You may not be familiar with the Everybody’s Golf series, even though Japanese developer Clap Hanz has been making them for nearly two decades now. That’s because, in the west, the games have been called ‘Hot Shots Golf’ instead.
The switch to calling the latest, (PS4-exclusive) release ‘Everybody’s Golf’ feels somehow right. Because really, there is something here for absolutely everybody. That’s even true, to an extent, if you have no particular interest in golf!
Serious golf fans, or even simply fans of sports games who dabble in golf, have been starved for a truly dominant game since the heyday of the Tiger Woods series. Well, that drought might finally be over, because despite its cartoony visuals, and classically Japanese fun-loving attitude, there’s actually an extremely solid game under Everybody’s Golf’s colourful surface.
Actually striking the ball is done through a classic three-tap system: one to start the meter, one to stop it at the top for power, another to stop it at the bottom for accuracy. Golf games have been trying analogue stick-based swinging systems for a while, and whilst this method does feel more realistic, it’s always been frustratingly imprecise. The mechanics in Everybody’s Golf are just challenging enough that they take time to master, but you never feel like you’re having to fight them.
There are a number of other factors, besides simple power and accuracy, which need to be considered before making a shot in Everybody’s Golf. Again, there’s a level of realism under the surface here which belies the casual exterior. Before even striking the ball, you need to take into account things like wind direction and speed, the lie of the ball, the spot on the ball you want to hit, and the surface on which the ball will land. Just as in professional real-world golf, the bulk of the hard work is actually done before the club is even swung.
Having said all of that… there’s a whole lot of fun stuff here too! The vast majority of it comes from the freedom – in certain modes, at least – to roam free around the golf courses. To begin with, you can only explore on foot. As you defeat certain NPC’s, however, you’ll gain the ability to swim, and eventually drive a golf buggy. Suddenly, those enticing, ever-gorgeous backdrops, which have always stayed frustratingly out of reach in other golf games, are actually well within your grasp. As well as exploring simply for the sake of it, you can hunt down a number of goodies – coins, gems and the like – and, after besting another NPC, even go fishing.
This freedom of movement is taken to its full extent in the absolutely wild ‘Turf War’ mode, which provides a perfect counterbalance to the more traditional (though still extremely addictive), RPG-like career mode. In Turf War, you join up to 19 other players online, split into two teams, and square off in a timed battle. The winning team is the one which simply completes as many holes as possible within the time limit. In practice, this mode quickly descends into madness, with players zooming around the course using any method they can, and frantically pinging balls back and forth.
You can see, then, why Everybody’s Golf truly lives up to its name. This is that rare sports game which will satisfy both genre veterans, and those without a competitive bone in their body. Throughout its modes, and even through to the hangout, hub areas, there’s an irresistible sense of fun about the whole thing, which makes this simply a pleasant world in which to spend time. Scratch beneath the surface, however, and you’ll find a pleasingly challenging golf game, whose solid mechanics will inspire you, hour after hour, to keep on striving for mastery.