|System: PS Vita|
|Dev: Clap Hanz|
|Release: February 15, 2012|
|Players: 1-30 (Online)|
|Screen Resolution: 480p||Mild suggestive themes|
by Josh Wirtanen
A Sony console just wouldn't feel right without a Hot Shots Golf game. The PlayStation Vita remedies this problem extremely early in its lifespan, with Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational launching right alongside the device. This time around, there are some new innovations to the classic franchise, but are they enough to make this a worthy addition to your game library?
Well, that depends on what you expect from the title. If you need a fancy new title to show off the graphical capabilities of the Vita, World Invitational does just fine. Its courses are heavily detailed and its environments are gorgeous. Starting a course in a particularly high location and being able to look over the landscape below—there are several courses laid out this way—proves just how much of a visual treat the game is.
To add a bit of visual flair—and to keep true to the roots of the series—World Invitational comes with a roster of goofy, caricature-like players. Only two are available right out of the box, but as you earn points by placing in tournaments, you'll be able to unlock more.
And speaking of unlockables, this is actually one of World Invitational's greatest strengths. You'll never run out of things to unlock with your points. There are new characters, additional outfits for these characters, new equipment like balls and clubs, and more. There's even an avatar that sits in the lobby that can be totally customized with new facial features and outfits. Completionists be warned: You could get totally consumed by unlockables here. Of course, the downside to this is that it can start to feel grindy pretty quickly.
Each character comes with his or her own set of stats, but they also earn new skills via a level-up system called Loyalty. The more you play as a specific character, the more "Loyalty" that character earns and the more skills he or she will be able to use. This actually makes unlocking new characters a risk/reward balance, especially since some of them are rather expensive in the points market. Do you want to spend all your hard-earned points on that new character and have to start your climb up the Loyalty ladder all over again, or do you want to save them for new equipment and just max out the Loyalty of your current character? Then again, you can max out your Loyalty pretty quickly with each character, so getting several characters maxed out shouldn't be a problem.
Of course, the main thing that sets this entry apart from its predecessors is the touch-based controls. And there are a couple uses of finger-swiping/tapping that I even found to be somewhat useful. The first is that you can pinch your vita (a thumb on the screen and a forefinger on the back touch panel) to actually pick up your character and move him or her around to modify their tee position. This results in a silly little animation where your character will kick their legs wildly. Even more useful, though, is the ability to tap an icon on the screen to bring up a top-down map of where your ball is projected to land. Since a lot of the courses have some ridiculous hazards—seriously, who builds a tournament golf course in the middle of a farm?—this feature can come in handy in those instances where you don't have a lot of visibility.
An incredibly cool feature that comes packed in is a set of Daily International Tournaments, where you compete against players from all over the world on a particular set of courses. It's a lot of fun watching your name rise and fall on the daily leaderboard. Unless, of course, you are awful at the game. (I admit that I came in absolute last place during my first Daily International Tournament.)