are over 100 individual greens for you to play, and that’s before factoring in the “one on and one in” challenge holes, or even the putting, driving and approach mini-games. Oh, and then there’s the fact that each course has ten “star coin” challenges, too (for a total of 90) that ask you to do odd things like collecting out-of-the-way star coins, shooting the ball through score rings, ignoring the green altogether to hoover up hundred of coins, or forgoing stroke counts for a focus on time (it’s surprising how pressured golf can feel under the glare of a stop watch).
Then there’s the list of unlockable costume parts and character sets, some of which make up an achievement-like checklist, and the promise of on-going online tournaments to sustain the game post-release (which includes stipulation situations such as specific character events, or ‘near pin’ and ‘driving’ tournaments) alongside an online structure that supports friend communities (akin to Mario Kart 7) for ongoing competition. Even without access to the online portion of the game it was easy enough to break the 20 hour mark with oodles of content left to unlock. It terrifies me to think how much more time will be lost to the fairways once I have access to online multiplayer, local multiplayer, and StreetPass features.
Honestly, if considered ball bothering is your idea of fun then Mario Golf World Tour is bursting with content that’ll keep you amused into the tens of tens of hours. Even if golf isn’t so much your thing, but you still like the look of the cute exterior, then you should give it a go. The satisfaction of evaluating a situation and then successfully chipping a ball into the hole from half way down the fairway is incomparably satisfying.
VERDICT: Mario Golf World Tour offers a methodical 3DS sports title that fills a niche on the console more than adequately, and it would have been a compelling and satisfying golf game regardless of whether it built courses in the Mushroom Kingdom or not. One of the best plates of chips I’ve had in a while, regardless of the ketchup.
VERY GOOD. An 8/10 is only awarded to a game we consider truly worthy of your hard-earned cash. This game is only held back by a smattering of minor or middling issues and comes highly recommended.
Review code provided by by publisher.