It’s probably got something to do with growing up in the 80s and 90s that has made me incredibly wary of spin-off games featuring much loved characters in situations other than the ones they’re best known for. A slew of these rubbish titles littered the release schedules back in those days, and it’s been hard to shake off the suspicion that, even today, anything that takes a similar tack is destined for mediocrity – if you’re lucky.
However Nintendo, as we all know, likes to do things a little differently. The cast of the much-loved Mario series has made countless appearances in a variety of different games, spanning multiple genres, dabbling in various sports and even taking a shot at medicine and, surprisingly, these spin-offs tend to hit the mark more often than not. I say surprisingly because, let’s be honest, the original idea to take Mario onto the course way back in 1984 for the NES title “Golf” was hardly one to get people excited.
Nevertheless, in the years since that modest original, Mario has worn his love for the sport on a number of occasions, with Nintendo 64 release Mario Golf marking the first time he managed to get his name into the title, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Although Mario Golf is far from an in-depth simulation of the real-world sport, it shares countless obvious similarities. Tiger Woods PGA Tour it’s not, but at no stage does it ever try to be, instead aiming for the kind of pick-up-and-play gameplay that is sorely lacking in traditional golf sims. In Mario Golf: World Tour, Camelot Software Planning once again takes on development duties, and this might just be their best trip to the course to date.
Despite not being a first party developed title, everything about World Tour screams Mario. It’s got that unmistakable Nintendo charm and charisma that you can’t find elsewhere, and as you guide your Mii through his career at the renowned Castle Club Golf Course you’ll encounter a blissful mix of tomfoolery and straight up golfing action.
Arguably the most difficult part of your early time with World Tour will be casting aside your presuppositions that, because this lacks the serious presentation, in-depth real-world course selection and ludicrously detailed ball physics of some of the more straight-edged golf titles, it’s a title exclusively for younger players, or those who don’t play the real thing. But that really couldn’t be further from the truth.
As a keen (and, frankly, awful) golfer whenever I have a few hours to myself at the weekend, and an avid fan of EA Sport’s PGA Tour series, I never once found myself frustrated by the lack of realism in World Tour. In fact, the level of depth on show genuinely impressed, with players offered a surprising amount of tactical flexibility. The most impressive thing, for me, though is the fact that you can sit down, power the 3DS up and complete a round in no more than 15 minutes. Given the amount of time players need to dedicate to more traditional golfing titles, this is huge.
However, like all games that can be picked up in such a manner, that doesn’t necessarily mean you can look forward to the odd short blast here and there. Once you’ve started on your way through the game’s career mode, you’ll very quickly find time disappearing, and before you know it it’s 3am and you’ve got an important call the following morning that you’re in very real danger of missing (true story).
There’s nothing groundbreaking about the gameplay mechanics in Mario Golf: World Tour, and given the amount of time that Camelot has spent on the series, that’s probably not surprising. If you’re new to the franchise then an easy-to-follow tutorial will introduce you to the basics and arm you with enough knowledge to begin experimenting with your club selections, power shots and spin modes.
Knowing when to play what kind of shot, what club to use and the chances of a clean strike are essential to registering low scores in World Tour. For all its bright and colourful appearance, there’s still that very real threat of frustration and anger with yourself after you let yet another relatively straightforward birdie opportunity pass you by due to misreading the break lines on the green, and that’s hugely important to any golf title because it ensures you’ll continue striving for perfection.
Away from the more serious side of play in the career mode, World Tour offers a variety of delightful, and suitably madcap, play options to entice even non-golf fans in for a look. In fact, given the relative brevity of the career mode (you’ll likely finish it in your first sitting with a bit of patience, and there’s little replay value beyond searching for career best scores), these modes propel the game from a solid outing to a riotously enjoyable, fun-for-everyone, experience.
Whether you’re off collecting coins, racing against an ever-decreasing countdown clock or testing your accuracy by attempting to shoot through rings, it’s these additional distractions that really make Mario Golf: World Tour sing and dance. It might not be what the golf purists have in mind, but let’s be honest here, they’re most likely going to pass this title up anyway – and, truth be told, that’s their loss, because Mario Golf: World Tour is a brilliantly crafted, well presented and thoroughly enjoyable trip around the course that’ll appeal to anyone with a sense of fun!
There are a few minor blemishes against the game that should be noted, however. As I mentioned earlier, the game’s career mode is far too short, while the free-roaming navigation structure of the interface when you’re not on the course can prove to be a little confusing since nothing is actually marked on your map. Additionally, some of the challenges see to ramp difficult up a little too much, and can feel a little out of place at times, but practice makes perfect, and in no time you’ll be dominating your buddies and posting personal best after personal best to compare with other golfers worldwide.
If you’ve got a 3DS and have any interest in the sport at all, or simply want to try something a little different, then Mario Golf: World Tour is definitely for you. Heck, it’s for everyone, period.