Version tested: Xbox 360
While Everybody's Golf may be an obvious touchstone for this budget round of putt-putt fun, it's a credit to developer Housemarque (creator of PS3 sensation Super Stardust HD) that the comparison is favourable rather than dismissive.
Unlike the atrociously titled 3D Ultra Minigolf Adventures, Live Arcade's only rival golf game, this effort avoids the easy lure of wacky crazy golf antics and instead concentrates on providing an accessible but satisfying round of golf, livened up with cheerful cartoon characters. You can dress them up in silly costumes, should you feel the wacky quota isn't up to your required standards, but its otherwise business as usual.
Control is intuitive enough for anyone familiar with any golf game from the past twenty years. Aim your shot with the stick (the game automatically selects the most appropriate club for the distance) and then use the traditional three-hit power bar to set power, accuracy and swing away. There's a very handy terrain gauge on top of the power bar, giving you an instant idea of the power needed under ideal conditions. Hitting the centre of the accuracy gauge takes a little practice, since the power bar returns fairly quickly and the margin for error is slim. Thankfully, the game doesn't overdo the effect of hooks or slices, and you can always correct horrible mistakes to some degree by using the focus feature.
This allows you to apply after-touch to the ball in flight, a little bit like the draw and fade in recent Tiger Woods games. You're limited as to how long you can apply this gentle nudge though, with each hole only offering four seconds of tinker time. The time is cumulative, however, so you can bank up to twenty seconds of time to guide shots in mid-air. The force you can apply isn't enormous - you won't be able to steer the ball into the hole against the laws of physics - but it is enough to scrape back onto the fairway in an emergency.
It's a useful feature, since the game really does like its wind and trees. Gusts are a major factor to consider, since it seems that a lot of holes suffer from gale-force wind at all times, while foliage often acts as a brick wall, stopping balls mid-flight with the slightest contact. Both can prove annoying in the long term, especially when the design of some holes seems to deliberately use these factors to inflate the challenge rather than using clever fairway design.
There are only two courses included in the initial download - Caribbean islands and Scottish parkland - but that seems more to do with the file-size limit than any Scrooge-like tendencies. Even so, I'd have preferred a choice of three, simply because there's not a huge amount of difference in terms of challenge between the two provided.
Golf: Tee It Up! may not have a better name than 3D Ultra Minigolf Adventures, but it's a much better game. It plays a good game of golf, for one thing, and does so with the mixture of depth and accessibility that we hope for in all Live Arcade titles. It may not be up there with Everybody's Golf, but for the price it's tantalisingly close.
7 / 10