Watch out, Tiger.
When someone wasn't looking, the world went out and stole the game of golf from the gold-plated clutches of the elite. Now, anyone can hit the links with the likes of Ted von Lederhosen VI and Buffy Vanderbilt, of the Boston Vanderbilts. Score one for the peasants!
With the appeal of golf spreading to a wider audience, golf games have become a little less serious and a little more fun. Electronic Art's Swing Away Golf tries to get away from the traditional game of golf by injecting it with a healthy dose of cartoony attitude. How does it do? Just step up to the tee and prepare for an interesting eighteen.
Swing Away has three modes of play from which to choose. The main mode you'll be playing is Story mode, followed by a Normal mode and Course Designer. In Story, you'll create a character and build up stats through amateur competition as well as tournament play. This is also the place to win new gear, unlock more characters and new games. In Normal mode, you'll find multiplayer games as well as the games that you've unlocked through Story mode. Finally, the Course Designer lets your creative side show by giving you the ability to create you very own fields of play.
With the attitude that Swing Away claims, you would think that the cast of characters would be an outrageous lot. Instead, the characters that adorn the box cover initially seem to be a very dull bunch. Even though they follow a definite cartoon mold, the majority of these guys look like plain Jane (John) golfers. What really sets them apart from Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods are their amusing course antics. How many times have you seen a golfer knock out the camera man after a bad performance? Also, most of the characters have silly voices. This is one case where top-notch voice acting would have been a bad thing.
From the forest to the desert to the seaside, players will battle it out on one of six available courses. There really isn't anything spectacular about each individual course and the layouts are very straightforward, occasionally bordering on dull.
In fact, the developers really decided to play it safe. The goofy golfers seem a little out of place on the comparatively bland courses. How about cartoony courses to match the cartoony characters? The courses are all normal, featuring all the typical elements you'd expect - sand, water, etc. But this isn't a golf sim, right? Why not throw in some wacky, creative holes to add flavor?
Swing Away follows the traditional gameplay formula and does everything you'd expect it to. First, you determine what club to use. Next, you decide on the direction of your shot and finally, you hit the ball. Swing Away uses the standard three click swing: Start / Power / Direction. Simple, easy, and familiar. It's not nuclear physics.
Even with the relative simplicity of the game, there is the occasional loading chug between shots. You would expect a relaxed game of golf to be a cinch for the PS2 to handle, but for some reason you'll occasionally stumble through the transition between shots or players. While it doesn't happen excessively, it does kind of put a damper on the experience, particularly when you compare it to the incredibly quick-loading Hot Shots Golf for the PSX.
Swing Away's graphics are decent and do the job fine. Characters are clean looking and the course textures look exactly as they should. But considering the power of the new system, I hoped for a little more flash.
Aside from the silly voices, the game's sound effects are spot on. After all, I guess it's pretty hard to screw up a golf ball getting whacked. Music is a typical happy-go-lucky selection that hangs out in the background without doing a whole lot of damage.
To keep you interested, there is a golf bag full of unlockables available in Story mode. Eight different games can be unlocked throughout the course of game including Skins, Sudden Death, and 2-Ball Foursome. Three additional characters can also be unlocked, bringing the number of available characters to an impressive ten. It's always good to see developers giving gamers an incentive for further play.
Another nice feature is the ability to play a four-person multiplayer game via the multitap. Why not kick three butts in one swing?
Overall, Swing Away Golf is a fun little golfer whose attitude and extras keep the game from getting too dull. Some problems with minor slowdown and the lack of creative courses are a disappointment, but the game doesn't suffer too greatly. If lighthearted video game golfing doesn't sound like such a bad idea, this one's for you.