By: David Tavernier
Powerstar Golf is one of the latest offerings from Zoe Mode, the publisher responsible for several Zumba Fitness games, among others. However, don’t be tricked into believing that the game will be a mediocre effort. Powerstar Golf provides a good time for both novices and experts, but it is not an extensive sim. This being said, if you boot it up with moderate expectations, you might be pleasantly surprised with its snappy controls, vibrant visuals and extensive gameplay modes.
The controls are very precise. Driving the ball and putting is easy as cake. Also, you can manipulate the spin of the ball to affect even greater control, and you can move your ball trajectory around to compensate for wind. Each golfer has a special ability that makes him or her different from the rest of the pack.
For instance, Frank has the ability to add extra distance to his drives and puts by hitting the ball with rocket force. Meanwhile, Reiko has the ability to magnetize the hole so that the ball is drawn toward it. Each golfer also has own unique stats, meaning one golfer might have more power while another has more accuracy or putting ability.
All of these features make controlling each golfer unique; and this difference makes playing with a golfer a strategic decision based on the attributes of each course. Picking someone according to their attributes and deciding when to use special abilities makes Powerstar Golf quite a bit of fun.
Visually, Powerstar Golf is very nice to look at. The fairways and greens look strikingly real, and each character is well-designed and looks kind of like a 3D model from a Pixar movie. The backgrounds on each course are lush with tall grass in the rough and bushy trees mixed about. The one aspect that takes away from the realism is that there are no spectators watching in the background — even though you can hear them cheering and shouting when you do well.
Each set of courses in the career mode have their own visual theme. The easiest ones take place in the city, and you can see a monorail traveling above as you play on them. The next set of courses take place in the high desert, much like the terrain near the Grand Canyon. After these, the setting shifts to a Japanese tea garden before the final courses take place on a set of lava-spewing, volcanic islands. All of these different themes are expertly executed. This means that as you make progress through the game you will continually be refreshed by each setting.
The sound effects in Powerstar Golf are also nice. When you drive the ball perfectly, the contact between club and ball gives off a crisp “ping” as the ball shoots off the club with a sort of glowing green energy. Each character also has dialogue that they spout when hitting a good shot or landing in the rough or water.
This dialogue helps define each character. For instance, Reiko is a scientist and will make quips about how her last shot was easier than completing a PhD and things like that. There are very few of these remarks for each character, however, so they can become a little repetitive and annoying after a while.
On the other hand, the music in Powerstar Golf that plays in the menu screens is very unobtrusive. I would even call it soothing and natural. There is, however, no music while playing the game. Even so, each course gives you the feeling that you are truly immersed in nature due to the abundance of ambient sounds, from the wind to the lapping of water to the chirping of birds.
Powerstar Golf is a game with a lot of longevity. Ten hours into the career mode and you’ll have barely scratched the surface. Unlocking new clubs, balls and outfits is a major draw. The fact that you earn sizable amounts of points even when you lose a round means you’ll eventually improve due to earning better clubs and balls. You can also earn perks for your caddies that will help you during the game as well as special boosters that will give you increased experience or shopping points. In this way, you get a sense of progress whether you win or not, and this makes playing the game fun for players of all skill levels.
That being said, players who are really good at the game will have plenty to strive for. Attaining a gold medal on each round is quite a challenge and will require not just outstanding gameplay skills but also great equipment; so players who really want to complete every facet of the game will have their work cut out. Each course also keeps track of your own personal best shots as well as the world record best shots, meaning that you can also strive to strike the ball harder and further than your previous efforts or even further than every other player in the world.
Powerstar Golf also has multiplayer options that keep the fun going even after playing the career mode. You can play head to head with another person, or you can play against the best games of several other golfers at once in both free play and rival modes. These modes will randomly match you with players with different skill levels, so you won’t be beaten every time and should win some rounds yourself. Thanks to multiple solo and multiplayer modes that both play well and occupy a good length of time, the content in Powerstar Golf is easily above par.
Given the rich amount of content, $19.99 for the full game seems like a good deal, whether you are into golf or not. Veterans will take advantage of the more advanced options, such as compensating for the wind and putting spin on the ball, while novices can play without using them; and each can do well in their own right. Also, the sense of progress by earning points even when losing makes playing the game rewarding all of the time. Because of these features, as well as its multiplayer options, Powerstar Golf is a good buy.