Everybody's Golf Review
A non-golfer’s take on the latest entry in the seminal golf-RPG series
This game was reviewed using a PSN code provided by Sony for PlayStation 4.
I feel compelled to kick off this review with a confession: I’m not a golf fan. Aside from occasional forays into mini-golf, I’ve never played the real game. As a result, my knowledge of the sport is pitifully limited: until recently, I didn’t know the difference between a scratch golfer or a bogey golfer. To some extent, I can credit Everybody’s Golf with my now weak — but slightly less pitiful — knowledge of the sport.
Given this background, you might be wondering why I decided to review this game in the first place. Well, there are two major reasons.
Firstly, I initially caught a glimpse of Everybody’s Golf at the Sony pre-E3 press mixer this year and two things struck me: almost nobody was playing it (Matterfall and Detroit were adjacent to the Everybody’s Golf kiosk, which didn’t help), and I found myself returning to it a few times to get a better look. I may know nothing about golf, but Everybody’s Golf looked fun.
Secondly, Everybody’s Golf reminded me a little bit of the kinds of sports games I actually like; games like Athelete Kings on the Sega Saturn, which roughly approximate sport, but which are fundamentally more of an arcade experience that focuses on all the enjoyable bits without getting too deep into the simulation aspects.
Having spent some time with Everybody’s Golf over the last couple of weeks, I can say that it’s definitely much deeper than I expected (and it’s much closer to a simulation than it may first appear), but it’s also delightfully colourful and quirky, and it doesn’t assume that the player comes to it with a high degree of golfing knowledge. It’s happy to gently guide you as you learn the basics, but it provides plenty of scope for a more strategic and highly-customised experience.
So, if you aren’t a golfer or you’ve only occasionally played golf games, this review is for you. If you are into golf games, then I’m going to make this easy for you: go and buy Everybody’s Golf.
With that out of the way, let’s dig in.
Becoming a better golfer
Right from the outset, Everybody’s Golf feels like a curious hybrid of WiiSports and an MMO. You begin your journey by creating a character who you’ll play as for the rest of the game. The creation tools here are pretty robust; it feels a little like you’re creating a Mii, but with deeper customisation options (so for example, you can choose a hairstyle but then you can modify it by flipping it around or dynamically changing the length).
You can also edit your character’s appearance at any time during the game, thankfully.
Creating a character in Everybody’s Golf isn’t simply about cosmetics, though. The character you create will acquire experience points as you play, and you will have the opportunity to develop your character’s skills in several key areas over time.
Building your experience is at the heart of Everybody’s Golf. You’ll want to do this to defeat opponents, of course, but you’ll also be encouraged to continually beat your own personal bests as you play.
When you pull off a specific technique well, you’ll get instant feedback and an instant experience boost in that area. It feels great, and the game celebrates these incremental achievements with wonderful little flourishes (including ongoing live commentary from your ever-encouraging caddy).
What’s really fascinating — and clever — about the experience system here is that you don’t simply acquire experience from beating opponents. Instead, you gain experience in specific areas based on how you play. For example, every time you land your ball as close to the hole as possible with a shot from over 60 yards away, experience points will automatically be added to your control technique. This happens dynamically during the game, which means you never simply acquire experience points to manually spend — it also means that the way your character’s experience develops is inherently tied to the way you actually play the game from moment to moment.
I found this system refreshing, and in practice it makes playing each hole a unique experience, even if you’re playing the same hole on the same course multiple times. When you pull off a specific technique well, you’ll get instant feedback and an instant experience boost in that area. It feels great, and the game celebrates these incremental achievements with wonderful little flourishes (including ongoing live commentary from your ever-encouraging caddy).
There are four key technique areas to work on: power, control, backspin, and back door.
Building these techniques as you go is crucial to beating more skilled opponents. For example, if you level up power, this will enable you to hit the ball further on each stroke — this enables you to get closer to the green right from the tee, and helps you to reduce your overall strokes per hole.
Once you’ve created a character, you’re dropped into Golf Island, which is essentially the main hub world. From here, you can enter tournaments, play solo or multiplayer matches, try your luck at the online leaderboards, and even go fishing or swim. Various characters will come and go as you play through the game and offer advice (in some cases, you’ll even be able to participate in small golf quizzes that test your knowledge, and that result in some nice rewards).
You can also just run around or explore in a golf cart; the key point is that you can play Everybody’s Golf completely at your own pace. You might decide to dive into a big tournament or you might just want to play a couple of holes casually without the time commitment. In this way, Everybody’s Golf caters to both the more serious golfing enthusiasts as well as the casual players who just want to enjoy the scenery.
It’s all in the hips
The fundamental mechanics of Everybody’s Golf aren’t too dissimilar from other golf games, at least from the few I’ve played before.
Once you approach the tee and prepare to take your first shot, you’ll be able to initially decide your aim direction and chosen club (the latter is done simply by pressing L1 or R1 to flip through clubs). A large indicator will appear on the course to illustrate both the maximum distance of the shot (based on the club type and your character’s experience), as well as the direction of the shot. The in-game UI presents clear indicators around factors like wind direction and speed, as well as the slope of the terrain ahead — it’s important to consider these factors when deciding the shot angle and the power you put behind it.
