If you're headed to the virtual links expecting something markedly different from the second portable extension of the long-running Hot Shots Golf series, think again – Open Tee 2 is a game of minor tweaks and extensive content, and aside from the advent of online play (missing from its predecessor), the game largely goes through the familiar motions.
That might be a cause for concern in some other franchises, but after 10 years of strong Hot Shots Golf iterations, said motions are expertly choreographed and largely second-to-none in the realm of videogame golf. The kiddie characters, customizable to an extreme here (with 300+ outfit options), continue to mask the fact that Hot Shots is a serious sim. Sure, the three-click meter swing system is perhaps too precise to truly recreate such a challenging sport, but it lends Open Tee 2 the perfect balance between pure enjoyment and skillful play, with a fantastic learning curve to boot.
As in previous Hot Shots titles, the single-player Challenge Mode combines short tournaments and head-to-head battles with boss matches for an extensive (and addictive) upward grind that unlocks characters, costumes, and courses (of which there are a dozen in Open Tee 2). One quiet single-player addition that we are surprisingly enthralled with is the hole-in-one mini-game, which seriously plays like a gigantic version of skee-ball (with differently-scored cups on each hole). Trickier cups unlock with repeat play, giving you additional incentive to keep coming back to this unexpectedly sharp diversion.
Online play in any form is a notable plus, especially on PSP, but what's here is merely serviceable, as a rigid match selection process can make it tough to locate a full set of competitors for the 16-player tournaments. When we did get matches together, opponent dropouts and unnecessary waiting were regular annoyances, though the actual play was just as smooth as the offline stuff. It may not have the flexibility and sharp online interface of Wipeout Pulse, but it's still great to match up with players from Europe and Japan on the fly.
It might be a bit short on thrills and innovation, but when it comes to a refined, endlessly replayable portable experience – regardless of genre – Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 is one of the best picks on the PSP. Now, if you'll excuse us, we need to get back to an epic round of skee-golf.
Jun 10, 2008