By Spencer . June 9, 2008 . 7:14pm
Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 isn’t a huge change from the previous PSP game or the Hot Shots Golf series in general. Clap Hanz completed revisions in Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds, but they stuck with the familiar three button control system for Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2. You press X to start the meter, press it again to determine the shot’s power, and press X a third time to determine your accuracy. The system has always been simple, maybe even relaxing, but it’s far from easy. There are seemingly minute details to master like adding spin to the shot by pressing one of the directions on the D-pad, adjusting shots for wind, and discovering “shortcuts” that separate experts from rookies. However, Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 doesn’t alienate casual players. The game is as easy or complicated as you want it to be.
Before I stepped into online matches I spent time with Luke and challenge mode. Luke is the male character you start the game with, Carly is the female character. Both are in the “novice” category, but even when I unlocked new characters I was tempted to stick with Luke. Each time you play a challenge with a character their loyalty increases, experience points in the language of Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2. Increasing loyalty gives you additional power shots to drive over obstacles like mountains. You also unlock items to dress your character up, which actually boost stats like control, impact, and spin. Yeah, wearing a full panda costume or cross dressing might actually help your golf game. Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 has tons of items to unlock. Winning a challenge mode tournament gives you one new head, accessory or body. If you cream the computer you can get extra cards, but this isn’t the only way to access all of the content. Some parts are hidden on the courses and can only be found by scouting with the camera. Others need to be obtained by playing a mini-game where golf balls are funneled into pits. Even if you completely ignore the multiplayer mode Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 will keep you busy for many, many hours if you take on the unlocking challenge.
I suppose this isn’t entirely different from the Hot Shots golf formula, so I went right into the infrastructure multiplayer mode after practicing with Luke. Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 does not have a lobby where you can walk around and meet other players. The online interface has been greatly simplified where you can test your skill in a 16-player tournament* or match play. Three options are presented, but if you click on change settings you can define parameters like “beginner characters only” or enter a code to enter a private group. However, Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 doesn’t have a real matchmaking system. It’s up to the player to find compatible opponents, which isn’t easy even with the G3 (novice only) setting. I’m not the best Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 player in the world and on my first online I match I was outclassed by a player dressed in a king outfit. It was a humbling defeat because after three holes he won and I didn’t have to waste his time trudging through the remaining holes. Thanks, mercy system.
I had better luck in a small tournament, but one distraction is the minute interval between courses. Players get a chance to “talk” to each other by picking canned phrases. Some of these are pretty amusing like, “Did you date my sister?” and the taunting “Want to not suck more?”. I understand Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 is an international game and having pre-programmed phrases is one way to allow players in other regions to communicate and skirt foul language. However, I wonder who added the odd phrase, “I love you Grandpa!”, as one of the choices. Also it doesn’t feel like players utilize the chat system much. Usually, it’s silent aside from me cycling through phrases trying to get a response. It would have been nice to include an option to skip socializing and get back to red orbs flying everywhere.
There is one awesome feature included in online tournaments that takes a cue from the achievement trend. Once you’re done with a tournament the game you get to take a picture with all of the participants, even ones that quit mid-game. If you press R to save the image the file you can view it by selecting photo in the PSP menu. Since the picture is a standard JPG image file it can be transferred online too.
While online play is the highlight of Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2, it doesn’t feel like many people are taking advantage of it. I haven’t been able to find many people playing with the world option. Even less use the domestic (USA) choice. It’s easy to find one-on-one challenges, but I’ve never been able to log on to a 16 person tournament. Maybe the game is too “new” in North America at this point, but I’ve actually held writing this to check for more players online during the weekend. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice a major change.
Images courtesy of Sony Computer Entertainment.