From there, you’ll be pressing the X button three times to take each shot. The first press starts the swing, the second press determines the power of the shot, and the third press determines the shot accuracy. This rhythm of button presses reminds me of a music rhythm game; timing is absolutely crucial. If your third press is too early or late, the ball could veer wildly off course and send you into a rough (or even off course completely). And if you don’t time the second press correctly, you may easily over or undershoot; this can become especially tricky if the course is split in half by a river or some other natural obstacle, which you’ll need to clear to progress towards the green.
As you move to the green itself, the game’s HUD presents a detailed grid overlay which displays precise slope and angle information — the mechanics for putting are exactly the same as for any other shot, except that even more care and nuance is required to sink the putt in as few shots as possible. This is also where your character’s experience comes in: if you gain more experience in the back door technique, you’ll have a greater chance of the ball clipping the edge of the cup and spinning into the hole. Sometimes these single shots can become critical to winning a match, especially when facing a tougher opponent.
Challenge the world
I want to come back to the point about Everybody’s Golf not only respecting my time, but also respecting the fact that not everyone is going to come to this experience as a golfing expert.
The game’s various play modes and the way your character’s experience folds into those modes sits at the core of what this game gets right.
For starters, there’s a kind of “create your own game” mode which is just called Single Player. Here, you go it alone in solo stroke play and you can choose a specific course and weather conditions.
You can also participate in Challenge Tournaments by signing up at the Tournament Desk on Golf Island. The tournaments offered will continually change based on your current ranked skill level.
It [Turf War] feels frantic, and it’s hilarious to see other players dashing around the course from hole to hole as quickly as possible. Your team’s score updates live on the screen, and I’ve played several matches with nail-biting close-call finishes.
Tournaments are likely the main way that you’ll build up experience from a single player perspective; this really represents the meat of the game. By playing through tournaments, you’ll gain experience points, and you’ll also earn coins to spend at the in-game shop (where you can buy new outfits, clubs, etc…). You’ll also unlock new courses and activities as you play.
In addition, beating tournaments will trigger specific “Vs Characters” to appear on Golf Island, who you can challenge to a 1-on-1 game.
The analogy I’d use here is to say that the Vs Characters are almost like boss battles, in the sense that you’re competing against a single character who is a little more challenging than what you’ll face in a regular tournament scenario. That said, you’ll also acquire more unique rewards for beating Vs Characters as well.
In addition to these solo modes, there are numerous ways to play the game with other people.
I think my favourite was Turf War, which sets you down on a course with a matchmade team. The goal here is really simple: each team has to sink the most holes within the time limit. The catch is that you can play any hole in any order, and you’ll have to consider the time it takes to physically move from hole to hole (you can literally sprint your way around the course and jump over obstacles, you can swim, or you can use special warp points around the course to get there faster). It feels frantic, and it’s hilarious to see other players dashing around the course from hole to hole as quickly as possible. Your team’s score updates live on the screen, and I’ve played several matches with nail-biting close-call finishes.
If you want a slightly more relaxed online experience, you can play a mode called Open Courses. Here, you’ll be dropped into an online instance of the world that — much as I hesitate to say it — feels like “open world golf”. You can mingle with other players and pretty much do whatever you want; play a hole here or there, drive around in a golf cart, go fishing, or go swimming. You’ll also find hidden items around the course, which encourages exploration of the whole area.
Interestingly, if you play holes in this mode, the game will automatically calculate your online ranking for each hole in real time. I enjoyed going back to the holes where I struggled to see if I could improve my ranking. Fortunately, the ranks are recalculated on a daily basis, so you’ll always have an incentive to keep trying.
The one mode I haven’t played yet is local multiplayer, which is a great option to have — you can play with up to three other people locally on the same PS4, which is a really nice addition, as I can see Everybody’s Golf actually lending itself quite well to local multiplayer.
I think the best recommendation I can give is that, as a non-golfer (and someone who doesn’t really play golf video games), I’ve been thoroughly enjoying Everybody’s Golf.
The core golf mechanics are fun in and of themselves, but it’s the way they are fused with really satisfying RPG mechanics that seals the deal for me. No matter what you’re doing — even if you’re losing a match — you’ll still feel that your character is progressing and that your skills are improving. The highly unique online modes (especially Open Courses) give the game a wonderful social element that is usually missing in video games about golf, which are typically a completely solo experience.
The icing on the cake are the characters that pop off the screen with colourful personalities, the visually stunning courses, and the continual, encouraging feedback loop the drives you forward from shot to shot.
To bring this review full-circle: if you’re even remotely a golf fan in real life (or a fan of golf games), you simply must check out Everybody’s Golf. But even if you aren’t interested in golf at all, I think it’s worth pausing to take another look: Everybody’s Golf may surprise you.
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