A Day On The Green.
I had a feeling, before I brought the game home, that it was going to be one of those games -- unlike a Mario-golf title -- that actually required the player to have some understanding of how the actual game of golf is played. I had none. Well, I knew that you had to hit the ball toward the hole, and I'd always assumed that the less strokes the better. But I didn't know any of the rules really, or understand which clubs were best for certain swings, etc. So, off to Wikipedia I went!
After a self-taught, crash course via the info offered on Wiki regarding golf, I felt that I had enough to get going with True Swing Golf (TSG). I followed my Wiki reading up by thoroughly reading over the instruction manual included with the game, and then gave TSG a whirl. I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to get right into the gameplay.
Now for the purposes of this review, I'm going to speak in the jargon (that I know thus far) of golf. I'm afraid that it would take much too long to stop and explain (or define) each term. If you don't understand part of what I'm referring to, please feel free to reply asking for clarification and I'll do my best to respond. There are several modes of play, and they're all quite fun. The first option you'll notice in the menu screen is the Quick Start option, which allows you to instantly begin playing either Stroke play or Match play. If you've only got a few minutes to kill, it's a great way to pass the time. Next is the Single Player option. This is perhaps the bulk of the game, and there are several sub-options contained therein:
Stroke Play: This allows you to basically experience a day on the green by yourself. You can try to get your best stroke score, playing a solo round.
Match Play: This allows you to play a round against a CPU character. Lowest strokes per hole wins the hole, and whomever wins 5 holes out of 9 wins the round. It's a good place to win items (more on items later).
Championship: This is the area I have the most experience in. I enjoy it the most because it offers the feeling of going on an actual golf tour. You begin as an amateur (which, for me, was also the reality), and work your way through the ranks. If you're any good you can earn money at the end of the matches, and money is a good thing.
Free Round: This last option basically allows you to practice on various holes, and it's a great way to develop your skills with adjusting the lie, dealing with wind, etc.
Other gaming variables include the Options menu and Wireless Play, which I'll get to in just a bit. However, let me now try to describe some of the golfing basics for this game.
A typical hole begins with the camera showing you a moving bird's-eye view of the hole in play. You can choose to skip the animation by simply touching the touch screen. You're then ready to drive the ball. The first time I looked at the screen I was a little intimidated; there seemed to be so many options onscreen while the ball was in play. But it's really not complicated, and most of what you're seeing are the different variables, such as ball distance from the cup, wind direction and speed, flag direction, etc. The main things you'll want to rely on are the camera views. There are two views that you can take advantage of during your turn: Map Zoom and Target Cam. Both aide you in setting your ball on the best path toward the cup. Additionally, you can change your clubs, of course, as well as adjust the lie of the ball. There's also a "?" icon that gives you quick help with certain gameplay options.
Using a "target cursor," you aim in which direction you want to hit the ball. Once set, hit the Swing button and it's go time. This is, of course, the moment (though brief) you've been waiting for. It's a DS game after all, and you'll be using the stylus to swing your club. Interestingly, the game doesn't just register the accuracy of drawing a straight line, but also the speed with which you strike the ball. So, if you're wanting to drive the ball any fair distance you cannot simply draw a straight line at any rate you so choose. You'll have to combine accuracy with speed, and it's not that easy. But it definitely makes the game interesting, and would seem to add a wonderful level of realism.
As mentioned previously, you earn money through Championship play. You can then use that cash at the Golf Shop. Like a Sims game, you can buy stuff to mack your character out in nifty duds. However, there's also quite a few useful items that will help to better your game, such as better clubs, gloves and shoes. It's a great way to add depth to an already well-rounded game.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of TSG is the multiplayer. Now, I haven't had the opportunity to experience the multi-card play, but I am definitely intending on picking up a copy for my wife next time I'm up at Blockbuster again. However, we have really had a great time with the single-card offering. Though you cannot choose your character -- the one that you've macked out through Championship play -- and you only get 3 courses to choose from, it's still a whole lot of fun. As a matter of fact, I think my wife enjoys this game more than I do. But there's nothing like playing against actual human opponents -- the competitive element always adds to the excitement.
The look of the game is really quite nice, and developed perfectly for the type of game that it is. Yeah, there's some blockiness to the top-screen textures, but the characters look pretty good and the overall look is very nice. More importantly, everything you need to see or that you'd imagine should be offered in a game like this is there. The sound too is quite nice, and there's a good variety of musical themes that add a bit of excitement to what might otherwise be an overly-somber experience.
I consider this game to be one of those really neat finds that you always hope to come across in the bargain bin. Most games in the pile belong there, but True Swing Golf was a diamond in the rough for me. It's a relaxing game that's very enjoyable, especially after hours of saving some world in a fantasy RPG. There's a definite learning curve if you're not already familiar with the actual game of golf, but otherwise it's a really easy game to pick up and play. It's really well made, well presented and offers a very healthy amount of good times. It's golf though, so don't expect a party; it's more like sipping sherry in front of a fire.
One last thought: The manual is -- like most Nintendo-published manuals are -- in full color and very detailed in its descriptions. In addition, it offers a full glossary of terms in the back of the manual. So, if you're not up on your golfing jargon this can be a real help.
My Score: 8.5 (A welcome addition to any DS collection.)
Any cons? Well, as I said earlier in my review, the textures can be a tad blocky at certain times throughout the game. Also, though the music is really well made and the samples are quite lengthy, they can get old halfway through a round. Other than those two things and the fact that the game's catered toward experienced golfers, it's a really top-notch title.
Thanks for reading, and happy gaming!