Touch Golf: Birdie Challenge (Nintendo DS) - Review by Andrew
Golfing games have always been popular on handhelds and developers have always seen the genre of a way of tempting non-gamers into the world of electronic entertainment. You only have to look back at the history of handhelds for evidence of this and even in their short lives both the NGPC and Atari LYNX had golf titles released for them. Consider the whole thing a bit like Nintendo's 'Touch Generations' and you'll realise just why the 'good walk spoilt' is so popular when miniatureised. Of course, Nintendo itself is no stranger to golf either and titles such as Mario Golf are still big sellers in the back catalogue department. Touch Golf ) or True Swing Golf as it's known Stateside) is a little more 'sim' based that anything involving the Nintendo characters but is it as playable and, just as importantly, as much fun?
As with most sports titles there's more than one way to approach your game but as this is a little more traditional than the majority of golf games, don't expect any fun mini-games here. There's more than enough 'real' golf to be had here though and the generous 15 courses will keep you occupied for quite some time. Before you do any of this though you'll be required to registar your details and which golfer you wish to appear as, although all of these are equally skilled at the games start, and then, you're off. The 'quick start' option will please most gamers allowing you to simply jump into a game without worrying if your golfing atire is as ridiculous as the other players on the course. Single player games allow you to indulge in a round by yourself or even against the CPU but it's the all encompusing Championship which will be most enjoyable to anyone who takes their game more seriousley. This takes you on a tour of a variety of courses allowing you to win money in order to purchase better clothing and equipment.
The DS's wireless capabilities are also put to good use here and not only can you host a four player game with a single copy of the game but you can also send a demo to any other DS user. If you can manage to gather a few friends the multiplayer is incredibly enjoyable allowing you to not only bet on the outcome but also send messages to other golfers thanks to the pictochat program. It's been some time since this embeded program has been used in a game but it's certainly makes for a more enjoyable experience, especially when you a player abuse just before they are about to take a shot.
Given that this titles called 'Touch Golf' you imagine that the stlyus would play a great part in the game and you'd be right so as they'd say on a particularly gruesome episode of CSI ' Nothing to See Here'.
Visually the game is not nearly as pretty as other golf games on the market and the low resoultion visuals do occasionally make emersing yourself in the moment a little problematic. They're no terrible but the finer touches such as the horrendosley pixelated tree, on close up's, do detract from the games overall atmosphere. The front end presentation is a little better although nothing we haven't seen before in games of this nature. Possibly the most impressive is the 3D 'fly-over' which occurs before a shot is taken and during the game, just don't expect too much detail.
While the players in Touch Golf clearly think a great deal more than they talk the audio is still very pleasing. This begins with the kind of soundtracks which used to accompany television golf in the 80's and 90's and while that may seem a little dated it all works very well in the context of the game. The rest of the sound effects help to provide the games atmosphere whilst the ball is in play such as the crowds clapping and cheering and,of course, the clubs swinging and golf balls being hit. Listen out for the more subtle sounds too such as the birds singing when you are on the green and you really could be outdoor on a fine Autums day.
Possibly the most pleasing part of Touch Golf is the fact that the control of the game is entirely down to the stylus and the touch screen. Unlike other titles before it it's not simply a gimick either and in addition to deciding where you want your ball to land you also use the stylus to actually swing at the ball. There's a certain amount of skill required here and the faster you pull the stylus across the screen, and the more precise you are, the better your shot will be. This does take a little practise but you will eventually be praising the developers for devising such an intuative and easy to use control system. In the tradition of golf games there's even a tutorial section too so there's no need to keep hitting golf balls into trees whilst some semi-proffessionals are getting more irate behind you.
At first glance Touch Golf appears to be one of those rather serious affair. You know what I mean, the kind of thing business men play on their Pocket PC's in one hand whilst checking their Blueberry, for their latest mails, in the other. It's true that this latest offering has no licenced characters or even 'real' player and courses but surprisingly it's actually quite good because of the thing: gameplay. This is mainly down to the incredibly well designed 'touch-screen' control making the whole experience feel very intuative and you genuinly feel that the more skill you apply the better you'll become. Even once you've completed the single player there's a great deal of extra fun to be had with the multiplayer and from a single copy of the game. As we've mentioned, it's not the best looking game nor does it have the strangest personality but it does deliver a quality game of golf for the DS system.
Pro: Lots of Courses, Great Multiplayer.
Con: Average Visuals, No Mini-Games.
Final score: 8.1