As you already know by know, we just reviewed Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds for the PS3 (and boy, were we happy with that!), so we figured it’d be a good idea to continue the golf trend for the week. We’re taking a look at the second installment in the Open Tee series for the PSP, which should arrive in the US some time later this year. It’s already available in Japan, but it went on display at last month’s Game Developers Conference, and those in attendance got an eyeful…which should imply this sequel is definitely coming to North America. After all, the original did very well in the US, and with spring upon us, all you duffers out there are going to want a great golf game on the go. Out of Bounds is fantastic fun, but it’d be tough to make your PlayStation 3 portable, which is why Sony has the slimmer, lighter PSP for your convenience. On top of which, doesn’t golf make for a great portable video game theme? We think so; just don’t get jostled too much on the train when you’re preparing your swing.
So, moving on: Open Tee 2 follows in the seemingly timeless tradition of the patented HSG control scheme. It began a good decade ago with the original HSG on the PS1, and it introduced a new way of striking a virtual golf ball. Tiger Woods and other golf simulators use the analog (pull back to start the swing, push forward to complete it), but we have always preferred the 3-point tap style found in Sony’s golf franchise. The process requires solid hand-eye coordination and timing, and you only have to use the X button. You hit it once to start the swing, a bar moves to the left and you hit the button again to set the power, and then the bar moves back to the right and you hit the button a third time to set the accuracy. The closer you get to the “strike” mark, the more accurate your shot will be; if you’re off to the right, you’ll hook the ball and if you’re off to the left, you’ll slice it. This mechanic has always worked extremely well, and it will be in place once again for Open Tee 2.
The only difference is that it’s the Circle button that will start your swing meter on the PSP, and the rest is familiar. You can select your clubs, use power shots (there are a limited number depending on the character and club you’re using, and utilize the directional pad for fades, draws and roll-backs. Those who are used to HSG know they can lift the ball into the wind by pressing down on the pad, which also results in the ball having backspin when it lands. Well, this works provided you get that “Nice Shot!” announcement. You can nail this if your timing is down pat and you hit the mark as close to the middle as possible. If you go too early in Open Tee 2, you’ll see an evil-looking red-eyed bunny, and if you go too late, a turtle will greet your eye. …well, that makes sense, doesn’t it? We do wonder about the putting mechanic, though, because it has always been relatively erratic in previous HSG titles. For example, putting uphill always seemed to require more power than you might expect, and putting downhill was exactly the opposite.
But we’re not too concerned. Putting is something you just have to get used to, no matter what golf game you play, and besides, we like a bit of a challenge. The game itself should look very pretty as well, as those who played the game at GDC 2008 have mentioned enhanced visuals that include appealing courses surrounded by sparkling water. We’ve also heard of some very cool hazards and a surprising level of detail for a handheld title. Without any doubt, if you’re a fan of the original, Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 will be a must, and it could end up being one of the better PSP titles of 2008. Out of Bounds is already one of the best PS3 titles of the year, so we have complete and total faith in Clap Hanz by now. We’ll let you know whenever SCEA decides to bring Open Tee 2 to this country, and in the meantime, if you can’t wait…maybe you should consider importing. Hey, golf fans are all kinds of crazy, aren’t they?
3/18/2008 Ben Dutka