Sony's Hot Shots Golf series has unquestionably been a singular force in the field of console golf games since its inception. Hot Shots' polished, anime-influenced style and intuitive gameplay have garnered the series a small legion of fans and made console golf games generally more accessible. Filling the void of arcade-style golf games on the GameCube is Swingerz Golf, a game released under the Eidos Fresh Games label that is inspired heavily by Hot Shots Golf. It doesn't quite live up to the quality of the Hot Shots series, but players looking for an arcade-style golf game with a low learning curve may have some fun with Swingerz Golf anyway.
The overall look and feel of the game are highly reminiscent of Hot Shots Golf, but Swingerz abandons the digital three-click swing in favor of a newfangled analog swing system, which uses a down-and-up motion on the C stick to determine the strength and accuracy of your shot. You are also aided by a swing meter at the bottom of the screen, which makes it easier to govern the power of your swing. Putting is handled similarly, though a grid is placed over the green to give you a better feel for the contours of the turf. During your first few times off the tee you may find that the analog control can be very touchy, and too much lateral motion on the C stick during your swing can completely botch a shot. But as you progress through the different gameplay modes in Swingerz, you'll earn better gear, such as precision clubs and longer driving balls, which ultimately make the analog swing system more forgiving.
The different modes of play available in Swingerz Golf are slightly less robust than what we've come to expect from a console golf game. The standard stroke and match play modes are present and accounted for, and there's a small collection of minigames included as well. There's a near-pin contest, which, oddly, cannot be played against AI opponents. The fighting-game-styled survival mode tests how many holes you can beat the computer at consecutively. The mission mode consists of a series of skill-based challenges, like getting the ball within 3 feet of the hole or driving the ball into a specified area on the course, and these challenges prove to be an excellent way to sharpen your skills, as they tend to focus on certain core competencies.
The stroke and match play modes are good for some multiplayer action, and the minigames are a decent diversion, but the real core of Swingerz Golf is the tour mode, where players compete in a series of tournaments as well as one-on-one matches. Success in the tour mode will earn you stars, which can be used to unlock the game's colorful players and caddies and can also be used to make the game's seven different courses playable in stroke and match games. The cast of Swingerz Golf is suitably over the top, featuring nutty caricatures of a Japanese pop singer, a biker, and a break-dancing urban kid, among others. The courses, on the other hand, are fairly straightforward and uninspired, never really reflecting the game's otherwise exaggerated and playful attitude.
The visuals of Swingerz Golf generally do a decent job of conveying that attitude, though their effectiveness is undermined by the game's technical shortcomings. Every drive off the tee is punctuated with some kind of camera trickery, whether it be the ball flying through the camera, producing a shattering transition effect, or a quick photo-album-style breakdown of the swing, but Swingerz has only a handful of these to show off, and you'll see all of them more than once during a single 18-hole game. The character models are simple, which isn't necessarily bad, but their textures look dull and fuzzy, almost making the golfers look like refugees from an N64 game. Curiously, the courses fare much better, featuring good, clean-looking textures throughout, though the ho-hum course design in Swingerz Golf keeps them from ever being especially breathtaking. The game's sound design is even less pleasing, thanks to the characters' limited bank of sound bites and the looping background noise. The game's exuberant soundtrack is actually pretty fitting, but it too is hurt by a limited number of tunes.
There's not a lot of competition in the field of arcade-style golf games on the GameCube at the moment, and this deficiency definitely works to the advantage of Swingerz Golf. The game is very middle-of-the-road in most aspects of its execution, and none of it is as fun or as inspired as the Hot Shots Golf games that Swingerz was obviously modeled after. GameCube owners smitten with the Hot Shots style may be able to look past the game's middling execution and find a decent game of golf, but they probably still won't find the game they're looking for.