Version tested: PSP
Everybody's Golf 2
- Developer: Clap Hanz
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
I always used to wonder why my dad had a belly on him, despite being an avid golfer. All that fresh air, all that exercise. Walking eighteen holes should do wonders for the body. It turns out following up a course with three more and a pint in the clubhouse also does things to the body.
Anyway, there's no such sins of gluttony in the Everybody's Golf series. This is good, wholesome golf. Golf without the exercise, admittedly, but also golf with a great big smile, bright skies and a relaxed dress policy. Golf where your caddy's ever on hand to offer words of encouragement, and a good thwack of the ball displays a congratulatory rainbow message of 'Nice shot!' every time.
The popular PlayStation series has done an uncanny job of making golf fun. It's less concerned with taking the sport seriously - although there's depth to its interpretation - but rather in making it an enjoyable experience where a bit of effort is rewarded constantly with new items and abilities. This second dedicated PSP version isn't a massive overhaul, but there are enough underlying improvements to make it the definitive one.
The main single-player mode consists primarily of nine-hole tournaments on a selection of courses at different skill levels. Win one of these and you get to pick a card or two from a set of outfits and accessories, which also increase your stats. Other tournaments offer one-off challenges like playing with limited clubs. Win enough matches overall and you'll face off against a rival golfer who graciously becomes a new playable character in defeat. At which point you dress them in a Dutch outfit, policeman's hat and boxing gloves and send them on their way.
Hitting the ball is done traditionally. An indicator moves along a horizontal bar, you press the X button to set the power of the shot, and then time your second press as it travels back to hit the ball's sweet spot. Optional spin is available on the directional buttons. It's as simple and unfussy as you could hope for, and should you wish you can even choose to set the power only and have the AI hit the ball for you at the expense of slightly reduced accuracy
With the ideal club chosen for you and constant data on where the ball's likely to end up, you could argue there's too much hand-holding, but that might be missing the point. EG2 is a feel-good game where a nine-hole round among colourful, semi-fantastic locations takes ten to fifteen minutes of your time, and where, with a bit of practice, you're going to see more birdies than a battery farm.
It's a quick loader, too, with minimum turnaround between holes. Having been on sale for a while, the multiplayer lobbies were disappointingly dead when I popped my head in now and again, which is a shame since sixteen-player online tournaments are one of the more significant improvements, but nevertheless, the single-player provides more than enough golf-based entertainment to please those who like their sport with a little bit of cheer.
Buzz! Master Quiz
- Developer: Relentless Software / Curve Studios
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Did you know that Jason Donovan does the voice of Buzz, the flappy-mouthed host of these well-received exclamatory videogame quiz shows? You did? Then give yourself fifty points and take pride in the fact your head is probably fit to burst with the kinds of meaningless facts and trivia the Buzz! games voraciously thrive upon.
Having already dug its claws into both PS2 and PS3, Buzz! has gone out of its way to prove that even the plainest of formats can be invigorated by a bit of presentational polish. It's no more or less than a series of general knowledge questions about the world and popular culture turned into a game-show, where the winner is more likely to be lauded for time reading rum tabloids and Heat than for knowing their fine wines.
The big draw has always been the buzzers, though; two or more players gathered in the sofa's embrace, fingers on the big red buttons, trying to outsmart one another. Predictably, there's none of that on the PSP version. The multiple-choice questions are answered by pressing one of the face buttons on the handheld instead. It's a natural replacement, though hardly in-keeping with the game-show vibe the console versions promote, and even with several players huddled around the PSP it doesn't have nearly the same hook as the buzzers-and-TV version, despite a multiplayer option that lets you pass the PSP around like a trivia peace pipe.
There's also a Wi-Fi mode, and the back of the box boasts over 3000 questions (all read out by the ex-Neighbours star - the bloke's certainly earning his pay). To keep things ticking along, there are a few different rounds tailored to the handheld to break up the monotony. Virus, for example, asks you to identify a fuzzy image, stripping back points as the object pulls into focus. Picture This reveals parts of a picture and then asks if you want to identify it or pass.
Again, the handheld struggles to inherit the PS2 and PS3 versions' sense of involvement. Sadly though, it does inherit the repeating questions, with many of the same cropping up within a few hours of single- and multiplayer. Playing casually, this won't happen for a while, but you're going to run out of questions eventually, and to that end a handheld Buzz! with downloadable questions or compatibility with the PS3 version is worth waiting for instead.
It might go some way to negating the slightly impersonal feeling of Master Quiz, too. The format is always fun and yet, as polished as the presentation is, this PSP version is a little bit Every Second Counts to the PS3's Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
ATV Offroad Fury Pro
- Developer: Climax
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
What gives me fury? Electrical goods packets that refuse to be opened without hacking at them wildly with a pair of scissors. People talking on their phones when they're being served in shops. Everything after the first season of Heroes.
Actually, that's not fury, that's mild consternation. Which is just as meaningful a tag for this, the latest in a stream of ATV games. After Unleashed, Untamed and the awfully-named Blazin' Trails, one more pointless subtitle isn't going to fool us.
Having previously woken up to the fact ATVs aren't enough for an increasingly passive audience, the series has been steadily expanding, going from one vehicle to several. It's not just ATVs this time, there are bikes, buggys, trucks and even snowmobiles locked away for you to scoot around on. Each can be raced in their own disciplines, but you can also stick them all together for a fender-bending race of thrilling proportions.
At least in theory. The racing isn't entirely heart-pounding, despite improvements over the last PSP game. Your competitors are a motley bunch who don't seem to react at all when you bump and nudge them. Instead they act like the rubber-banded automatons they are, always right on your tail no matter how far you try to zoom ahead. The handling never feels right either, and even the stunt elements fall flat.
There's plenty to do, at least, with a ton of bump-strewn tracks to race around as well as a track editor. The main campaign has you winning races for sponsors in exchange for credits, which can be used to buy new vehicles or upgrade them in comprehensive detail. So the depth is there and the game is pretty, performing without noticeable drops in frame-rate. It's just a shame the races lack bite. Character is more or less draped haphazardly on top by the way of loud rock tunes from screaming men with guitars, but all it ever does is drown out the buzzy noise of the vehicles.
Infrastructure mode seems to have vanished between the US and European versions too, but at least there's ad-hoc. You can also connect your PSP to the PS2 version (which we actually liked a fair bit more than this) to unlock new things if you're so inclined. With all that in mind, there's enough content to plough through, and it's all tolerable, but it's not enough to hide the fact that Offroad Fury Pro is a pretty decent but ultimately average racer.