Review: Let's Golf 2
Gameloft's golf simulation credibility isn't in doubt by now, in that it has mastered the physics and graphics needed to bring the 'good walk spoiled' to smartphones. Where it all goes slightly wrong is the introduction of rabbits, rhinos, horses and... super powers to what should be, in essence, a fairly straightforward sport. Do the cute characters, animals and extras enhance phone golf for you? Your decision, but my review, below.
Let's Golf 2 is a franchise that has spanned every other mobile platform, plus the core interface code was already in the (golf) bag, so there really was nothing standing in Gameloft's way in producing this title for Windows Phone, handily coded here for Mango, with support for fast resuming after an interruption (like doing something else on your phone).
The 6 courses supplied range from the fairly sensible ("England", "Germany") to the outrageous ("Greece", "Greenland", "Mexico", "Kenya"), with the latter featuring greens and fairways on 1000 foot high rocky plateaux. The variety is immense and the modelling of each (rather cliched) country impressive. Ground textures, object 3D modelling, vegetation, animated waterfalls, lakes, Aztec temples(!), and so on, are all here and looking superb. Whether you want to play in some of these extreme locations is another matter, but hey...!
I should also add that all the above aren't just graphical affectations - the modelling includes a degree of collision detection. So, for example, your ball might bounce down the steps of an Aztec temple or roll down the almost sheer face of a Kenyan cliff.
What are graphical affectations are the animals. These are presumably added 'just because the programmers could do it' and add nothing to the game. In fact, they're often a nuisance and a distraction. In each country, an appropriate selection of modelled creatures wanders around the course in seemingly random fashion. For example, in "England" you get foxes, rabbits and carthorses, in "Kenya" you get elephants, vultures and rhinos, in "Greenland" you get penguins and polar bears (has noone watched the news recently?!) The novelty of all this wildlife wears off in the first few minutes.
Talking of novelties, Let's Golf 2's programmers couldn't help but add one last element into the mix: special powers. Each golf character in the game has a special power that they can use every now and then (when the 'special power' meter around their face thumbnail has filled up again). 'Vincent's power is "Explosive force" - nothing to do with intestinal problems, this adds extra power to a drive when needed. 'Jade's power is "Power of charm", apparently being able to stop the ball dead on the green at any point, while 'Chris's power is "No wind", being able to play a shot entirely unaffected by prevailing winds. You get the idea. It's an interesting twist on the gameplay but it's still a novelty and I for one kept forgetting to look for special powers or use them. Sorry, Gameloft.
The basic game structure is straightforward - an 'Instant play' option and a 'Career' mode, with the former giving you three random holes from random courses and the latter leading you through each course in turn and expecting a certain performance to unlock the next one. Each character has slightly different attributes and there's a building 'experience' factor too - especially noticeable when you come up against another human controlled player later on in multi-player mode!
There are two extras: firstly there's a 'Challenge' mode, with 'Longest putt', 'Bunker ball' and others, each with five difficulty levels. The two most difficult are unlocked when specific courses get unlocked in Career mode. All a nice idea, but most people would probably rather just get on with the game itself? And 'Free hole' lets you pick a range of holes to play on any courses you've currently got unlocked. There's a difficulty setting at each stage, mainly tied into wind control - 'Hard' means fighting 15mph cross and headwinds.
The core physics and ball control are superb and with a sensible interface throughout. Tapping to the left and right of the player rotates your 'aim', you can change clubs at the bottom-left, and tapping the hole overview zooms ahead to show where your ball should land, spin and wind and hook/slice permitting.
On the green, there's nice handling of green gradients, and my only complaint would be that putting power control is too fiddly - so often, the power needed is just a small blip at the start of the 'bar' and it's easy to overdo putts and spend a frustrating few shots going backwards and forwards across the hole.
Although I didn't test these because of server problems at the XBox Live end, working your way through a career, getting to personal milestones and completing challenges all earn you XBox Gamer points, but there's no actual multiplayer gameplay right now, as there is on other mobile platform versions. [update: the server problems are being addressed]
Opening Let's Golf 2 on any current mobile version brings up a video introduction/trailer - it's easy to enough to skip with a couple of finger taps, but is worth watching at least once. Or just watch it here in the review(!):
Let's Golf 2 is a fine programming achievement that deserves more work and optimisation. I'd like to see full multiplayer action (likely to arrive in an update) and I'd like hole-to-hole transition times brought down to be two or three seconds and not the current twelve (timed on my HD7) - such a long delay really interrupts the flow of gameplay. Then we'd have a title to really be proud of.
Despite the animals... look out, there's an elephant on the green!! No, really....
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at