Golf is a game played primarily by psychopaths. I have no frame of reference for this, nor do I have proof, but just looking at the dress code is enough to convince me that these people have no real emotions.
Outside of that, I have very little to say about Golf, which is why I was quite dumbfounded when faced with the prospect of tackling Easy Golf on the Xbox 360's Community Games Channel. The name may suggest a casual bit of mini golf silliness, but it's definitely deep, offering a heavy focus on customization and founding itself on course building and sharing.
Easy Golf (Xbox 360 Community Games)
Developed by Barkers Crest
Released on December 21, 2008
Costs 800 MS Points
Read more about our Community Games Review Challenge
Taken purely as a golfing game, Easy Golf offers the same level of playability you'd reasonably expect from any other title based around the sport. It's been many years since I've played a proper golf game (Wii Sports doesn't count) and the genre doesn't seem to have moved on very much, if Easy Golf is a fair representation.
The actual golfing part is certainly true to the game's name, as it's incredibly easy to just hop into a course and start whacking balls around. With a simple, clean set of controls and quick, clear, powerbar-fueled shots, it takes only the most rudimentary knowledge of golf (get the ball in the hole in as few shots as possible) to understand Easy Golf. You can select different clubs, put on backspin, and learn to curve the ball, but even these aren't necessary to get through each hole.
The game comes with three courses that load up as separate holes, all of them quite well designed and lengthy enough to keep golf fans occupied for a while. However, the true focus of Easy Golf is the creation and sharing of new courses. This is where Easy Golf shows the true skill of the developer behind it, with an incredibly rich course creation mode where you can manipulate everything from the height of the terrain to the wind speed. The possibilities are many, and having taken a look at the variety and depth of levels that players have made, I must confess that I am impressed.
The only problem with the course creator is that it's perhaps a bit too deep for the average player. It's also not well explained, despite tutorials, and could very well alienate would-be creators. The potential for creativity, however, cannot be argued.
Sharing courses is simple however and it only takes a minute to have somebody else's work stored on your hard drive for later play. It lacks the charm of other user generated game sharing titles, but if you're really into golf, it's going to be great.
Online multiplayer is also a key part of the experience, and it is as well implemented as the rest of the game's features. Rather than take turns, each player tackles a single hole at the same time, with floating Gamertag icons representing the ball position of each player. Think Fable II's "orb" feature, but golf-themed.
Despite not liking Golf as a sport, I found that Easy Golf was an enjoyable experience with four other players. Player interaction may be limited, but using the Xbox Live Party feature and commenting on the flying Gamertags whizzing around the screen is quite fun indeed.
The only issue is the simple fact that not enough people are perpetually playing online for you to get a quick match going. This is definitely a title you'd need to pre-arrange with other Easy Golf players, something which is a signifant problem for any Community Game looking to build itself around online play. Barkers Crest has looked into dealing with this by making a new Gamertag specifically for other players to find each other, AVF Easy Golf. Should you choose to pick this up, it might be worth your while to add.
Graphically, the game is not going to astound, but it's definitely one of the best looking titles on the Community Games channel. This is especially impressive when you consider it's fully 3D, something which most XNA titles aren't. The only real issue is the fact that the camera gives an innacurate presentation of the ball's position once you hit it. The perspective often makes the ball look like it traveled further than it did. While it doesn't affect gameplay so much, it's rather disorienting to look at. Sound effects are simply functional, while the music is repetitive and begs to be switched off after a while. It sounds almost exactly like the music repeated ad nauseum in A Kingdom for Keflings.
Easy Golf is a title that makes full use of what XNA has to offer, and that deserves some real commendation. It might not be the most exciting game on offer, but it's definitely among the more robust. Its course creator is terrific for an indie title and the multiplayer is a pleasant experience indeed. This is not a game that will keep everyone returning, but people who love golf should definitely check it out. If you're a psychopath with a crazy dress code, then you may very well want to download it for keeps. The rest of you would do well to at least give it a try.
Score: 7.5 (7s are solid games that definitely have an audience. Might lack replay value, could be too short or there are some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.)
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