It might tee you off.
Think back to the first time you tried to hit a golf ball. I bet it didn't work out so well. How about first time you got behind the wheel of a car? No Mario Andretti, eh? What about the first time you cooked scrambled eggs, or went bowling, or surfed the Internet? Unqualified disasters, all of them, because first doesn't mean best.
Such is the case with Tee Off, the first golf game for the fledgling Dreamcast. While there isn't anything inherently wrong with the game, there's nothing particularly right about it either. Tee Off offers nothing new to the arcade golf genre, despite the power of the new system.
Tee Off follows the mold of other arcade golf games like the excellent Hot Shots Golf for the Playstation. This is in no way a simulation - no real pros or courses. But where Hot Shots brought quick loading times, great graphics, and an almost RPG quality to the table, Tee Off sometimes feels like a Rip Off.
The gameplay is pretty much identical to other arcade golf games. You get the cute little swing meter, the manually adjustable camera, and the golfers with the enormous anime heads. You have to account for varying wind conditions and lies. You get a choice of clubs and characters, all of which have different skill rankings. Nothing shocking here.
Tee Off features a somewhat paltry 5 courses, though the 15 different characters certainly add some depth. The course design is a bit boring. Most holes have a few scattered sand traps, a few trees and the occasional tricky spot, but for the most part there's plenty of open space. This is fantasy golf after all - how about some lava pits? Geysers? Maybe a giant clam? A little innovation never hurt anyone.
The basics are all accounted for. You can play in one of several modes. World Tour lets you compete for points across all five courses, unlocking new characters and equipment along the way. Then there's the standard Match and Stroke Play, as well as a Point Tourney. Oddest of all is Gate Ball.
Gate Ball is essentially croquet played in a Tron arena. You have to smash your ball through various gates before your opponents do. Not surprisingly, this is exactly as fun as it sounds. Perhaps things would be better if the AI wasn't quite so brain-dead. I set the difficulty one tick higher than normal and the CPU players missed the first gate over and over again - for 5 straight minutes. Redefines the word "doh!"
As a multiplayer game, Tee Off is capable. You can play with up to 3 friends, though if you actually have 3 friends willing to play video golf you should probably just go play for real.
Graphically, Tee Off is par for the course. (Note the fine texture of that pun. It goes well with red wine.) The courses are crisp, the colors are vibrant, and the framerate is smooth. The huge-headed characters look fine. Strangely , the loading times can get a bit excessive, a fact made all the more bizarre when you consider the burliness of the Dreamcast system. Why Tee Off has longer loading times than Soul Calibur is beyond me.
The sound in Tee Off is a delightful mix of terrible and crap. In addition to the lame voices, you'll find some truly annoying music. At times you'll think you're playing Sonic Adventure, what with the cheesy metal riffs and all. It doesn't take much to improve on this. I'm surprised they actually paid for the Casio-drumbeat-meets-Frampton-guitar-tone rock disaster they put in the game. I could personally write better songs by gargling musically after brushing my teeth.
Eardrum violations aside, Tee Off doesn't really do anything wrong. Fans of this kind of thing will be satisfied. But satisfaction is far from greatness, and Tee Off just seems content settling for the established mechanics. As the first golf title for the DC, it really could have added some oomph, particularly in terms of depth and innovation. Instead, this is merely an adequate diversion and an uninspired beginning to Dreamcast golf.