Swingerz Golf Preview
We bring you all the latest details on Fresh Games' upcoming over-the-top golfing game.
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Swingerz Golf is the latest game to make a bid at dominance in the competitive humorous golfing game category, which as of yet hasn't seen an entry on the GameCube. Originally released in Japan as Waku Waku Golf, it is being localized for English-reading audiences by Eidos' Fresh Games label, which has brought over such quirky titles as Mister Mosquito and Mad Maestro. Swingerz Golf's visual style is highly reminiscent of the popular Hot Shots series--it features similar-looking characters and a wide variety of gameplay modes with a focus on competition. What sets it apart, however, is the intuitive analog-based control scheme and four-player multiplayer support.
The characters in Swingerz Golf are modeled in a very cartoonish manner with a deformed look. Each character fits into an easily recognizable stereotype and has been brought to life with exaggerative facial expressions and animations. The two default characters available when first booting up the game are Yoshiki and Miho, who nicely represent what can be expected from Swingerz Golf's style. Yoshiki is a pop star, well known for his career in a budding boy band. He works out regularly, so his power is respectable, although his control is suspect, so he doesn't play very well in the rough. Miho is a former college star athlete who has just turned pro. While she always puts in top effort, her lack of power can provide problems, although she compensates with excellent ball control.
Other characters are unlocked through play in the single-player tour mode, and their personal abilities allow for contrasting difficulty and play styles. Sonny is the tough biker type who cruises onto the green on his vintage motorcycle. His power is considerable, but his ratings make for some problems with approach and recovery. Carlos is a typecast inner city youth who plays with hand-me-down clubs given to him by his father. Carlos is as comfortable on an 18-hole course as he is while playing basketball or when out dancing during a long night on the town. Lorraine is a ladies' golf champion and is quite the sports idol, but she is prone to frustration on the green and can go through hot and cold streaks. Lisa is a former Air Force colonel who has taken up golf as a pastime after retirement. She plays intelligently and makes up for her lack of experience with intelligent shot selection. Kenneth is an older golfer with great power and recovery, although his age makes playing in the winter difficult due to his aching joints. Rosetta is the youngest of the playable characters and is a child prodigy à la Doogie Howser, MD. But her doctoral degrees are just the icing on the cake. She invented the caddy robot and uses her supreme intellect to design strange machines, which analyze conditions on the course.
The characters that make up the rest of the Swingerz Golf lineup are equally as diverse. Kanunu is an unlikely competitor--a former sumo wrestler whose scale-tipping frame belies his talent as a singer and dancer. Weather conditions affect Kanunu conversely to the way they affect Kenneth--Kanunu plays well in the rain but can't stand the hot summer. Parmella is a Jamaican rock star who has taken up golf as a hobby and whose sense of rhythm can help her when driving off the tee. Cody is a seasoned player who has been competing since childhood. His great experience combined with his balanced talents makes for surprising results in the power and spin categories. Cody thrives in the summer heat, when his game is in top form. Charles was born into an aristocratic English family and has inherited a relaxed personality. His great skill and natural ability are assets, although he doesn't play well in the rain. Perhaps the most experienced character on the roster is Sandy, a senior pro. She firmly believes that she can't be beaten by the younger players and backs this up with polished technique and a knowledge of the game that easily overcome any decline in her power over the years. Each character is accompanied on the green by his or her choice of a caddy, who relays advice during each match--although whether or not these words should be minded is up to you.
The strengths and weaknesses of each of the playable characters are readily noticeable thanks to the game's sensitive analog control scheme. Much like in Outlaw Golf or Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2002, the swinging of the clubs is based on an analog control scheme where the C stick is reared back to generate power and then flicked upward for the club to make contact with the ball. The C stick handles this type of use quite well, and the notched casing around the stick makes for easier and smoother up and down movement than that found when playing with the Xbox and PS2 controllers' circle-encased right sticks. When swings are made, an onscreen readout of the linearity of the drive or putt is displayed, with a perfectly straight movement of the stick rewarding you with a much more powerful and accurate result. You can also put additional control behind your shots by putting spin on the ball. Before a shot is taken, the camera can be manually controlled to find the ideal target location for the ball to lie. Just as important as the shot itself is preparing for each stroke. Weather conditions can adversely affect a ball, with rain slowing down a ball as it sails through the air. Properly or improperly judging the outlying terrain can make or break a shot--especially during putts.
When you're on the putting green after an approach shot, an overlay is displayed, which relays many relevant bits of information to the golfer who needs to sink the perfect putt. The overlay is separated into a tiled grid, with the tiles bordered by dotted lines that move in the direction of where the green is sloped. This gives you an indication of whether to adjust your shot to the left or right. The overlay is also shaded in a gradation between red and blue, with red implying that the green is uphill and requires additional power and blue meaning that the green is downhill and can be tapped more lightly.
The six courses in the version of the game we played were full 18-hole affairs, with a variety of different hazards to avoid for each course. Sand traps and water hazards provide for challenging obstacles, and playing through each course lets you take in the details that were added to the environments, including leaves that flutter down from trees and masses of floating swans on the lakes. Playing through the courses is also made significantly different depending on what season you play in, with the choice to play during spring, summer, winter, or autumn.
The competent golf physics allow for aggressive, fine-tuned competition in the single-player tour mode and in the various minigames that Swingerz Golf offers. The single-player mode lets you control any of the golfers that have been unlocked so far and take them on the road across the game's various courses. In addition, groups of players can take part in stroke or match play, with full four-player support. Adding to the game's features are three minigames including nearest the pin, survival, and mission. Nearest the pin challenges you to take a single shot on a par-three course, attempting to get the ball as close to the pin as possible. Survival is a single-player, elimination-styled competition where the highest scorer on each hole is eliminated. Mission mode is a series of shot-making challenges for you to attempt, testing your ability in a variety of skills. For example, you may have to make a chip shot to within three feet of a hole, in three out of nine attempts. Other types of challenges may include having to hit three accurate or "excellent" shots with at least 50 percent power.
In our time with Swingerz Golf we were able to take in the game's campy style and competent gameplay. While the game played very much like an accurate golfing simulation, fun features like power-ups and balls that shatter the television screen have been added, which should make the game loads of fun to play. In all, it's a serious competitor in a field filled with competent, lighthearted golfing games. Swingerz Golf is currently scheduled for release in the fall. We'll have much more on the game in the coming months.
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