Don't let the bad lie get to you.
Some professional reviewers slip in their arguments due to their preconceived notions and lack of skill. One review in particular, whose author shall remain nameless (but I'm sure you can figure it out), essentially complains that Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational is too difficult and that one mistimed shot can send you down the scoreboard in seconds. He claims that the game should fit its cutesy aesthetic and that the progression is too harsh because it solely focuses on achieving first place. To that, I only have one word: nonsense.
I don't care if I sound like a heartless golf snob who shows off his round of 18 under par or his completion progress, but there's nothing that infuriates me more than a person despising a game just for not being good at it. Just because Hot Shots Golf looks simple and breezy, doesn't mean it needs to play that way. Its undulating fields of green where cel-shaded, full-faced characters and its soft, relaxing sounds of nature belie its challenging and rewarding gameplay.
If you happen to find World Invitational unforgiving, well then put in some effort and get better at it. Compared to Catherine or Dark Souls, this is a walk in the park. And if you still have trouble after a few rounds, the game will even throw in an easy mode where your rivals consistently stumble over themselves, posting ridiculous numbers over par. Yes, one unfortunate shot can send your ball into a water hazard or some godforsaken sand ditch, but instead of whining about it, learn from your mistakes and move on. That's golf.
It's already well-understood that golf is a game of patience and anxiety, where you must worry about the velocity of the wind, the incline and surface of the ball's lie, the club's carry and run distance, the incline of the ball's run distance, the width of the club's impact zone, the occasional tree or sign that might be in the ball's path, the added risk of bunkers and water hazards, and the steadiness of your hand. (Need more?) Much of your success depends on your estimations and experience handling all these conflicting forces at once, keeping in mind that the most important part is your precision when setting the power and accuracy of each shot. A millisecond can determine whether your next shot is from a gently rolling fairway or the wrong side of a pothole bunker. Yet it's these “do or die” moments that make golf games intense and, dare I say, fun.
It's true that the campaign progression is strict, as you must acquire stars by earning first-place victories to move onto the next tier of challenges in a higher rank. Courses become tighter and more hazardous while AI versus opponents become smarter, but it's far from impossible. Placing below the top spot isn't the end of the world. You still accumulate points for your performance on the course, from hitting fairways, getting close to the pin, and scoring anything better than a bogey on a hole. These points can then be used to unlock new balls and clubs that increase your golfer's overall stats, as well as unlock new characters, costume colors, and artwork.
However, one misstep is the introduction of crowns, which are by completing a hard-won goal while winning, like getting multiple consecutive birdies or performing a specific type of shot. Crowns are mainly optional, but you need them if you want to access the special versus matches. The trouble is that some goals are based too much on luck, particularly those with versus matches that are dependant on how idiotic the AI is at the moment. One even asks you to win with three bogeys, which means you have to go out of your way to miss. The other issue is that these goals needleessly remain hidden until you conquer the game once over. It's an unnecessarily prickish way to pad on extra replay value.
Online multiplayer fares much better, in part because World Invitational is one of the few Vita launch titles to have it in the first place. After activating the mode with the online pass, you can enter three daily international tourneys or enter tournaments through a lobby with a customized character. Though they're regularly dominated by players who can get birdies and eagles on nearly every hole (see, the game's not hard at all), it's great to face off against other veteran players. Lobby tournaments take place in real-time by way of a shot clock, which keeps players on their toes and prevents stalling. Though the amount of waiting time to start a tournament can be a bit numbing, that's hardly much to endure for how polished and active the multiplayer mode is.
Don't let anyone tell you otherwise—Hot Shots Golf: World Invitational will satisfy every fan of the golf genre and as polished as its console counterpart. The criticism that it's not as simple as its cheerful graphics is misguided, as anyone with good timing and planning can shoot up the scoreboard with ease. With a robust multiplayer, plenty of unlockable, and many hours of replay value, World Invitational is a clean, well-centered shot for the PlayStation Vita.