Review: Mario Golf:Toadstool Tour
Posted 21 Jun 2004 at 03:07 by James
Let's face it. Many view golf as a boring sport - and for the most part, I agree. Think of golf, and you picture old men in spiked shoes and golfing shorts, swinging a golf club to hit a ball somewhere near the hole at the other end of the course. Unlike most other sports, it is slow paced, uneventful - unless 'Oh dear, that ball seems to have landed in the rough!' excites you - and just doesn't inspire the kind of enthusiasm that the public have for sports like football and rugby. You'd think, given how dull sports like golf are, that making a videogame out of them would be a foolish idea, but many developers create such games regardless - and while these games appeal to the fans of Tiger Woods and so forth, the majority still regard golf as one of the dullest of sporting activities.
So, while the actual sport of golf may be a lost cause, what can be done to make the videogame equivalents more exciting? In Nintendo's opinion, the answer is to throw in Mario and various other Mushroom Kingdom characters, add a couple of crazy courses, and include a few extra game modes to spice things up a bit. And what do we get as a result? Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour. This isn't just golf - this is golf with the Nintendo Difference. But even after the original Mario Golf on the N64, do Nintendo still have what it takes to put the swing back into the sport?
Let's tee off with the graphics. They are bold, bright, and colourful - especially the character models. Mario and all his multicoloured chums look better than ever, as the character models surpass that of all the Mario games thus far on the GameCube. The environments are also very vibrant and colourful, especially the Mushroom Kingdom themed courses. This being quite a slow paced game, there are no frame rate problems, and the game plays very smoothly, with very sharp, crisp visuals.
There is also loads of meters and other information on the screen, showing you various statistics about the shot you're about to take, the wind direction, your current position in the game, and so on. While most of these are quite useful, they tend to clutter the screen and slightly obstruct your view of the course. Though this can be remedied by holding down the Start button after your shot, it is nevertheless irritating, and slightly detrimental to gameplay.
The music is typical of Nintendo - plenty of the happy, memorable tunes that are a staple of the Mario franchise. All the characters have a wide variety of taunts and phrases - which can be used when other players are taking their turn to distract them. The sound effects bar this are what you'd expect from a golf game - it sounds exactly like you would expect it to.
As for how it plays, you may find Mario Golf a little irritating at first - the camera is far too restrictive and does not allow enough freedom to plan your shots carefully. Also, the cluttered screen can, as previously mentioned, detract from the gaming experience. Thankfully, that's about it for the negative comments about this game. Let's start talking about why golfing with Mario is so damn enjoyable.
Firstly, you'll notice almost immediately that the game has a similar control system to the N64 original - very different compared to more modern golf games. There is a power meter at the bottom of the screen when you take your shot. You tap A to start the meter going, and tap it again when the power is at the level you want. Your character will then automatically take your shot. While this is ideal for amateur gaming golfers, this is far too simplistic for more advanced players. No worries though - tapping the B button instead of the A button when the power meter is where you want means the little cursor will move back towards where it started. If you tap the button at the correct time, you will make your shot more accurate, and you will be able to apply spin to the ball. This way, if you get the timing right, more advanced players will have greater control of their game than beginners. While this control system may be old fashioned, unless you play a lot of other golf games it is for the most part a very simple and intuitive control scheme, and makes the game accessible for all kinds of gamer.
The golf courses themselves are fun to play - particularly the Mario-themed courses, which contain warp pipes, Chain Chomps, and other weird Mario related features - forget what you've played before, this is real crazy golf. It would have been cool if there were more courses of this nature, but there's more than enough - and the traditional courses are great fun to play too.
Another great thing about this game is the wide variety of gameplay modes, giving you a varied play experience whenever you pick up the controller. There's the traditional Tournament and Stroke Play options, but there's also Doubles (in which you pair up and work together, taking turns to hit the same ball), Character Match (compete one-on-one against the computer to unlock improved 'Star' characters), Ring Attack (hit the ball through rings), Coin Attack (collect coins with the ball), and the amusing Speed Golf (complete a match as fast as possible!). The Club Slot mode also makes a return, selecting random clubs for you to play your match with. There are also Training modes to practise your skills, and a Tutorial mode that has a patronising Toad teach you the basics of the game - it's best to avoid this and work it out for yourself.
However, while all of this makes Toadstool Tour a worthy purchase for the single player alone, the multiplayer is where this game really shines. Mario Golf comes alive when played with three pals - most of the game modes allow up to four players to take part in matches of golfing lunacy. The fact that you are playing with your mates makes the game much more competitive and exciting, but you'd expect no less from Nintendo - they're masters of multiplayer mayhem.
The game would last long enough with all the modes and side challenges the game has to offer, but the multiplayer increases the games lifespan by at least a few months, guaranteeing you a great multiplayer game when you tire of Worms 3D or Mario Kart: Double Dash!!.
In the end, what you have is more than just a golf game. A superb control system, more modes than you could shake a golf club at, and loads of fun in multiplayer mean that Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour is more than worth your hard earned pennies. While it may fall just short of essential, this game is without a doubt a high quality game. It's arguable that because it doesn't take the game as seriously as the Tiger Woods games, it isn't as good - but that's personal taste. Tiger Woods may be a better golf sim - but Mario Golf is miles more fun.
N-Europe Final Verdict
Mario proves that golf can actually be a very enjoyable sport, if you play it in the right way.
Accessible to all gamers
Tonnes of extra modes
Superb multiplayer fun
Fun Mariothemed courses!
Not as deep as Tiger Woods