Despite the fact that the Xbox 360 is nearly three years old, there seems to be a surprising lack of golf games. Outside of the Tiger Woods franchise there really aren't that many true golf simulators for Microsoft's console. So what do you do if all you want is a simple game of golf but you don't feel like spending upwards of $60? Perhaps you should think about Activision's newest sports game, Golf: Tee It Up!
I'll be honest; I had my doubts going into Golf: Tee It Up! For one thing I'm not a big fan of games that feel the need to shout at me, so we were already off on the wrong foot. However I stuck through it, if only because I need a cartoony golf game that doesn't take itself too seriously on the Xbox 360. Thankfully I did stick with this title, because I quickly discovered that Tee It Up is a charming little sports game that gets a lot of the fundamentals right.
In a lot of ways it's easy to compare Activision's golf game to Sony's Hot Shot series. Both games are full of adorable characters and colorful graphics. What's more, neither game punishes you for not being a diehard fan of the sport. Tee It Up is the perfect game for those gamers who have only a passing interest in golf. It's extremely easy to pick up and learn, it's great with friends and it doesn't take nearly as much time as actually playing the game (or watching it on TV). It's not perfect, but Tee It Up is certainly worth ten dollars.
While a lot of annual $60 golf games throw dozens of golf courses at you, Tee It Up keeps it simple and limits you to only two different locations. You can play on the Parkland course (which is described as "a hidden treasure from the Scottish highlands") or the Caribbean course ("a beautiful Caribbean beach resort designed to satisfy all your golfing needs"), both of which offer a lot of gorgeous scenery and a full 18 holes to play through.
For those used to playing the Tiger Woods series Tee It Up is going to feel like a time machine. Instead of finding a gimmicky way to hit the ball, Tee It Up opts for the tried and true three-click swing mechanic. Chances are if you've played a golf game in the last thirty years you have run into this mechanic. The concept is simple enough, you click the "A" button once to start your swing, then hit the "A" button again when you've decided how much power to give the ball, and then as the gauge is speeding back to its original position, you hit the "A" button once more to complete your swing. On paper it sounds crazy, but it's a gameplay mechanic we've seen countless times, so there's no reason why even the most novice players can't pick up the gameplay in just a hole or two.
When it comes right down to it Tee It Up is an extremely bare bones release. There's no single-player campaign to speak of, so you shouldn't get this game thinking that you're going to play a bunch of exciting one on one battles with other famous golfers. At most you will be jumping into a single-player game against several computer-controlled opponents, none of which you'll see or interact with. For the most part what you're doing is playing against yourself, always looking to improve your scores and maybe even show those tough computer opponents who the real star is. Outside of that there really isn't much for a single player to do, which is a real shame.Then again, the real fun of this game is in the multiplayer. Be it online or off, Tee It Up is at its best when you're playing against other real people. Given the nature of sport it wasn't always easy to find matches open online, but if you have a friend or two who owns it then this is heaps of good natured fun. Better yet, it's just a lot easier to get into a game and have fun with this game than it is with some of the deeper (and often more frustrating) disc-based golf titles. With its cute graphics and welcoming locations, Tee It Up is an incredibly accessible golf game that everybody should love.
Unfortunately the game does come with a few minor gripes. For one thing the putting is sometimes difficult to discern. Sure it gives you guides to show you the slope information, but it's a little too easy to accidentally hit the ball too hard to too soft because you can't accurately gauge where everything is. This isn't something you have to deal with outside of putting, so it's a shame that Tee It Up (like so many other golf games) couldn't figure out how to make putting easy and accessible.
The lack of courses is also disappointing. It's not that the two golf courses we get aren't interesting to play, but if you're a serious golfer then you're going to grow tired of these two locations in no time. While there is a download content button on the front menu, unfortunately there's no sign of new courses to purchase. Worse yet, when you highlight that button it doesn't say anything about new courses coming soon. Casual fans may not even notice that it only has two courses, but hardcore golfers will surely be let down by the lack of variety. Then again I suspect most hardcore golfers are going to be more interested in the $60 disc-based golf game.
For a downloadable game the graphics are surprisingly sharp. There's no so good that you'll think that you're actually in the Caribbean, but at the same time you'll be impressed by the nice attention to detail. Even the cartoony golfers (which are somewhat customizable) have a great look that sets it apart from the other golf games on the console. Unfortunately the audio is forgettable, but that's why Microsoft allows you to add in your own music.
All in all Golf: Tee It Up! is a worthwhile purchase, especially if you're one of those people who likes golf ... but not enough to buy a big $60 game full of it. It's lacking the variety of the bigger games, but it's overflowing with great graphics and charm. Tee It Up is definitely a welcome addition to the Xbox Live Arcade, especially since it comes from Activision, which isn't known for its sports titles. Hopefully we can expect more solid Xbox Live Arcade games like this from Activision in the future.