Powerstar Golf is at present the only next gen Xbox One golf game currently available. It has the same pleasant presentation as Sony’s Hot Shots Golf, a cartoony cast of characters, rounded fonts on all of the text, colorful courses with softly rolling fairways, and a calming, uncluttered pace. As a launch title for Microsoft’s flagship Xbox One, Powerstar Golf hopes to lure a part of that same crowd but at a lower price of $15.99.
While Powerstar Golf uses the traditional three-click swing, where you stop a moving line first for power and second for accuracy, it challenges players to be thoroughly proficient and demands much more precision than other golf games in its genre. This isn’t because the three-click swing is difficult to use, as hitting a perfect swing is rather commonplace, but because the courses are devilishly designed. The first course, City Park, has familiar fairways and trees akin to most golf courses embedded in the heart of the woods, but even it has numerous bunker traps, fast greens with harsh slopes, and plenty of other traps to spite you.
By the time you earn enough experience points to unlock the second course, Rocky Ridge, you’ll have to contend with elevation spikes and drops, unyielding winds blowing in every which direction, and holes situated around water. Almost every hole from then on, through to the third and fourth unlockable courses, are ruthless and one mistake will send your score into the rafters. Just try getting anywhere close to a pin in the middle of a downward slope, on an island, surrounded by bunkers and water, sixty feet down, while the wind is blowing away from you at 25 miles per hour. Thank goodness you don’t have to worry about rain or the slope of the ball’s lie, or getting anywhere under par would be nigh-impossible.
A part of the reason every course seems viciously and sadistically designed is due to there being onlyfour of them, which is a low number even given the budget price. The same goes for the four unlockable characters that complete the roster of only six characters. None of them play that differently from each other apart from their inherent skill: Kiara can correct a ball’s flight in mid-air, Dominique can add spin to ball while it’s moving, Frank can increase the distance of a ball by 10%, and Reiko can create an attractive magnetic field around a hole.
Playing forward, you and your caddie will gain experience and money. This can be used to equip perks and buy booster packs of new clubs and one time use powerups. It will take a little while to get a good set of equipment going, but once you do you will be able to crush the courses on the easiest settings. The real beauty of this game’s design is that you can’t just sink a ton of time into it and super power your golfer. All of your golfer’s stats are directly related to the equipment you have, so the game cannot be “boosted” by someone that just plays an extreme amount of time. There are micro-transactions available for those that may not want to invest time into earning money to buy booster packs. The real world money to Powerstar money conversion rate is not very fair to the consumer, so I do not recommend that route. Any player will do just fine playing events and completing challenges, after a few hours you should have enough cash to buy a good amount of booster packs and get a decent set of equipment.
To complete some of the harder challenges you will need that better equipment. Powerstar Golf is a game that can be very easy to learn, but very hard to master. From the start it seems very simple, you just hit the ball exactly where your HUD indicates the ball needs to land. Once you start having to figure in wind, height, and where the ball lies; everything becomes a very complex and tactical game of judgment. It is very satisfying once you start to figure out how much each of these unique conditions will actually affect your shots final outcome. This is all something the game does a good job of easing you into, but trust me, by the time you get to the final course you better have taken a lot from those lessons. This is a very challenging and unforgiving golf game on higher difficulties and harder courses.
One big missed opportunity on Powerstars Golf is the multiplayer. You can play couch co-op, you can play against your friends “ghosts”, but you cannot play online multiplayer with a friend directly. Not sure why this is not in the game, seems like a big miss in my opinion. Games like this are good for playing if a lot of people are in a party just chatting or doing multiple things. There is very good leaderboard support though. Every course and every shot on that course typically has a record associated with it. It will display the World Record and your top friends list record in the top right corner of the screen. This way you can see if you hold the record or if you can top one of your friend’s shots and take their place. This system does a great job of adding a meta-game to the overall product.