It ain't got that swing.
If you take away newfangled hooey like oversized drivers, Kryptonite putters and pre-round steroid cocktails, the fundamental game of golf has barely changed in five hundred years. The technology has advanced and the players are decidedly less gentlemanly and more NASCAR, but you still hit the little ball with the big club towards the tiny hole. The less you do this, the better you are.
While this real-world leisure game for the rich has relied on the archaic mechanic of "swinging," the video game version of the sport has challenged itself to constantly invent new ways to do the same old thing. First there was the three-click swing meter, then the analog-stick push and pull, and now, according to True Swing Golf, we have the "truest" way to approximate the physical act of swinging a golf club - drawing a line. And if you believe that, then this interesting but clearly flawed golf sim might be just what the caddie ordered.
Unlike most Nintendo games, True Swing has no ties to any classic mascot, past or present, nor does it contain any licensed PGA pros. Instead, you choose one of eight pre-made male or female skins, select "cool" or "wild" attitude, then wonder aloud why this character creator sucks so bad. All of the characters have the same stats - which is to say, none.
After fumbling through the meager player registration, you get to hack away at the most straightforward game of video golf ever. Though the menu offers a few different selections, the single-player game boils down to single game or tournaments play in stroke or match varieties. Meanwhile, more complicated modes like Skins, Stableford or Best Ball continue their vacations in Tiger Woods country. The only interesting mode is Championship, which is also the only way to make money to spend on the thin selection of new clothes and equipment. The gear modifiers are pretty negligible with very minor affects on general curve, spin or power ratings.
But none of those wind up making much of a difference thanks to the game's pomp and pride, its 'true swing' mechanic. The top screen shows your golfer, the course and some basic yardage info, while the touch screen initially allows you to aim with a somewhat inaccurate cursor. When you're ready to swing, the touch screen changes to a picture of the ball and the club head. You simply drag the stylus back and swipe it forward to emulate the swinging of a golf club; the farther you draw it back and the faster you bring it forward, the stronger the shot.
At first, it feels great. Mimicking a golf swing with a pared down spatial gesture makes sense and indeed, it works pretty well. You really don't need to know a thing about golf, be it real or digital, to make a connection in True Swing.
The downside is that it's absurdly easy. The game helps immeasurably by giving you a handy 'flag' line marker so you'll know exactly how far back to swing to, say, hit the flag. Though this doesn't ensure that you'll hole out from 150 yards, it makes judging distance almost entirely moot, transforming the act of swinging into a mere matter of how well you can draw a straight line.
In a rare stroke of honesty, True Swing's linear mechanic leaves open the possibility of whiffing entirely. Strike three! It doesn't happen often, but it's far more realistic to swing and miss the ball than to hit it perfectly straight down the fairway time and again, so at least there's some truth to the swing system, not to mention the title.
Which should probably be changed to Truly Easy Golf, especially when putting. In addition to the distance marker, you're aided by arrows overlaid on the green to represent slope and a dark red line indicating the likely trajectory of the putt itself. Simply line this up with the hole, take into account any uphill or downhill speed modifiers, swing straight and you'll be an overnight Arnold Palmer.
Really the biggest problem with the true swing mechanic is its generally forgivable nature. You won't really screw the pooch too severely with shanked shots, but you won't rack up twelve birdies in a row like a Tiger Woods veteran, either. You'll be shooting par rounds within the first hour and you won't really get much better over time, because there isn't anything to get better at. It's an accessible yet boring system, more PDA than PGA.
None of the fifteen courses stand out graphically, but that's more a result of the game's tepid overall presentation than a course design issue. The player animations are fine and the load times are very quick, but the backgrounds are pixilated and the textures are flat and dull. You won't find anything thrilling in the audio, either. Canned MIDI tracks loop endlessly during play, occasionally broken up by basic sound golf effects.
Probably the steadiest club in True Swing's bag is its multiplayer functionality. You can play wirelessly with three other DS owners with only one card thanks to DS download play and a shared demo. Plus, built-in Pictochat means you can draw terrible things and send them to other players right as they're about to take a swing. Try hitting the ball with an awful sketch of a penis staring you down.
Or better yet, don't. True Swing Golf's attempt to revolutionize video golf swings and misses thanks to its oversimplified control, marginal delivery and uninspired play modes, so we recommend saving your cash for a cleaner, harder course.