Powerstar Golf - A 50/50 Chance

Review by Nathan Miller

Golf is a silly game. The purpose of golf is to swing at a tiny ball forcing it to soar down a vast area of grass in order to reach a hole in the ground. The golfer must do this task in the fewest amount of swings possible, and luckily there are shuttles driving around the golf course selling liquid courage (alcohol) to whomever may need it.

 I have personally been involved in Golf my entire life. My father ran various prestigious golf courses before entering politics, so I have spent hundreds of days parading around these courses in a golf cart. Although, I feel as if I must add one tiny detail: I SUCK AT GOLF. I am completely and utterly terrible. I was never taught by my father because he refused to teach me, and I have tried to learn on my own but usually end up breaking more than one club at a time.

So what can someone like me do to fill in the void of sucking at golf? I play Golf video games to alleviate any inner tension dealing with my digression.  I absolutely adore Hot Shots Golf and occasionally play the Golden Tee arcade (usually when I see one nestled in the corner of a sports bar). When I purchased my Xbox One, I was excited that among the launch titles was an arcade style golf game by the name of "Powerstar Golf." After spending a lot of time with this game, I hate it and love it at the same time. I found myself questioning shots before swinging all the while praying for the ball to land where I envisioned it. Also, I found myself jumping for joy and shuffling in celebration over every successful shot. I've quit a match after the second hole yet played through an entire 18 holes with friends. This game has me hot to cold faster than Katy Perry, so let's explore how this is possible by talking about the gameplay first.

The Gameplay

As it is with every golf game, you use a power meter (pictured above) to determine how far and precise the ball will go. You use this meter anytime you swing or putt. You press the A button once to start the gauge, again to determine the distance, and once more to end the shot. When you are putting, you only need to press A twice.

Top left - Course information. Top middle - distance from Pin and hole number.Top right - Leaderboards and Wind
Bottom left - Special Ability and Hit range. Bottom - Power Meter. Bottom right - Change club and Caddie Ability.

Your shot can be hampered by course hazards and various other elements. The wind can change the direction of your shot and a hilly putting green can cause your ball to stop before the cup (hole). Also, there are sand traps and rough patches of grass that will hinder a shot if on them. Powerstar Golf has three settings: amateur, pro, and elite. Amateur can still be tough on certain courses, Pro is a good balance of difficulty and frustration, but elite is ridiculously hard (I refuse to play on it).

The game consists of six unique characters, two caddies, and five courses. Each character (including the caddies) has a special ability unique to them which includes; A rocket boosted shot, a cup magnet (to attract the ball), magician trick shot, mid-shot change in direction, precise putt indicator, and etc. It is worth mentioning that you only start with two characters and must unlock the others by defeating them in career mode. 

Powerstar Golf has a decent amount of game modes which includes: Career mode, Multiplayer mode, Rivals mode, and Free play mode. Career mode is designed around earning medals on each golf course through specially crafted tournaments. Multiplayer is local play only and includes two game types: Match Play (who wins the most holes) or Stroke Play (who wins with the least swings). Rivals mode is their way of including an online component without direct play. In Rivals mode, you play against the ghost of a friend and try to beat their best score on a course. It completely replicates each shot (even the mistakes) through a computer AI and is fun to say the least. Free play mode is unrestricted play on any course and is a great way to practice.

This video showcases the different characters you can select. It shows off the customization of the clubs and caddies (you can even use a friend's specialized caddie). Boosters are available to make your Golfer even better; however, they will disappear once you use them (even if you do not finish the game). You can use boosters to give yourself extra special abilities, double the coins you unlock, or slightly bump up your accuracy. These boosters are only available if you purchase booster packs, and you buy them with coins earned via beating a friend's scores/shots and completing challenges (or with your actual money).

The equipment you use plays a huge part in the game. Regardless of how good you may get in the game, the clubs and ball you use can make or break you. Each character has their own clubs but they are only unlocked by the previously mentioned booster packs. The $60,000 booster pack makes unlocking these special items more likely, but it isn't a sure thing. Equipping the full set of clubs will give your golfer an added bonus, so I recommend completing a set 

The Good

Powerstar Golf does a tremendous job in feeding your competitive side with leaderboards integrated into every portion of the game. It shows you the furthest someone has hit on every hole and reminds you about their awesome putts or chip-ins. Local Multiplayer is a lot of fun. Thankfully, It's easy to pick up for newcomers (play on amateur). The courses and powers are well developed and cool. The controls are responsive and there are no major glitches in the game. Powerstar Golf does a great job in rewarding you for every time you do better. Whether you are beating a personal record or the world record for the longest drive, you earn experience and money.

This video encompasses a few of my "Hell Yeah" moments. If you are playing local multiplayer, you will taunt all of your competitors with shots like these (you may even do a little dance). You can see most of the game mechanics I explained earlier. Also, a few of the special abilities are shown off in all their glory.

The Bad

Powerstar Golf is tough on the accuracy of your swings. If you are unable to hit the power meter at the right marks, you are guaranteed to fall into a rough patch or sand trap. It is a bit frustrating but not as frustrating as a perfect shot being pushed into a sand trap. I have a huge issue with the wind physics of this game. The wind is a key reason why I question all of my shots. Even though I hit the ball to slice into the wind, it will act as if I did not. I played a local mutiplayer match with friends with all the same characters and clubs, yet each of our hits (that we tried to identically copy) were effected by the same constant wind in different ways. I know that may not sound like a bad thing; however, when you reach windy areas of the game, you will understand what I am talking about.

Here is a good example of the wind screwing me over. The wind is pushing forward yet the ball does not do the same, yet the next clip (where I achieve a perfect shot) shows a slightly stronger forward wind completely screwing up my shot. I must mention how unappealing the actual characters are themselves. I rather use my disembodied kinect avatar over any of those clown hats.

The graphics are not great for a next gen game either. I don't see why they couldn't port this to the Xbox 360. I mean come on, they could have made more money if they did. An even cooler idea would have been integrating the leaderboards and rivals mode for both systems, so friends who did not make the leap to Xbox One can still play something with you.

Conclusion

Powerstar Golf is a decent game that was recently altered to become a free to play game. $20 unlocks the full game with all the bells and whistles or you can buy missing courses and characters separately if you please. I may have a lot of criticism for this game, but I had a lot of fun moments too. The leaderboard system is remarkably implemented into every aspect of the game. There are plenty of challenges to do and a few tough courses to master. I continue to play over and over because my friends challenge me (whenever they come over to my apartment) in this game ever since we first played. I may get screwed over by elements beyond my control but so do they; however, we love to showboat when we sink in that winning putt. There's a 50/50 chance you will quit a match mid round, but there's also a 50/50 chance you will have a blast. 

Pew Rating: 3 out of 5 Pews