Really? Are they the same people who think getting tackled in Madden is unfair? Environmental effects are a key element in golf, you have to expect people to understand that and not get frustrated for not hitting the green.
Easier than a PHD!
Powerstar Golf could easily become the essential digital game on Xbox One as one of the few offline multiplayer games. Like most console launches in recent times, Powerstar Golf is the resident arcade golf title, designed to appeal to a mainstream audience rather than the typical PGA Tour enthusiast.
Powerstar begins with just two golfers available: a burly Patrick Warburton type, and a shockingly racist asian girl exclaiming sure-to-be fan favourites like “easier than a PHD” upon hitting a perfect strike. More characters and caddies are unlocked by completing the career mode, which has you earn your stripes progressing through a series of events, before challenging the characters you’re about to add to the roster.
XP is used to make purchases through the store, including bonus abilities, and increase your rank. It’s earned in masses just by playing, but every so often the game will trigger a Powerstar Challenge. These award bonus XP for completing a hole, or series of holes, under specific conditions, like hitting the fairway only once or making par with no more than one put. It's bonus XP while starting out and an added challenge as your skills improve.
The diverse courses can be played as a full set of 18 holes, or split into the front or back nine. They’re styled to be clean, simple and as vibrant as the cartoon characters designed to match Xbox’s lively avatar, but nothing about the design is specially next-gen.
Powerstar begins with just two golfers available: a burly Patrick Warburton type, and a shockingly racist asian girl exclaiming sure-to-be fan favourites like “easier than a PHD”
The HUD and controls are exactly what you would expect. There’s no fluffing about with Kinect, and the power bar will be familiar to anyone that has ever played a golf game before, simplified for the arcade approach. The view can be jumped further afield by pressing the Y button to roughly aim where the shot will, or rather might, land. The D-Pad is used to apply spin to the ball to slow its roll or curve around a misdirected tree, and when you’re ready the A button is hit three times to begin the momentum, set the power and then execute the swing.
As a golf game, it does everything well, but is hardly reinventing the wheel. This is about as safe as you can play a launch game, offering an experience people will already know and understand to an audience that will have already experienced something very similar on everything from PC to PlayStation Vita.
To circumvent my terrible putting form, I magnificently managed to chip a ball from the fairway into the hole. It was the most glorious moment in my virtual golfing career (and was rightfully rewarded with an achievement).
Then I discovered Powerstar Golf’s party trick. Each character and caddie has a special ability that can be used up to twice per course. The default girl is able to magnetise her ball, causing it to roll into the cup if it lands within the vicinity and has the right amount of power to either make the distance or not overshoot. The caddie, meanwhile, can predict where the ball is going to land, and the starting bloke adds some extra kick to his drive. The special abilities still require shots to be on target and add value, beyond cosmetics, to taking the time to unlock more players and caddies.
Powerstar Golf will keep you on your toes by pushing competition between friends. It automatically shows the records of your Xbox mates, and the Rivals Mode specifically has you challenge other players. If your friends have played, you can attempt to beat their scores on a nine or full 18 hole course. If they haven’t, you can play against the ghosts of other players online — be aware: selecting Rivals through the freeplay mode forced me to watch all four players (with only me actually playing), while entering via the Rivals menu skipped their turns and presented the score.
Powerstar Golf’s biggest accomplishment is as one of the few games that can be played locally by passing the controller around — a requisite when showing off a new console. It brings out the competitive nature in most players, along with jaunts of laughter when seemingly simple putts go horribly wrong.
For all its fun, Powerstar Golf can be horribly frustrating. The “perfect shot” celebration is based on precise timing, but doesn’t mean your ball isn’t going to bury itself in sand. The aiming reticule is based on a perfect shot being hit from the fairway without factoring wind or slope. That’s all well and good for experienced players, but with its cartoonish flair, newcomers to games or even golf games are going to be left horribly confused as to why they keep landing in the drink when the target is positioned well on the green.
Powerstar Golf is a solid arcade golf game that likely slipped your attention in the wake of Dead Rising 3, Forza 5 and Ryse. Its clean visuals don’t exclaim next-gen, this began as an Xbox 360 game, but they match the vibrant caricatures of the Xbox brand. Powerstar does everything relatively well, while playing it safe. It isn’t trying to innovate or even be the best in its field, it’s just a fun little launch game, with offline multiplayer, you should consider downloading come Friday.