Golf is a game almost perfectly suited for a handheld experience. You can play a hole in less than a minute, it doesn't require you to react to events in real time, and the pacing goes no faster than you allow it. These qualities make Tiger Woods PGA Tour inherently one of the better sports games to grace the DS yet, and its use of some of the system-specific functionality makes for a unique experience. However, this is still Tiger Woods, and the game will have a good, familiar feel for longtime fans.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour doesn't offer an incredible breadth of gameplay options, but it's enough. The main draw is the legend tour, where you play as a custom avatar in a series of multiday tournaments, as well as one-on-one matches against real-life pros like Retief Goosen, Vijay Singh, and, eventually, Tiger himself. There are dozens of different challenges in the legends tour, and it will take you a good while to work your way through all of them. The game's character customization is somewhat limited from an aesthetic perspective, but you still have nine different attribute categories that determine how well you'll perform out on the links. Any prize money you win during the legend tour can be used to buy more attribute points. Playing through the legend tour will unlock courses and pros for use in the quick play mode, which is good if you're just looking for some quick golf without a lengthy time commitment.
Tiger Woods also features Wi-Fi multiplayer for up to four people. You can choose between match, stroke, and skins games, and you can choose to play the full 18 holes, the front or back nine, three random holes, or a custom set of holes of your choice. Once a game is started, all the players go at the same time, which means no waiting for your turn, but it also limits your interaction with the other players. The multiplayer works well enough, but it's just not that big of a selling point.
Most of the actual content is pretty standard Tiger Woods fare, but it's the control mechanics that set this version apart from other Tiger Woods games. When you're lining up your shots, you're given a 2D overhead view of the course on the lower screen, and you can adjust your aim using either the D pad or the stylus. We found that, when on the fairway, the stylus was more responsive. But, when lining up a putt, the stylus control felt a little too touchy, and instead the D pad allowed for greater accuracy.
Once you've lined up your shot, the lower screen will present you with a set of meters. The main swing meter is hook-shaped, and its different segments will determine the quality of your swing. Drawing the stylus down the right-hand side of the swing meter will determine how much power your swing has. Start from the top of the meter, and you'll go full bore; start in the middle, and only 50 percent of your full potential will be put into the swing. Once you hit the turn at the bottom of the swing meter, you'll draw the stylus back up the screen, and this will determine how straight your shot is. There's also a bar on the far right that you can rub quickly to add some extra boost to your shot before you swing. It's not a revolutionary thing, but it lends a nice tactile edge to the action. And, if nothing else, it makes good use of the touch screen. You can affect the spin of the ball while it's in the air by dragging the stylus over the ball on the lower screen in the desired direction, and the more you do it the greater the spin is, though there's no good graphical cue to let you know just how much spin you've put on the ball.
Unfortunately, all of these unique mechanics fall by the wayside once you get to the short game. The game doesn't give you any means to determine the contours of the green, and you'll have to rely entirely on your caddy tips for figuring out where you should aim your shot. Once it's lined up, you just hit the putt icon, and the rest happens automatically. While the game on the fairway is good fun, the putting just feels really halfhearted.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour looks about as good as it plays--which is to say that it's generally pretty proficient, but there are portions that are a little awkward and feel somewhat unfinished. While the bottom screen is all meters and overhead maps, the top screen shows the action in full 3D, and it does a pretty good job. The course textures aren't amazing, but it looks good enough that the real-life courses in the game are still recognizable. For example, the first time the game does a flyover of the first hole at Pebble Beach, you'll know exactly where you are. The polygonal player models are just a little bit on the chunky side, but their swing animations are smooth and natural enough to keep this from being too much of a distraction. Oddly, though, all of the incidental animation--reacting to a shot or walking away from a hole--looks really choppy and stuttery.
The sound in Tiger Woods PGA Tour is pretty spare by comparison. There are a few environmental sounds, such as the waves breaking and gulls cawing at Pebble Beach, but they all sound really mechanical and tinny. The same can be said for the swing and crowd noises, which don't have enough variety and just end up sounding canned. There's a little bit of music at the menu screens, but it's all just bad MIDI tunes, and on the whole, you can kill the sound in Tiger Woods PGA Tour and not miss out on much.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour isn't going to convert anyone who has avoided golf games up till now, but the game does take good advantage of the capabilities of the DS. It has its rough edges, but still manages to come out as a pretty solid game of golf.