Tiger Woods PGA Tour (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew
There's no denying that a handheld gaming system of any description is a perfect platform for Golfing titles and, whether it be 18 holes or, my favourite, Crazy Golf, there seems to be a flow of releases all year around. The main reason for this is the 'quick fix' nature of the thing with the average hole taking only minutes to play before saving the game for the next session. Like the FIFA and Madden series, EA have released a decent amount of PGA titles for the various consoles but this is the first on the DS system. We've already seen a number of developers attempting to use the touch screen just because it's there rather than making it integral to the gameplay and although we're reviewing this rather late it is actually a launch title. It also has some stiff competition namely the excellent Mario Golf on the GBA but that's not to say it can't bring anything new to the table.
As you'd expect from most sporting titles there's always several ways to tackle the action and this latest outing for Tiger Woods is no exception. There's the usual 'Quick Play' which allows you to jump right into a game of your own design selecting from a range of games modes (match, stroke or skins), courses, CPU Players and even the number of holes. More in-depth is the 'Legend Tour?, which follows you though a whole season as a Rookie with the possibility to reach pro if you have the skill and commitment.
There's also a Multiplayer Mode for up to four players, which sadly requires a copy of the game for each contestant. Whether it was time or money that prevented this from being a single cart experience is anyone's guess but if Namco can pull it off with Ridge Racer, surely EA could have too. Once you've made your selection it's on with the game. Each of the courses is preceded by a fly-over, giving you some idea of the pitfalls you may encounter. Other help comes in the form of your 'Pocket Caddy' who?s always on hand with a whole host of additional information.
Traditional control is really at an absolute minimum here as, outside of the odd menu selection or lining the ball up, all the important stuff is done via the touch screen so you'd probably best head down to the 'Dual Screen Use' to see if they have managed to enhance the golfing experience with this unique interface.
While there's a solid 3D engine on display here the DS does demonstrate its graphical shortcomings when it comes to some of the finer details. This is most notable on the greens where, because the visuals don't fully communicate the varying angles, you do tend to simply putt the ball and hope for the best. Overall though the various courses are well realised and the presentation is very good indeed with fluid animations and a well thought out user interface.
Music wise PGA Golf Tour isn't too bad at all with a handful of midi tunes available which perfectly mirror the kind of inoffensive soundtrack you'd hear on televised golf. The sound effects are something completely different because, not only are they somewhat overpowering, they generally don't fit the on-screen action. Your first shot, for example, will be accompanied by a rather tinny sounding applause from around 5 people who appear to be indoors. Successfully make a putt on the other hand and a stadium full of fans has now arrived. It's probably worth considering turning down the audio altogether and focusing on the visuals.
Your 'touch' screen is actually at the core of the gameplay here and although you'll be aided every step thanks to an on-screen tutorial it definitely takes some getting used to. Each shot requires you to first determine the strength of the shot on a kind of power bar. The faster you rub this the more power you'll put into the swing. After this it's quickly over to the other side of the interface: the actual swing. Here you must trace a 'V' shape in order to hit the ball and the faster and smoother you do it, the better the actual shot. Initially this works quite well but once you're on the green the game becomes a lot more challenging for all the wrong reasons. This is because there's simply not enough information at hand for you to successfully complete your shot (even with the Pocket Caddy's help) and it's very easy to waste two or three shots taking your overall tally significantly higher than it should be.
While Tiger Woods is by no means an all out disaster there are certainly better examples of Golf games available on the GBA never mind the DS. Its greatest flaw is the fact that the whole package seems so unforgiving meaning that you'll have to spend a lot of time with the cart before you approach anything that resembles a decent round of golf. This is somewhat at odds to similar titles, which generally encourage you to start swinging as soon as you switch the game on. It's not all bad though and the developers attempt to utilise the touch screen as a control method is a solid effort and one of the better uses we've seen of the bottom screen. Again it's not without its problems but this could be down to the fact that this is a first generation title and hopefully more time spent with the development kit will produce better results. Overall Tiger Woods PGA Golf Tour is unlikely to turn every gamer to hand held golf but to the already converted it's probably worth a look.
Pro: Loads Of Courses
Con: Flawed Control System
Final score: 6.5