It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.
The most frustrating thing about golf is how hard it can be to simply hit the ball. It just sits there like a nail waiting to be pounded, but as soon as you bring down the hammer, the disobedient little sucker ducks. Your only option, clearly, is to grab it in your meaty palm and hurl it before it has a chance to dribble away. Sure, you'll get weird looks from the guys at the driving range, but you can chalk those up to jealousy. And they spent all that money on those stupid clubs! Suckers.
Plus, those things don't even play movies, much less golf video games like Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee. This pared-down PSP version of the popular console series doesn't stray from the formula much at all. Although it lacks the real thing's learning curve or depth, Open Tee is the videogame equivalent of a Par 3 course – it's easy, clean, pretty, and great for novices. Clubhouse pros, on the other hand, will find Open Tee's archaic shot system and bares bones approach lacking in intrigue and finesse.
The modes are few and, except for the main Challenge mode, offer little in the way of long-term playability. The Strokes mode lets you simply play through any course you've unlocked and attempt to beat your high score, while the Putting Challenge gives you a score to beat and several point-valued holes in which to try and sink your ball. All this accomplishes is the isolation of the putting game, which is already on tap in Challenge mode.
Challenge mode has you completing - you guessed it - challenges. Some of these are one-on-one matches with other characters, others are full blown tournaments, and yet others are just regular matches. But whether you're competing against a rival or fending for your balls in a Skins tournament, you're still playing the same front and back nines of the same courses. The only noticeable changes from one match type to the next is the loot you get for winning.
The victory spoils range from new pants to wearable fox tails, matching the game's cutesy, Japanese aesthetic to a tee. You can also unlock new club-sets and balls. These are crucial, as different sets will favor different aspects of your game as well as open up new abilities. Oddly, many of these abilities are things any decent golfer should be able to do with any set of clubs. For example, you can't hit a chili-dipper (a ball with a ton of loft that travels little after landing, often called a flop shot) with every set of clubs, and that isn't known as a particularly difficult thing to do in golf.
But if the single-player options are thin, the multiplayer options are anemic. You can play wireless matches with up to eight players, and that's it. No pass-and-play, no Infrastructure mode. People play golf all over the world and it's a shame you don't get to interact with them at all. This isn't a huge deal since in golf you're always playing against yourself, but an online leader board system would have been really nice.
Some new gameplay would have been ever nicer. From its swing mechanics to its caddie loyalty rewards, the core of Open Tee is ripped straight out of Hot Shots Golf Fore. Every single act of golfing in Open Tee is governed by three button presses and a meter. It doesn't matter if you're driving out of the tee box or attempting a difficult bunker shot near the green, you'll always press 'X' to start a meter filling, 'X' again to set power, and then 'X' a third time for accuracy. As the meter moves you can also influence the ball's spin by pressing directions on the D-pad.
This swing system is certainly user-friendly and adds an immense element of pick-up-and-playability, but it has barely changed at all since the series began in 1998. Even on a new portable system, such old mechanics make the whole thing feel repetitive, especially if you've played the other Hot Shots games.
Putting is also unchanged, but that's a good thing. Reading the green is easy thanks to little moving arrows that travel along the lines of an overlaid grid. It isn't pretty, but it's still one of the best putting systems on the planet.
The courses are tame and typical for the first several rankings, but then they start to get pretty outlandish. This is where Open Tee is at its most interesting, because you really have to think about where you're going to hit the ball on a course full of obstacles. Unfortunately, you'll have to play through a ton of easy challenges on boring courses before you get to this point – the difficulty could have ramped up a lot faster.
Open Tee definitely isn't hard to look at. The courses are colorful and smooth, the golfers are expressive and some tasteful effects, like dialogue boxes with musical notes or skulls to indicate good and bad shots, make for an all around clean game. It also carries on the series' hallmark of short load times.
The sound is also pulled directly from Fore, with irritating voices offset by clean effects. The caddie compliments definitely get repetitive, but repetitive compliments aren't the worst things in the world.
Once again sacrificing depth for accessibility, Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee is another solid entry in the series. It's nothing more than that, however, and simply porting it to the PSP with no notable additions seems a tad lazy. But if you've played the other titles at all, this is par for the Hot Shots course.