Gamestyle Archive intro: Alex was/still is I presume a massive Nintendo fan so imported the Gamecube rendition of Mario Golf whilst us mere Europeans had to wait until mid-2004 to get our round in.
Published: July 2003
Gamestyle has to admit a certain fondness for the latest in the age-old Mario franchise: filling the gap between platforming and karting quite neatly (at least in the States), Mario Golf gives Nintendo fans another dose of the old faithful cast and crew, with a few new[ish] faces bolstering the otherwise familiar line-up of characters. In what amounts to nothing more than an unashamed upgrade to the Nintendo 64 version of Mario Golf, Toadstool Tour brings new courses, new game modes and some quite gorgeous new graphics.
What it keeps much the same, however, is the swinging method. Rather than going down the route of Tiger Woods and friends, Mario et al must use the rather antiquated ‘Press A at the Sweetspot’ version of videogame golf, and little has changed since playing Leaderboard on an old 4-colour 286 over a decade ago. Basically, players hit A to start the swing then B at the desired power; finally, a further tap of A to set the direction and the ball’s away – and should this prove too tricky for younger players, A instead of B at the set-power stage automatically does the rest of the swing, with a slightly random outcome. Naturally, then, this allows Camelot a little room for improvisation and poetic licence with the normal physics of golf; double tap A on the way down and you’ll hit the ball with top spin, likewise a double hit of B will spin the ball the other way on landing. There are other spin combos, with obvious results.
Whilst initially Gamestyle would have preferred a more ‘mature’ swinging device, the Gamecube’s tiny C stick wouldn’t necessarily lend itself to precise direction, and once you get to grips with the game’s somewhat unique ball physics (the bounce is especially unpredictable) the easy spin setup does seem to prove valuable. More complicated shots can be attempted by hitting the ball at various spots, mainly to get extra height or curve the path of the ball around an obstacle, and with at least three button presses and this added thumbstick manipulation, there soon becomes plenty to do during the swing for even the most capable of gamers.
So, chaotic ball physics aside, does Toadstool Tour offer a decent game of golf? The answer is most definitely “yes”, and not just one game either; aside from the main Tournament modes (set over six 18 hole courses) there’s a plethora of game modes – including Closest to Pin, Speed Golf, and the more Mario-like shooting through rings and collecting coins. Each of the 10 or so game modes are completely self-contained (with high score tables and so on) and are mostly multiplayer, providing some great post-pub gaming moments – presumably a not entirely unintentional feature of the game. Games can get tense and challenging, with each character playing slightly differently and having different abilities. Mario Golf even offers a silly taunt option; tap the stick and the screen soon fills up with both complimentary and derogatory comments.
Speaking of filling up the screen, this is where Toadstool Tour fails to impress: while load times are virtually non-existent and the menus are all wonderfully intuitive, the actual in-game presentation leaves a lot to be desired. In a word, it’s messy – there’s far too much information crammed onto the 4:3 display (a widescreen mode would have helped to push out the HUD to the sides leaving more of the course visible). If it’s not the rather pointless Mario and Boos pointing out the power and wind direction, it’s the infuriating presence of more Boos scrolling past the screen after a couple of seconds – reminding you that “A starts a swing”, and other daft lines. Fine for the first ever game, but after 20 hours of play Gamestyle was well aware of how to play the game, thank you.
The music and sound effects are particularly grating, too, but the game’s playable without both, so switch your amp over to the CD player for the duration. So, with the patronising and clumsy screen display out of the way, all that’s left is to say that Golf fans (and Mario fans in particular) will find plenty to do here – the graphics are excellent (and locked at 60 frames per second), with well defined courses and helpful grid lines, and the tournament courses range from the gentle and forgiving first course (which closely resembles a ‘normal’ golf course) through to the fan-service Peach’s Invitational (complete with her castle, chain chomps and warp pipes), and a final hard-as-hell 6th course in and around Bowser’s castle.
There’s much enjoyment to be had here, it’s just a shame a little more effort wasn’t made to make it more grown-up for those of us more familiar with videogames; and there’s absolutely no excuse for the game to be scheduled for a mid-2004 release in Europe, either…
Gamestyle Score: 7/10