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Powerstar Golf Review: A Loot-Based Golf Game That Rivals Hot Shots
Approaching the first full month that both the Xbox one and the PS4 have been out and in consumers’ hands, everyone is searching for the one game that keeps bringing them back to their big, early purchase.
For me, I was actually surprised at what that game was. I figured I’d be swimming through zombie hordes in Dead Rising 3, slaughtering legionnaires in Ryse, becoming a Shadow Commander in Killzone, or even have my heart warm up from listening to Jeremy Clarkson describe race tracks in Forza 5. Instead, I’ve found myself and a group of friends pining to play more Powerstar Golf than anything. If anything has surprised me since the next gen launched, it has to be how fun and addictive a loot-based golf game is.
Rivaling Hot Shots Golf
When it comes to arcade golf, the number one title/series in everyone’s mind is Everybody’s Golf (Hot Shots Golf for everyone in America).
Hot Shots has always been the ultimate title to get for a hit of the arcade sports stick, at least for me it was. When NBA Street, NFL Blitz, NHL Hitz, and the Backyard titles went downhill Hot Shots Golf stayed great and improved over the years. Hot Shots Golf Out of Bounds on the PS3 and Worldwide Invitational for the Vita were great games and I honestly can’t wait to see what the series can do on the PS4.
All that praise being said, after my 40-some-odd hours playing Powerstar Golf, I can say that this new challenge in the arcade golf genre packs quite a punch.
I couldn’t end this Powerstar Golf review without mentioning that this game isn’t just about arcade golf. Zoe Mode mixed in some off-the-wall gameplay features that actually do wonders for this title. Most notably, the loot-based progression is addictive and a great way to see your favorite character get better and better as more matches are played. The Rival system may not be the best alternative for online play, however, the way you can challenge your friends in many different ways offers a competitive edge in an otherwise local-only game.
All of these major features all go into making Powerstar Golf an addictive, extremely fun, challenging, and competitive game. How well does that translate to going head-to-head with Hot Shots Golf? Extremely well, actually. Pitting these two games against each other will offer similar experiences in most ways, however, if you are so used to how Hot Shots is then you may welcome Powerstar Golf with open hands thanks to the progression system and constant XP, Credit, Personal Records, and Rival competitions.
Powerstar Golf throws a lot out at you during a match. For one, each career game and golf course offers unique challenges and each of them gets more challenging as you progress. By the time you hit the Hot Sands course, you’ll be sweating bullets to hit the perfect drive or line up your putt just correctly.
Indeed, Powerstar Golf does a lot right and offers quite a fun way to want to progress through the game and get better. That much is obviously better than Hot Shots Golf where the only incentive to progress is to unlock more characters, caddies, and clothes. At least in Powerstar Golf, you’re unlocking all of that as well as getting new clubs and becoming more powerful as a golfer along the way.
However, there are still some things I like better in Hot Shots Golf. For one, the presentation is much better in Hot Shots. The way Clap Hanz presents a whole worlds of arcade golf is just incredible. Powerstar Golf’s presentation is pretty simple. You hit the menus, go into the course, and play. There’s nothing extravagant about it or extra. It’s a pretty plain game in terms of presentation.
That feeling may also be coming from that fact that there is virtually no online component to Powerstar Golf. While you have the whole Rival system to contend with, you can’t go online and play your friends or even participate in tournaments. I mean, this is 2013 going on 2014 in just a couple weeks. This is the start of the next gen with the Xbox One and PS4 and here we have an arcade golf game that doesn’t include online multiplayer. This is very disappointing and there’s just no way around that.
The other gameplay aspect that I feel is handled better in Hot Shots Golf is putting. Powerstar Golf’s putting is extremely differently from the rest of the game. While an entire drive towards the hole will give you that arcade-y feel, putting can and probably will frustrate you. It is extremely realistic and offers a difficulty curve that doesn’t compliment the rest of the drive. I’m not saying that putting is bad in Powerstar Golf because it’s too real and can be hard. My point here is that putting in Powerstar Golf feels off from the rest of the game.
Hot Shots Golf does an amazing job throughout the entire course of presenting to you the arcade feeling. From the banter coming from the golfers and caddies (which isn’t present here in Powerstar Golf), to the power shots and spin effects, there is just less arcade present in Powerstar Golf.
Does that hurt the overall product? No, not in my eyes. Is it something I’d like to see touched on in the future? Absolutely.
