Embarrassingly, I didn’t grab this game at launch. I wasn’t as excited for the return of golf season back in November. However, now I am.
Powerstar Golf is an amazingly competent Hot Shots Golf clone. It’s not going to set the world on fire; the character list and course selection are both a little shallow. But the experience is as calming and zen-like as any other golf game out there. Another plus for the game is the fact that you can advance through it however you want, playing the rival mode, single player events, or multiplayer as you choose. The result is a game that gives you a lot of freedom in getting all the gear, courses and characters, but it does seem a little aimless as a result.
The quest to get all the clubs and gear is a little grind-y. the setup is reminiscent of free-to-play games, and more recently, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. You grind matches to get credits and then spend increasing amounts of credits to unlock packs of randomized items. It feels a little weird to not purchase specific clubs and boosts, but it does feel great when you get an item from the tier above the pack you opened. The game seems set up for a store where you use real money to buy what you want, but you instead use the in-game currency to get the random packs. It’s worrisome but the in-game purchases available are more of the same crap that’s been in every Xbox One game: real money for more credits. This seems like highway robbery given how easy it is to rack up credits playing local multiplayer or rivals modes.
That reminds me that the most interesting aspect of Powerstar Golf is the way it handles multiplayer and leaderboards. The longest drives, putts and other feats of your friends appear as virtual goal lines on the course to be beaten on every shot. You get bonus XP every time you best a rival’s record. It’s tons of fun to beat everyone’s best approaches or longest drives and makes the game feel more social than it really is. The online matches are handled by downloading ghosts of other players’ best performances on a course. Golf etiquette makes the interweaving of these prerecorded shots fit into the rhythm of the game naturally.
It’s not groundbreaking in any particular way, and it’s actually not as good as the Hot Shots or Mario Golfs of the world, but I’ll keep playing Powerstar Golf every now and then until something better comes along…