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Tycho / on Fri, Jun 25 2004 at 4:30 am

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Credit exchanges for Massive games are inimitably useful mechanisms - the notion behind them seems counterintuitive, and we’ve certainly enjoyed some amusement at their expense.  But - if you’re a person that thinks of your own time as the prime currency and the various manifestations and products of that time as inherently fungible, it makes a lot of sense to resort to brokers of strange currencies.  If somebody takes advantage of your exchange itself, though - if they purposefully manipulate the intangibility of the product you sell - it must be a pain explaining to normal people exactly what it is you do.

I’ve been looking forward to Mario Golf: Advance Tour for quite a while, in large part because we’ve got a number of airline flights coming up and I need something to think about besides my untimely demise.  It also uses Nintendo’s Wireless Adapter, which I don’t own, but it’s nice to feel that I’m halfway there.   

The way clubs connect with balls is virtually identical to Toadstool Tour on the Cube, which I enjoyed quite a lot, outside of the occasionally odd ball physics.  For the longest time I was content to blame myself for these inversions of sensible behavior, blaming myself for the faults of others being a passtime I cleave to with great enthusiasm.  At any rate, just as in the sometimes inexplicable Cube version you have your choice of automatic and manual shots, complete with power variations and various spin options.  Putting is a little less ornate, but it’s fine.       

You have probably heard that the game uses a sort of RPG metaphor, which I was initially very excited about.  Look at the Super Mario role-playing games for a hint at why - viewing the acknowledged structures of that genre through the template of the ridiculous, fungus-obsessed Mario context was (and is) illuminating.  I have kind of a fetish where transposition is concerned, so it’s possible that the game simply strokes some personal nub.  It does set my mind to spinning, though, envisioning the contours of the golf/role-playing nexus.     

The game’s by Camelot, so you will be struck initially by the similarities to Golden Sun - but I really must say the RPG “story” mode doesn’t turn my crank.  It’s really two separate games, like one genre with another genre perched atop its head.  In practice, it is an exhausting, serpentine menu system which obscures actual play.  You level up, and you talk to boring girls in iteration X of Japanese Exposition Theater.  I don’t care, and if I wasn’t desperate for alternate versions of the courses I’d simply forget about it altogether.  Luckily, while the game starts out with an almost unbearable about of inane dialogue, that hasn’t been my experience farther in. 

Even without indulging in that mode, though, there’s plenty of game available at the outset for people without the stamina to endure mundane exercises - and the play is very satisfying.  To use more than one GBA you’re all going to need cartridges, which is unfortunate - but you can also play multi modes just by passing the device around, and that works fine.  There’s a healthy selection of these modes, as well: Stroke, Match, competitive and co-operative Doubles, Skins, a mode called Club Slots which randomly determines your equipment, as well as a Near-Pin challenge that makes for a quick competitive round.  There’s another one, called Go-Go Gates, which is this version’s “Ring Attack” but feels like a combination of Golf and Croquet.       

I guess it speaks well of the game that I can discard half of it and still be satisfied, but that’s pretty much what we’re talking about.  The Golfing portions of this Golf game are excellent, and belong in your pocket. 

(CW)TB out.

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