I spent a ridiculous amount of time with Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour on the GameCube and it is hard to believe that it has taken this long for another 3D entry in the series. However, Mario Golf: World Tour is two steps forward and one large step off to the side.
The core gameplay here is the same as it has always been. Choose a club, adjust for the wind, line up where you want the ball to go, press A. You can also still do more advanced techniques like top spin, super topspin, etc. by playing in manual mode and pressing a combination of A and B when taking a shot. This is all very standard for Mario Golf and veterans will be able to pick right back up where they left off.
The game is divided into two modes: Mario Golf (Quick Round) and Castle Club(Play with a Mii). The Mario Golf mode is pretty standard fair: versus, challenges, tournaments, etc. while Castle Club is the more traditional single player option (it’s a tad confusing, isn’t it?).
The single player mode is a lot of fun and was what I fondly remembered from Toadstool Tour. Compete to win a tournament on a course and then move on to the next one. But this is where my main problem with the game rears its ugly head. There are only three 18 hole courses. These are the only courses where the tournaments take place and then the credits roll.
It is Needless to say, but I was shocked. Those courses were so much fun. Pure Mario Golf goodness. Now, there are several more courses in the game but they are all 9 holes and based on a theme.
There’s the Princess Peach course, the Yoshi course, etc. These are nice but are often bogged down by too many gimmicks. Traps and objects litter the majority of these courses and gameplay is more about dodging crap than actual golfing skill.
No, there is nothing interesting about putting a giant egg in the middle of a hole.
No, it is not fun to have a barrel in the way of my shot that will launch it backwards.
No, I don’t want to barely touch a bomb and have the ball go flying out of bounds.
It may sound lame, but I’m here to play golf. I’m not opposed to having some gimmicks like this, they were in the previous games after all, but this is overkill. This is made even stranger by the addition of various power-ups that (by default) exist only in these special 9 hole courses.
Powers include bullet bills that launch the ball in a straight line; boomerang flowers that make the ball take a severe arc to then land in the expected spot; or mushrooms that offer a speed boost. These are fun ideas but the power-ups are placed all over the various holes. The game flat out give you way too many of them. Additionally, most of them don’t even need to be used. There is seldom a time where you can take a shortcut only because you have an item. In fact, I avoided using them unless I absolutely had to. I don’t understand why they are really here in the first place. They detract from why I play Mario Golf, and that is the pure golf gameplay.
That’s not all there is to Mario Golf: World Tour though. The other main menu option features other single player events, verses, and online functionality. The real highlights here though, are the challenges.
In fact, completing these challenges will unlock more of those 9 hole courses I was raving about earlier. The challenges include a wide variety of objectives such as: beat an AI opponent, hit all the coins and maintain par, shoot through all the rings and maintain par, achieve a certain score in the round, and a few others. Each course hosts 10 challenges to complete and beating more and more of them unlock more courses to play in all modes as well as their respective challenges. These are all pretty fun and are a nice way to diversify the gameplay. Not all challenges are created equal and some border on painfully frustrating, but overall it is a very nice diversion.
The online tournaments are something new and they are pretty genius. As you play, you are shown what several other people did for that exact shot. This makes every drive a competition and every putt suspenseful. The core gameplay is great but adding this extra competitive nature to it takes the game further.
You can create open or private tournaments, pick the course, and then go. It’s something that could really keep a lot of people coming back for more as there is no shortage of public tournaments but I’d rather not compete on some of those gimmicky courses.
Mario Golf: World Tour is a mixed bag. On one hand, it is an almost perfect golf game with interesting and compelling online options. On the other, it adds in a bunch of gimmicks and lacks enough actual golf courses. That’s really what it is: a very solid game with extra junk that doesn’t belong.
Still, my complaints are more related to the lack of content that I was expecting, not the quality of the gameplay, which is pitch perfect.