Nintendo Touch Golf: Birdie Challenge (Nintendo DS) Review

By Mike Mason 16.02.2006 4

T&E Soft, the development team that Nintendo got on board for Nintendo Touch Golf: Birdie Challenge, have their history rooted firmly in golf games, but whether they can bring a successful golf game with their first DS game is a question very much up in the air. Nintendo took them on to create an exclusive game under their moniker, so one would think that there must be something here worth the effort...

Golf games, while often enjoyable, do not always translate brilliantly into games. Of course there are exceptions, Nintendo’s own Mario Golf franchise being one such exemption, but they can be cumbersome and clunky. Aim your shot with the direction controls, tap buttons at precise moments to smack the ball in the best way possible…surely there must be a better way? Golf-specific controllers have appeared that allow you to actually take a swing at your TV which may help (both with your game and with your family’s application to get you sectioned), but until Revolution turns up this isn’t plausible on a Nintendo console. The next best thing, then, could be clever use of a certain control method that a certain handheld has: the DS’ touch screen. More on that later, though…

Somewhat disconcertingly, there’s no background at all, no plot to go off, little to no explanation about the nature of the championships you’ll be partaking in. You’re thrust right into the game, instructed to pick a character and to go and play golf. That’s it. It all feels a bit empty, and the feeling isn’t alleviated too much by the mode select screen. While clean, crisp, easy to navigate and fairly pleasant on the eye, it lays out a slightly worryingly lacklustre set of modes – namely, practice, championship, wireless multiplayer and the golf club, which allows you to customise your character. Obviously you’re not going to get an amazing back story and a multitude of bizarre modes in what is marketed as a ‘proper’ golf game, but something might have been nice – some kind of story mode where you have to tour the country besting your rivals perhaps. Alas, it is not the case, and you’re left to practice on courses or play against your faceless opponents in the championships (who are literally faceless, as well as bodiless – you never see them on-screen at all in any capacity).

Screenshot for Nintendo Touch Golf: Birdie Challenge on Nintendo DS

Upon entering a mode, your first impression may be that the game looks quite impressive. Unfortunately, you are then likely to see your first character model and emit a nervous laugh – to say they are not up to par (pun not intended) is an understatement, with blocky bodies and simplistic faces. Thankfully, their animation is inoffensive for the most part, aside the occasions when a shot is botched and they fling their head back in a manner that implies disappointment, but in reality looks more like they’re having some kind of seizure or are about to belt out a particularly lung-straining karaoke classic. Once viewing the character is out of the way, the environments don’t quite seem as well done either, after scrutinisation; however, they’re more than passable, and a huge sight better than the golf-monsters that slightly resemble people.
Sadly, sound doesn’t fare too much better – it’s all pleasant enough, but feels like it could have been ripped, and possibly has been, from several other golf games that have ever existed and is totally unmemorable. You might say that it’s typical ‘golf music’; nice and relaxing enough to give you something other than silence to concentrate, to stop the pressure getting too high, but bland enough to completely forget within three minutes of switching the console off. The ball makes a nice ‘thwack’ sound, though, which is always fun…

Like many of the best games, Nintendo Touch Golf is simple to pick up but difficult to master, and the stylus use paves the way for this immensely. A brief tutorial is available when you first play, but it really isn’t necessary at all when the bulk of it is self-explanatory. On the overhead map, position the general direction you want to hit the ball with the stylus, choose your club by moving the cursor further or closer to your position (or by using the menu item to the side, or the d-pad – choices, choices!), then click on the gigantic ‘swing’ button (you seriously can’t miss it; it dominates the bottom of the screen). From here, you can make more adjustments from a ground level, again altering direction and club type, and, once you’re satisfied, take your shot. The shot is accomplished by tapping and holding on the club, pulling it back and flinging it forward at the on-screen ball as fast or as slow as you want. It’s executed brilliantly and can be picked up after just one or two goes, while retaining some depth. For example, if you don’t hit the ball on centre, the way it moves will be different, as you’d expect, which means you get start trying to be all fancy after you’ve got the hang of the basics. It has to be said that the game ‘nannies’ you a lot, with perhaps too-accurate projections of where your ball is going to go, illustrated with a big red line, but the wind always seems taxing enough to put you off ever so slightly, enough that you can often miss out on that valuable par. Simply put, the touch screen control is definitely one of the better things to have come out of Nintendo Touch Golf. It’s just a shame that the majority of the rest of the game doesn’t match up to it.

That said, wireless multiplayer is easily the best part of the game. A huge problem is that the game just lacks any kind of spark. Golf isn’t the easiest thing to translate across with a lot of charisma, much less a serious golf game, but the combination of a selection of boring, plain characters to play as, as well as the the lack of opponents and the uninspiring music, leads to an experience that, while often fun due to the control scheme, doesn’t feel compelling enough to sit and play for long periods of time. The addition of another, human opponent makes you realise what this game could’ve been, and a whole new dimension is added to it. This can be put down to one little feature: an advanced form of PictoChat. While your competitor is taking their swing, you have access to four small ‘notepads’ and some colours. You can write whatever you want on these notepads and send them to your opponent, where they will pop up on the screen in a nice fair-sized box. You can use this to encourage them, put them off their game, make them laugh, insult them – the latter of which was a very popular choice with us – and it seems that the real problem is exposed here; it’s the total lack of character and banter with other golfers. Sure, you can saunter into the golf shop and buy a new club or hat, but it doesn’t help to make you feel anymore connected to the experience. Why wasn’t some kind of mid-game communication included against the A.I. players, even if you could only send pre-set commands or images? It didn’t have to be overly deep, but some kind of banter between golfers popping up could’ve really lifted the experience. As it is, the game is probably worth getting for the wireless multiplayer alone – thankfully it’s single card multiplay.

It really is a terrible shame that the game isn’t better than it is. The control scheme is one of the best, most intuitive systems in a game we’ve played in a while, but the rest of the game fails to keep up. We’re left hankering for a sequel with more personality, or, if that can’t be delivered, the inevitable DS version of Mario Golf. Definitely more of a bogey than the birdie implied in its name.

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

It was sad to come to this conclusion, as with more time it might've been in the upper echelon of DS games, but in the long run Nintendo Touch Golf had a lot of potential that it simply failed to capitalise on. What is there is enjoyable enough, very much so at times, but there just isn't enough there. With more time this could've been something really special, but as it is it feels like a certain spark isn't there. A missed opportunity.

Also known as

True Swing Golf

Developer

T&E

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Sport

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

It's really sad that this couldn't have been more. I was really veering between a 6 and a 7 score, but ultimately the multiplayer pushed me over into the latter - it really is superb what a bit of human interaction adds to it.

Indeed, it looks like a launch title in my view...But technically it's 'sound'. I'd have probably given it the same sort of score...maybe a 7.5 if we were still doing 1/2 marks! Smilie

Anyway, it's flopped in Japan, the UK and doesn't appear to have done wonders in the US either!

Adam Riley [ Director :: Cubed3 ]

UNITE714: Weekly Prayers | Bible Verses

It's disappointing, it didn't deserve to do brilliantly but it doesn't deserve to have totally flopped either. I'm just glad I managed to grab it for

I've only played it once, but I do agree with the whole of what you said in the review. The characters are a bit... basic and I was disappointed that you can't change to be a girl :-( in a lot of golf games you can do that and that sorta thing matters to me :P

the pictochat part of it was really good though, made it a lot more exciting :-D

Co-founder of the PDSLB - Pink DS Lite Buddies Fraz: Cheerios are made from fairy orgasms.

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