We Love Golf!
Golf is underrated. Think about it. Did you actually care about golf before you saw Happy Gilmore for the first time? Or was it because of Tiger Woods? Let’s be honest; have you even played golf? I’m not talking about the miniature golfing excursions you used to take when you were a kid. Renting a club and smacking thirty balls down the driving range doesn’t count, either. I’m talking about real golf, the kind that involves you surviving eighteen grueling challenges of your wit, skill, and physicality. The kind where everything from the direction and strength of the wind to the tiniest of gradations in the soil can make the difference between hard-earned glory and bitter defeat. Don’t worry if you haven’t; most people have neither the resources or the skill to play the game like the pros. Instead, you‘ll likely try to live the experience through We Love Golf! with some horribly flawed belief that it actually emulates the real thing.
It seems realistic enough at first glance, though. The basic rules of the sport still reign supreme here; you get to wander around a vast expanse of hills, trees, and ponds and hit little white balls into marked holes. Each hole comes with its own standards and challenges. Your overall score will be based on how many swings it takes you to finally knock your ball into the target; if you somehow screw up and use more swings than the set amount, your score and ranking will suffer. On the other hand, reaching the target with less than the standard amount of swings nets you a better record. Considering that all the natural hazards – bodies of water and sand, for example – can add penalty swings to your record, getting a high rank can prove nigh-impossible without some serious skill. The distance your ball travels depends on which club you choose for the job at hand. Whoever ends up with the least amount of swings on their scorecard after eighteen holes wins first place. Simple, right?
Okay, look. Just forget it. The only thing you need to know is that you have to get the ball in the hole as quickly as possible. Never mind all of those rules and regulations; you certainly don’t need to know everything about golf to beat this game. Aside from the aggravatingly difficult fourth course, the tournaments in We Love Golf! aren’t very demanding in terms of design or hazards. Even complete newcomers to the sport shouldn’t have much trouble; the sheer amount of handholding in this game is almost insulting. Take the automated tutorial during the tourneys, for example; a little voice (which belongs to your apparently sentient golf club) comes out of the WiiMote’s speaker and chirps, ‘Point me down!‘…every few seconds. Do the game designers really think we’re that stupid? Even if you can turn it off, it’s still annoying enough to make you fling your controller into a wall in a fitful rage. The swinging mechanics have been made easy enough for a child to master; there’s a gauge at the bottom of the screen that not only tells you how much power you’re putting into your swing, but also marks the exact point at which making the perfect swing will occur. That essentially takes out any potential necessity for guesswork and skill of the real game. Unless you’re completely inept, it shouldn’t take long for you to be slinging golf balls like a true Tiger Woods wannabe.
That doesn’t mean that the gameplay mechanics are perfect, though. Using a gauge system is counterintuitive; considering the WiiMote can following your movements like a real club, this title would have been much more interesting if it allowed you to swing freely. Despite its ability to pinpoint ideal shots, the game does a mediocre job of reading your stances. It’s all too easy to botch a crucial shot when the system misunderstands your movements and ends up cutting off the power of your swing well before its intended target. It’s even worse on the putting; you could be within inches of sinking a ball, but your attempts at a perfect shot will be so minute that the system doesn’t pick them up. You’re left awkwardly trying to twist the WiiMote back just enough to make it register. While it’s kind admirable that Capcom designed a game that virtually anyone with a sense of timing can master, it’s way too mechanical and rigid to truly make it a fun experience.
Such bland gameplay is reflected in its presentation; it’s practically devoid of any personality whatsoever. The courses, though done well enough given the Wii’s graphical limitations, are fairly generic. You’ll be swinging across wide swathes of well-kept grass and avoiding the flowing rivers and rocky outcroppings. Many of the courses come with their own themes, such as a candy land or pirate lookout. The characters are even worse; while you’ll be given the choice of four default sweater-vested and visor-clad protagonists, they are entirely forgettable. The only reason you’ll even use these blatant golfer stereotypes is to unlock a nice variety of Capcom characters for your roster. While seeing Jill Valentine take on Morrigan in a mock LPGA tour is hilarious on a few levels, having representatives of the Phoenix Wright and Street Fighter series clash is pretty awesome. But for those of you that are still waiting for the next Tiger Wood PGA Tour for the Wii, you can take solace in the fact that you can make a Mii version of the famous golfer and use him in the game. Not quite the real thing, but at least you’ve got Ryu and Ken trading club swings instead of Hadokens.
Capcom character cameos aside, We Love Golf! has only one thing to keep it afloat: its online multiplayer. Assuming you’ve got the necessary Wi-Fi connection, you can prove your mastery of the game by beating other gamers. While the Friend Code system is unfortunately still alive and well, you’ll be able to play against random opponents based on the difficulty setting you choose beforehand. The number of required holes to complete is drastically cut back, though; you’ll only get a shot at a handful of them before your challenge is over. Though limited, the online multiplayer is by far the most well done feature of the game. But if you want to keep things truly fun and competitive, you might be better off having some friends over and trying out the basic multiplayer. There amount of gameplay modes is considerable; you’ll get to test your skills in terms of aiming shots, the number of swings you make, how many holes you score before your opponent, and straightforward tournaments against human or AI-controlled opponents. While the flawed gameplay mechanics hinder the entertainment value, at least you and your friends will have a lot to do.
It’s not that We Love Golf! is a bad game. Far from it; it’s easy enough for anyone to pick up, has a considerable amount of bonus characters to appease Capcom’s fans, and offers a rare online multiplayer option on top of a wealth of extra gameplay modes. The problem lies with the basics of the gameplay itself; basing your movements on a gauge and pointing out perfect swings defeats the purpose of actually learning how to play the game well. It’s too mechanical and counterintuitive; the occasionally shoddy movement detection can make the easiest hole seem like and impassable gauntlet. The handholding doesn’t help much, either; while it’s good to help newcomers get a grasp on the sport, the extent to which the game goes is beyond ridiculous. So here’s a bit of advice for those of you that want to try dabbling in golf and don’t mind the likelihood of making an ass of yourself: get some friends together and go hit some balls at the local driving range. It may not be as easy as this game, but it’ll be a much more fulfilling experience.