Hot Shots Golf and innovation are two things that apparently don't go well together. The series has always provided a good round of arcade-style golf, but the lack of improvement in Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 for the PSP is hard to understand and even harder to forgive. It plays just like the last Hot Shots game on the PSP, though it does have more courses and an online mode. Open Tee 2 is fun, but it's more of the same.
Open Tee 2 plays identically to Open Tee. The new swing mechanic found in Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds for the PlayStation 3 is nowhere to be found here. Using the series' traditional meter and three-button-press system, you hit X to start your swing, X again to set power, and X yet again to determine accuracy. You still have a limited number of times you can press square to increase your power, you still press the D pad during your swing to add spin to the ball, and putting is unchanged. The controls are accurate, rounds are fast-paced, load times are quick. It's Hot Shots.
Not everything is the same. There are 12 total courses as well as 12 new characters. The way you improve your golfer has changed, too. After a round is over you'll be awarded with wardrobe cards. Not only can these cards customize your character's looks, they can also improve your golfer's attributes. If you earn enough cards you'll unlock new characters--but you might not want to jump right in with one, because you're rewarded with a loyalty bonus if you play with the same golfer a lot. This loyalty bonus will give you the ability to perform more advance shots. Cards and loyalty bonuses may sound exciting and new, but it doesn't change the fact that you have to play the same courses repeatedly before you unlock new characters and courses.
Online play is perhaps the most notable addition to Open Tee 2. There aren't many people playing online and it can be difficult to find an opponent even if you increase your search for available players to the entire world. You can arrange to meet up with a friend online, but it's difficult to find them unless you've agreed upon a group name to use with them ahead of time. The cool online lobby system from the recent PS3 Hot Shots would have solved this problem nicely, but sadly it's not here. Should you find an opponent you'll be able to participate in 16-player tournaments as well as head-to-head matchups. Once we managed to connect with opponents the gameplay was as smooth as it is offline--though we did get disconnected from a few players. Online play isn't the only multiplayer option; you can play locally via ad hoc as well.
Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2's presentation is adequate, though it's essentially unchanged from the last PSP game. The new golfers and caddies look just as goofy and cartoony as the old ones and fit right in. The game's new courses look just fine--they're not particularly impressive looking and the layouts aren't anything special. They get the job done, but they're not all that different from the previous courses. Annoying, repetitive music--another series staple--is here in full force. Thankfully, you can turn it off.
The formula that Clap Hanz so strictly adheres to is a good one, and as a result Open Tee 2 is a good golf game. It's just frustrating that 10 years after the first Hot Shots Golf, we're stuck with essentially the same game with just a few more features and courses.