The main thing here is that this is supposed to be an arcade golf game so comparisons against Hot Shots Golf are inevitable. There is no way Powerstar Golf can exist without competing against Clap Hanz and their juggernaut of arcade golf. When you put them side-to-side, sure, Hot Shots Golf will win when it comes to presentation, online play, and that grand ‘ol arcade-y feel.
However, Powerstar Golf can be just as fun and offers a unique way of progression that brings you back for more. This is something that Hot Shots Golf doesn’t do. You’re not just playing more and more to unlock characters or clothes. Powerstar Golf keeps bringing you back because of the loot. The grand and luscious LOOT! You will want to play that next set of 9 holes just to get enough credits to buy a Pro or Elite pack of items. When you open a pack and get a brand new set of irons and its an Elite rarity, man you just think back to games like Diablo, Phantasy Star Online, and Torchlight when you opened that chest and found a sick set item.
I am a sucker for loot-based progression and when you add that feature to a golf game like Powerstar Golf, it keeps me coming back for more and more. This is where the game shines the brightest: its ability to keep you coming back for more.
So when you talk about rivaling Hot Shots Golf with Powerstar Golf, you have to set your eyes on how this game pulls you back for another set of holes. You have to think about how the game wants you to send your time. Hot Shots Golf is all about presentation and getting better results after a match. Powerstar Golf is about becoming more powerful, accurate, and enjoying that kind of progression.
Playing Powerstar Golf
I hit on a lot of gameplay aspects and features while comparing Hot Shots Golf and Powerstar Golf but let’s go into some detail here.
The main thing I find missing from Powerstar Golf are power shots. It was a fun thing to do and get better at while playing Hot Shots Golf and I find myself holding down on the d-pad when placing my power in Powerstar Golf and then holding up when doing my accuracy just like a power shot. Alas, it does nothing in Powerstar Golf.
Power shots aren’t a be-all, end-all feature but it was awesome how you could manipulate your spin in that fashion. Powerstar Golf has spin but it isn’t as interactive or fun as it is in Hot Shots Golf. You mose the d-pad to configure your spin. You have draws from either left or right, topspin, and backspin. It’s very basic and while I don’t view this issue as a major one or even something that take away any fun from the title, I hope to see power shots make some sort of introduction into Powerstar Golf.
Zoe Mode did include some sort of power with each golf character, though. This comes in the form of an ability that each golfer has. They may increase the power of your shot, magnetically pull your ball towards the hole, or even spawn multiple balls and pick whatever one landed closest to the hole. Abilities do a great job at bringing out the arcade feel in Powerstar Golf and they can give you a great edge when you use them correctly.
Then you have Boosters. You get Boosters from opening packs in the store and these are one-time use helpers that can increase your power +5% or give you more ability uses. Utilizing Boosters and abilities are the best way of getting the most out of your character.
Aside from playing the game, you have a small list of modes you can play matches in. You have Free Play, Rivals, Career, and Local Multiplayer. Each of them have Stroke or Match play which gives you a couple different ways of scoring each match. The career is split up into four different courses and two “playlist”-like mixtures of courses and challenges. Each course has a number of tournaments, match plays against characters, and challenges where you can score bronze, silver, or gold medals and get more credits for packs. Each course and career event is opened as you gain new levels.
As I’ve mentioned multiple times above, playing more career events gives you the best opportunity for XP and credits which in turn offers quicker progression. Progressing your favorite golfer through the items you get in the packs is one way of getting better at the Powerstar Golf. The other is improving your caddie. Unfortunately there are only two caddies in the game and both of them are cut and dry. However, you can improve their usefulness with Caddie Perks. Perks will give you passive Booster upgrades that don’t disappear like Boosters do. These perks can be upgrades like Wind Effects -20%, Lucky Drop +50%, Strike Meter Speed -20%, etc. As you improve your caddie, your friends can actually use them during their games. If a friend uses your caddie, you get XP for it.
This is a pretty lengthy review for an arcade golf game that doesn’t include multiplayer. However, that just goes to show you how much fun I’ve been having with the game. Despite the missing features I mentioned in this review, my friends and I have spent over 40 hours playing Powerstar Golf and have become fans of it and hope to see more.
There is a blank Downloadable Content button on the menu that I keep selecting to no avail. I sincerely hope that Zoe Mode is hard at work at new content and even a sequel to Powerstar Golf to improve on and begin making this title a great series for Microsoft. Sony has their own arcade golf series and it’s great to see Microsoft getting their own.
I hope to see Powerstar Golf thrive in the future as this new generation of consoles moves on.