Everybody's Golf, or Hot Shots Golf in the US, has been a long running franchise spanning the whole PlayStation family, and has always held its own with a steady stream of quality titles. The most recent edition being Everybody's Golf 2 for the PSP, which thankfully matches the quality standard of the franchise well, and is still as accessible as ever for newcomers to the series.
The gameplay system in place is highly polished and even more refined than previous iterations. When golfing, the d-pad is used to aim in the direction you want to hit the ball, with left and right pointing in each direction, and up and down zooming in or out so you can see further unto the field. Pressing the triangle button will also zoom towards the location you're aiming at, so you can get a better picture on where the ball will land. The circle button will zoom you backwards, and X will reset the camera position. The left and right shoulder buttons are used to switch the clubs you're using which in turn dictates how far the ball will be hit in yards. The square button is used for 'power' shots, though you have a limited number of these, so they're to be used wisely.
Once you've set up your shot and have reset the camera position, the X button is used to make your shot. A small bar will appear on the bottom of the screen, where pressing X again at a certain time in the bar will dictate how powerful your shot is. Upon hitting X, the bar will retract and in order to get the best possible shot, you have to hit the X button again in a little area highlighted by a white bar. This white bars width is also dependent on what ground type you're hitting the ball off, so skilful timing becomes a necessity in order to play in a consistent manner.
The controls are tight and easy to learn, which in turn compliments the polished nature of the gameplay. It's an extremely accessible and addictive system, especially with the enormous number of unlockables. In the single player 'Challenge Mode', you go through a series of different events, the main being a nine hole tournament, where you play on various courses and aim to achieve the highest score, with bonus points given if certain conditions are met.
The events are separated in three segments: Head, Body and Accessories, with each winning you outfits of those respective segments. The outfits aren't just for style, as they also give you minor status boosts, such as a power boost in your shots or a better spin, adding some light RPG elements to the game.
Apart from the tournaments, you'll unlock versus modes after a while, where you take on another golfer in a one on one, with that golfer being unlocked as a playable character assuming you win. There are a total of twenty characters and twelve courses, so unlocking all of them is no easy feat.
There is also a loyalty meter in play, which basically rewards and 'levels up' if you continue to stick with one character. Constant improvements will be given out, and they can be in any form, being it new outfits or a status boost.
Visually, Everybody's Golf 2 is pleasing on the eyes, with a clean and vibrant look with simple but charming character models. The courses are well defined so it's not hard to distinguish between certain grass types and such, which is important in a game where ground types can turn the tide in a match. Though it's lacking in high detail models and pales in comparison to visually intense games such as God of War: Chains of Olympus, there's an undeniable charm to the overall look. It does a fine job and there are only small loading times when transitioning to other courses.
On the audio side, Everybody's Golf 2 has quite possibly one of the happiest soundtracks in a game to date. Quirky tunes are constantly played in the background, whether it be in the menu system or while in a match. It sets the mood for the game and fits the style perfectly. Audio cues from characters are fairly minimal, with your caddie probably having the most dialogue, though this can get a little annoying sometimes, with her constant "OH NO" yelps when you've shot into a bad area. It doesn't exactly aid in soothing frustration, so it tends to grate over time. Overall though, the sound is pleasant and does what it's intended to do, and helps keep the happy and relaxing tone of the game.
In a market filled with many deep and involving games for the PSP, Everybody's Golf 2 is a great chill out from all the bigger titles and is fantastic for bite sized gaming on the go, or for the truly dedicated, play sessions going into the hours. With an enormous number of unlockables, online multiplayer with up to sixteen players, and an addictive and polished gameplay system, Everybody's Golf 2 is a great game to sink your teeth into. It may be awfully similar to its previous iteration, but for the dedicated fans and newcomers, Everybody's Golf 2 is a worthy addition to your PSP collection.