Realism is the bunker of next-gen gaming. Easy to hit, but restrictive and slightly depressing - so it’s refreshing to come across a title that bucks the trend. While MotorStorm and GTA IV digitally recreate real-world visuals - with pin-sharp crisp packets and grimly accurate mud physics - Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds raises a smile with beautiful cartoon characters in a saccharine-sweet universe.
There’s a highly addictive game here that steers clear of Tiger Woods’ seriousness, but is just as in-depth. The characters look gorgeous and the selection of courses are packed with delightful sights and strange activity. Pan the camera around with the right stick and you’ll see tiny birds zipping across greens, cheeky little ladybirds taking a break on your stationary ball and even a family of ducklings paddling through the lovely, sun-licked water. Nice, eh? These are cosmetic instances, sure, but this would be a pretty drab affair without these cute touches.
If you’ve ever played HSG on PS2 or PSP, you’ll feel instantly at ease here. The process of tapping once to start the swing, then again to set the power and once more to measure the accuracy is still as simple as ever. However, there’s a new way of whacking the ball too, if you choose to use it. Rather than having to stop a bar that charges from 0 to 100% and back again, you get a transparent club floating at the top of your golfer’s swing that represents full power. Swing your club upwards to set said power, and a shrinking circle appears around your ball - the closer you stop it to being exactly around its circumference, the more accurate the shot.
OK, it’s pretty confusing at first but you’ll warm to it after a few attempts - you have to judge your shots more carefully, so when you do it right you feel like part of the golfing elite.
As always, there are plenty of extra challenges to get sucked into - like a mode that scores you by how stylish your play is (getting to the green in one earns mega-points, for instance) rather than simply asking you to win in as few strokes as possible - but unlike previous versions, none of your unlocked outfits can be used to dress up your golfer. At least, not your single-player golfer. Inexplicably, you can only use these clothes to dress your online avatar, and then trot around cute-looking lobbies.
There’s something therapeutic about Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds’ playful music, lush graphics and easy to grasp but difficult to master gameplay. It’s the perfect game for a rainy weekend and is exactly the sort of game we want to see on PS3 - enjoyable, uncomplicated and cuter than a kitten in a bib.
Mar 18, 2008