"After earning your Pang, you can then then head to the clubhouse to spend them on things like cute bathing suits and alternate club sets, if they're available in the inventory. Most of these accessories affect not only how your chosen character looks, but also how he or she performs."
If you've played them much, you probably know that the Mario Golf games are some of the finest entertainment around. Unfortunately, the franchise has yet to arrive on Wii. That fact left me looking for capable substitutes. My search eventually led me to Super Swing Golf: Season 2, with pleasing results.
Super Swing Golf: Season 2 shares a lot in common with Mario Golf. For starters, there are the cartoony mascots. None of them are so familiar as a green dinosaur or a giant turtle with spikes on his back and a power drive, but that's okay. Scout is the energetic youth with unshakable optimism. Cecilia is the wise adult character with blonde hair and an uncommon smile. Kooh is the feisty pirate girl. Uncle Bob is gruff but good-natured. So goes the roster. Not counting the caddies, there are eight characters in all. Each comes with back a story and slight stat variations.
Courses are also similar to those in the game's apparent inspiration, vibrant little pockets of sunshine that nicely dispel any bad mood you might develop after a few of your shots go awry. Though you won't find warp pipes that transport your ball across the fairway, you will occasionally encounter the unexpected. In the third region, a pyramid-strewn desert, you'll notice airborne portals. Sending the ball through those will launch it through the air with fresh energy (something to remember when you're looking for shortcuts). In the icy areas, you might instead utilize long slides that halve the strokes required to clear a Par 4 course. Later areas will find you sending your ball in a horizontal arc around palm trees and lighthouses with equal frequency.
Play control and physics in the game are exceptional. It's possible to perform a fade so that your ball takes a last-minute diversion to the left or right of a straight line, to launch a shot that follows a curving path from start to finish, or even to do things like skip your ball across the surface of water hazards. Power shots are also available, giving you better control in the face of gusting winds, ice-slicked fairways and other variables.
Not everything is perfect, though. At least for me, the default control scheme quickly proved useless. Half the time, my golfer wouldn't attempt a swing at all. The rest of the time, club and ball connected poorly for exasperating results. Consulting the instruction manual didn't help, though I'm aware that other people have used that system and had no issues with it whatsoever. Perhaps you'll be one such person, but if you aren't there's good news: you can go the old-fashioned way.
Buried in the menu accessible from the game's title screen, there's the option to use simple button presses to arrange your shots. This is a boon for people like me. With that option enabled, I found myself playing golf like I could in the Mario Golf games. Pressing the 'A' button once starts your swing, then you can press it again as a charging meter reaches its peak, then a third time to execute. Timing can be touchy, but at least you can be sure what you did right or wrong!
Once you settle on the control method you prefer, you're free to worry about earning pang points. These are awarded for above-average drives or for landing on the green in close proximity to the hole. There's also a boost if you manage a Birdie or an Eagle (or an Albatross, I suppose, though I never managed that last feat). Finally, you can snag Bonus Pang if time your shot perfectly.
After earning your Pang, you can then then head to the clubhouse to spend them on things like cute bathing suits and alternate club sets, if they're available in the inventory. Most of these accessories affect not only how your chosen character looks, but also how he or she performs. Max is cool by himself, for example, but he's even better when dressed as Ryu from Ninja Gaiden! Of course, you might find a favorite outfit and then learn that it's stats are poor, but that's nothing a little skill can't make up for when the time comes for a showdown on the green.
Naturally, the courses are where you'll spend most of your time. The game's “Tour Mode” breaks this up by presenting you with a board game where you can head from one challenge to another, unlocking clubhouse store inventory along the way. This is a nice way to squeeze more time out of the same few holes, but it also means that by the time you clear a given area, you've probably gone through every hole the course has to offer something like three or four times. That's without accounting for the more challenging ones you may need to repeat. It's a transparent effort to extend the total time you'll spend with the game, yet it's strangely addictive at the same time. If the time spent retrying an event you flub early on weren't so bad (sometimes more than a full minute, thanks to load and auto-save screens), the board game design probably wouldn't even feel redundant.
Super Swing Golf: Season 2 ultimately isn't a complete substitute for Mario Golf, but that probably wasn't even the intent. The only thing it's really trying to do is provide a fantasy golfing adventure worth experiencing. It has succeeded admirably. With beautiful courses that look and sound great (the island-themed soundtrack is so shamelessly cheerful that you can't help but smile), plenty of golfer customization, a deep physics system and around 30 hours of gameplay that don't even factor in the time you'll spend playing with friends, this is one game that's sure to satisfy your inner golf enthusiast for a long time to come. Who needs plumbers and dinosaurs, anyway?
Staff review by Jason Venter (January 25, 2008)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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