The mechanics of Powerstar Golf are simple and familiar - point the ball in the right direction, nudge the D-pad around to add spin, and finally tap the A button to cross the Rubicon and kick off the power guage. It's all classic, done-before stuff, from a time before Tiger Woods moved the swing onto the thumbsticks, but it's presented neatly, and the cartoon presentation is a relief in a sport that's defined, in the real world, by social exclusion.
Powerstar Golf is extremely slick. It understands you want to play a quick round, and doesn't begrudge you tapping A to hurry things up. Information about your friends' shots is superimposed onto the course, giving you a constant ream of targets and challenges to beat, even when you're playing the solo career. And the rewards are constant, too - XP rolls in for nice approaches, recoveries from the rough, landing near the flag on the green. It's all as friendly and encouraging as the style implies.
A couple of problems present themselves quickly and persistently, though. The speed at which the gauge moves is fast enough that a Perfect Shot is infrequent enough to be worth celebrating. That's fine. But even the tiniest small hook or slice curves the ball quite harshly, and there's a sense that it's just not as smooth or connected as it could be. This gauge is the absolute fulcrum of the game, and the fact it hasn't been totally nailed is what stops Powerstar Golf from receiving a gushing recommendation.
Career mode sensibly guesses that you don't want to watch the other players take their shots, but it does make their results feel doubly pre-ordained and robotic. The complaints fade into fun when you're playing against other people, making the same mistakes, and shouting the same Jesus-upsetting profanities. You can play with up for four players locally, but there's an asynchronous Rival Mode, that lets you play against any of your friends (or strangers) best rounds. And if your performance beats anyone else, you'll bag some free XP.
Meanwhile, there's a shop, where you can trade your earned (or Store-bought) credits for packs of five random cards or three random boosters. The random thing is obviously designed to encourage gamblers to part with real money, but the rate at which you earn coins is fast enough that only the impatient and compulsive will need to buy them. Played on a gamepad, Powerstar might not have the grandma-pleasing intuitive appeal of a Kinect-powered title, but it's still a sweet and inclusive family game.
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With a little bit more attention paid to the power gauge, this could have been an instant family classic. As it stands, it's still an enjoyable party game that makes good use of online.
- Slick presentation
- Unobtrusive shop
- Rival Mode is a great way for loners to avoid AI
- Over-demanding gauge
- Punitive hook and slice