Hot Shots Golf is back on the PS2 with its animated trademark big-head cartoon characters and simple-yet-realistic golf physics. The third release of the series manages to successfully transfer the intricacies and nuances of the series onto a new architecture. HSG3 boasts top quality golfing dynamics and couples it with a fun, off-kilter presentation. Where most simulation-golf games would not garner a notable amount of non-golfing types, Hot Shots is a series that is not only attractive to the golfing enthusiast but also has enough appeal to convert a slew of people who would normally never touch a golfing game.

When the first game in this series was released in 1998 it surprised a ton of unsuspecting gamers with its trademark three-click gameplay dynamics and hugely popular character personalities. Part 3 marks the series’ first foray into the PS2 field, continuing its tradition of simple, easy to learn gameplay dynamics and cartoon-like appealing graphics.

Graphics are, for the most part, sharp and well-animated. Golf courses are realistically rendered and there are enough bonus atmospheric additions to keep the aesthetic facet of the game interesting. Although it should be noted that, while looking pretty snazzy, the visuals are only marginally updated. Character animations are cool, with special animations that are nearly equivalent to some of the Jak & Daxter cut-scene animations. Every playable character and caddy has a handful of different animations that they perform depending on the on-screen action. Score a birdie and your character will enthusiastically show his or her approval, each character has their own unique set of animations to describe various levels of excitement or disappointment. While these animations are cool for the first handful of times you watch them they quickly grow tiresome and teeter on the edge of annoying after only a few hours.

Sound consists of a lot of ambient organic noises from various weather configurations and various native insect and bug sounds. The menu music is jazzy Japanese tunes that compliment the light-hearted nature of the rest of the game perfectly. Voice acting is the particularly unique facet of the games audio department. Each character has a diversified personality that apparently was localized for specifically for American audiences and tends to be a bit on the stereotypical side. A load of different nationalities are personified to the unnecessarily-heavy Australian accent to a grunge dude who only acknowledges his well made hits through lethargic low self-esteem comments. When they localized this title they paid a substantial amount of attention to the character presentations and changed the overall appeal of the various characters pretty heavily. Whether this was necessary or not may perhaps never be known to non-import gamers.

Gameplay is the games most attractive feature, with its easy to learn gameplay dynamics and satisfying results. With the correct timing its not too difficult to accurately hypothesize the vector of a hit. The basic golfing dynamics found in the majority of golfing games of the past are intact and HSG3 does little too innovate in this department. The slew of gameplay options this version offers more then makes up for the traditional gameplay, and within the many available options, you’ll find the games greatest asset; National Tournament Mode. In National Tournament mode you’ll have the option of competing in on-line national golfing tournaments. This is achieved through a password that you retrieve online and input into the game after you’ve completed a tournament you are then given another password to enter into the website, the website then ranks you against other competitors who have participated in that particular tournament. Prizes and various give-aways are offered to the top ranking competitors.

Aside from the National Tournament mode, the main modes of play are Single player mode and multiplayer mode. Multiplayer mode allows you to play against a human opponent and offers the longest gameplay duration. The single player mode of the game is where the real meat of the game can be found. You have a choice of 5 different modes in single-player golf; Stroke Play, Tournament mode, VS Mode, Training, and the aforementioned Nation Tournament mode. In Stroke Play you’ll be competing against yourself, trying to best your previous record. Tournament mode offers various tournaments that range from local to national contests that you can win various items and points in. VS mode is where you’ll be pitted against opponents in the hopes of attaining the golfer that you beat as a playable character. Training mode lets you set up a quick golfing session in which you can define the different circumstances, this mode does not have any affect on your overall standings and serves only the purpose of refining your skills off the record. All these different modes of play garner yourself points which can be spent in the ‘Shop’, everything from wallpaper sets to mysterious capsules containing surprise items can be bought with the points you’ve accumulated.

HSG3 refines the all ready established gameplay of the series and improves the overall user-friendliness of the series. In putting mode you are able to instantly observe the geographical properties of hills and slants through a system which is immediately understandable. If your timing isn’t perfect on long-range shots you still have a good chance of landing the ball in a suitable area. You won’t find demanding, precision-based requirements that add to the sense of intimidation in this game as you would in most golfing simulation titles like the Tiger Woods series on the pc. Hot Shots Golf is more similar to Mario Golf, or other less-serious golf games on the market. Clap Hanz has apparently subscribed to the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ philosophy with their newest creation.

It will take you a good amount of time to fully explore the various one-player modes in the game, expect to invest anywhere from 10-30 hours of game time to complete them all. The multi-player and National Tournament modes are wildcards in that there is no defining the duration of one’s enjoyment when participating in them. Rest assured, however, if you’ve got internet access the National Tournament mode is guaranteed to provide enjoyment for quite some time.

Hot Shots Golf 3 is like the Tony Hawk of Golf, in more ways then one. As you continue to play you’ll unlock playable characters, bonus items, and a wealth of other trinkets. Make no mistake; this ain’t your fathers golf game. About 4 hours into a session I started to feel like a kid with one of those bulk-sized bags of candy that tastes really good at first and then eventually starts feeling nauseous but is unable to stop eating for some unexplained reason. I find myself in a daze, eyes glazed over, and lazily playing hole after hole. But the next day the cycle begins all over again, for the first few hours the game is always incredibly satisfying.

Being that this is the third iteration of a popular series I was hoping for a bit more innovation and originality in this version. What I got, however, was a moderately enhanced and tweaked update, which is not necessarily a bad thing. If you liked the first games in the series there is a good chance you’ll dig on part 3, but for those who are looking for something a bit more substantial originality-wise, you’ll have to look elsewhere. Surprisingly the developer, Clap Hanz, has opted to continue the tradition of the three-click and two-click hitting dynamics. Whether this method is superior or inferior to the newly adopted analog control style is up for debate. But for better or worse this game is essentially the same as the previous games, with a few notable exceptions peppered throughout the experience.