On the Par 4 green in one.
All I’m sayin' is that if it looks like Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds, sounds like Out of Bounds, smells like Out of Bounds, then it’s probably Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2. Though Open Tee 2 is not a straight port from Out of Bounds on the PS3, it might as well be, with its bubbly characters, clean-crafted courses, gentle-sloping learning curve, music that won’t make you want to hit the mute button, and overall knack not to make any misses. It’s probably made by those darn perfectionists… wait… that’s a good thing.
Everything that has been said about the Hot Shots Golf series can be plagiarized and rewritten into a review for this eighteen-hole pick-up-and play portable, and well, I don’t like to waste time [This better not be Gamespot's review. ~Ed]. By now, if you’re even remotely interested in this game, you’re either already a veteran of the series - or you’re the type of person who sees a golf title on the rack and thinks it would be good one to grab because there isn’t much for the PSP and you secretly like golf deep inside your heart but you didn’t go for it and you still think about it occasionally at the strangest times… yeah, I hate sitting on the toilet too.
Trying to explain the sport of golf (if you can even call it sport) without having the common person whack the side of your head for some small ounce of excitement (and sanity) is strangely difficult, considering that it’s supposed to be popular enough to have its own channel. Just the idea that you’re walloping a tiny glossy ball with a tiny metal stick into a tiny white cup a not-so-tiny distance away from you is rather silly. The rules and traditions are even sillier. Why are there precisely eighteen holes? Why is there no 6 wood when there’s every wood from one through five and seven? Why force nature – trees, lakes, and sand dunes – into obstacle slavery? This isn’t a sport – it’s a landscaping project!
Open Tee 2 follows the Hot Shots Golf formula almost to the point. You start out with a novice-class character, who lacks power behind the club but has a wide impact zone for accuracy. As you win tournaments, defeat opponents in match play, and open up more difficult courses, you’ll get your hands on characters that can drive like Tiger Woods but need a steady hand and a keen eye, so that the ball doesn’t land in something that isn’t light-cut grass. Win enough tournaments at a certain rank and you have the opportunity to face off against an unlockable character, whose defeat upgrades your rank and opens even more difficult challenges until you reach the almighty Platinum level.
Reaching the pin in a few strokes actually requires a lot of math, a bit of gut instinct, and an uncanny ability to stop a vertical line moving left and right on a horizontal bar at just the right moment. You know, just like real golf… It’s unfortunate that the Advanced Shots mode from Out of Bounds, which gives you the option to do away with the bar and use the golfer’s animation for your precision, is missing here. Still, it’s a system that has always worked for golf titles and that doesn’t change here.
The other half of golf is in superior planning - or becoming one with the abacus of golf and tabulating all the itty-bitty factors that nature can throw at you - a point which every course excels at. Open Tee 2 doesn’t just copy over other courses from the Hot Shots Golf catalogue or dumb down the production values. The progression from novice-class to expert-class courses is natural, both lenient and brutal where it needs to be: narrower fairways, gusts that can shift your ball’s path ten yards in any direction, pin placements that are on steep slopes or in the center of an island surrounded by water or out-of-bounds valleys (or both!), and all manner of precariously placed sand pits and assorted phallic plants. (Don’t even ask the caddie for help. They’ll just tell you what a fool you are after you hit the shot.)
Better yet, your golfer of choice improves as you improve at the game. In addition to a character’s loyalty, which adds power shots and slots for costume adjustments the more you use that character, completing challenges earns you clothing cards that give a boost to the primary attributes for every character. You don’t have to complete every tournament to reach the Platinum rank, but you can allow yourself some extra credit and build your power, control, and spinning abilities, which generously carry over to matches online. The only oddity is that some golf clubs, costumes, and unlockable characters can only be found on the course itself by searching for them with the camera. The last thing I want to do in golf is disorient myself and play hide and seek, when I’m already doing just fine on my own trying to find where the heck my ball is.
Exactly like the online mode for Out of Bounds, the wireless match-ups and tournaments for Open Tee 2 are a breeze to setup and impressively fast-paced because you’re on a time clock. Suddenly with a timer winding down, you have to work your noggin’ twice as hard while keeping your nerve so that your fingers don’t twitch. It’s an incredible test of your skill that, like Out of Bounds, should be available as a regular single-player mode.
That said, there is still a short laundry list of minor annoyances. You can’t go back to the main menu and quit a match until a hole is finished. You also can’t take out your pitching wedge for punch shots, and when you’re on the putting green, you can’t switch to any other club but your putter in case the pin is still a hundred feet away. Every once in a while, you will find the winds blowing at a rate of “? m” (yes, it’s a freakin’ question mark), though you can just figure out the wind speed by seeing how fast the animation for the wind arrow is going. So why have “? m” wind speeds as at all? Finally, the A.I. for tournaments acts like a single and predictable organism rather than a group of individuals. They will always putt in birdies for the first few holes and then fall to a practically fixed score at the end. It’s like sprinting against a throng of runners all tied to a rubber band.
Open Tee 2 is a pint-sized yet full-sized update to the Hot Shots Golf series that challenges its PS3 brother and ultimately wins. It has all the features of Out of Bounds but replaces the horrible Mii-like online characters with a slew of customizable parts and allows you to permanently upgrade the vital stats of the entire character roster. If you have always wanted to pick up a golf title, whether you are on the go or not, step up to the tee and give this a shot.