Mario Golf: World Tour Review
Mario Golf: World Tour is Camelot’s second foray into Mario sports on the Nintendo 3DS. While its first Mario sports entry, Mario Tennis: Open, had a solid gameplay foundation when it launched back in 2012, many players criticized the title’s repetitive and uninspired nature; the core tennis was fun, but there wasn’t much to do once you grew tired of the cyclical gameplay. Fortunately, Camelot learned from their mistakes and delivered a full-fledged Mario Golf title that is addictive, challenging, and packed with additional content.
World Tour is incredibly approachable, whether you’re a seasoned golf pro or unable to tell the difference between a pitching wedge and a 3-wood. There are tons of optional tutorials, and you’ll find your skills steadily improving as you learn the nuance of the controls. Though the gameplay is easy to learn, it’s challenging to master; fortunately, you’ll be rewarded for the time you put in. The only real control issue involves an unintuitive camera system that uses the circle pad instead of the d-pad. Switching the aiming controls with the camera system is confusing at first, but it’s easy to get used to and a minor qualm at most. Once you learn to use backspin while properly accounting for wind speed in order to sink that eagle, your victory will feel entirely earned. The learning curve in World Tour is almost non-existent because it’s all so much fun to play.
The King of the Swing
The art direction is equally strong. Upon starting World Tour for the first time, you’ll be delighted by the charmingly built Castle Club, a Nintendo-themed country club devoted to various golf attractions. The Castle Club is a blast to explore at first: you can visit the Toads in the gift shop, watch a Koopa practice his put, and even chat with Mario and company in the beautiful second floor atrium. However, the novelty of the Castle Club wears off fast due to its less than dynamic nature. Unlike Animal Crossing, where the environment feels alive and mutable, the Castle Club is disappointingly consistent. Characters will always stand in the same locations with their animations on loop, repeating the same tedious golf advice each time you approach them.
My biggest criticism of World Tour is its interface, which lacks a unified vision. At its best, the UI can be an intriguing hub of golf options, but at its worst, the interface is a confusing mess. Want to jump into an online tournament? Well, brace yourself. You can go to the single-player selection screen and then find the tournament page, but this will only show half of the tournaments. If the tournament you’re looking for isn’t on this menu, then you’ll have to hop on over to the Castle Club, walk down a flight of stairs and find the Regional and World-Wide Tournament selection pipes, where you’ll sift through another two menus to eventually find what you’re looking for. It’s unintuitive and needlessly complex. Furthermore, the Challenges (which are the primary way to unlock additional courses) are nowhere to be found in the Castle Club, which is a baffling design choice.
Oh, Peach! You're such a tees.
Yet, once you navigate through the convoluted interface and hop into a match, you’ll find that the course design and gameplay elements are spot-on. Camelot manages to capture the essence of Mario Golf through a wide array of memorable locales. The focus of the single player campaign is winning three realistic 18-hole courses to become the champion. This can be done in less than two hours, and when the credits roll, you may wonder if you did something wrong. But, don’t be fooled: winning these trophies is the tip of a very big iceberg. Much of the fun is derived from playing the Mushroom Kingdom-themed courses, which include a tough-as-nails Bowser’s Castle, a flower-filled Peach Gardens, and even a slow and challenging Cheep Cheep Lagoon situated entirely underwater. These five additional 9-hole courses all have their own intriguing gameplay gimmicks.
Even after you’ve mastered all of the courses, there are still a ton of bonus options. The Challenges offer lots of gameplay variety and will reward you with Coin Stars, which can be used to unlock additional content. In fact, any time you do anything in the game (whether failing a challenge or winning a championship game), you’ll be constantly rewarded with coins and Nintendo-themed gear for your Mii that can be purchased in the Toad clubhouse. The numerous customization options push World Tour from fun to addictive. I spent well over twenty hours trying to unlock all of the Nintendo-themed gear, and I’m not even halfway there.
I especially love the emphasis on online tournaments, which take the Mii customization one step further. There are weekly tournaments (both regional and worldwide) that offer free gear for participation and more substantial rewards to the highest-ranking Miis. The online tournaments are great fun, as they allow simultaneous gameplay amongst your friends. In a brilliant move, Camelot shows previous participants on the screen all at once, which creates a dynamic and wholly unique online experience. Even renowned golf manufacturer, Callaway, is hosting tournaments in the Americas. Playing in these tournaments unlocks exclusive Callaway clubs, balls, and outfits for your Mii. I love this sort of team-up, and I can’t wait to see what future gear Camelot has planned down the road.
Mario Golf: World Tour is an addictive game that is a pleasure to play both online and off. While the overall interface and button layouts could certainly be more intuitive, the spot-on gameplay and near-endless unlockables make World Tour a game that is well worth your time. If you can’t make it out to the real greens anytime soon, Mario Golf has you covered.
Please note that the final score is not an average