Sometimes, games only manage to stick around long enough to churn out a single instalment - but Everybody's Golf is a series that's got legs. Having appeared on pretty much every Sony platform since the days of the Playstation 1, it's yet another one of those games that we've only really had the chance to dabble in now -but that's not for a lack of want. An arcade, cartoony take on golf in the vein of Mario Golf and Wii Sports, Everybody's Golf is a golf game made for folks who don't really want to do complex trigonometry every time they try and take a shot, and is perfect for those who just want to have a putting good time.
True to its name, Everybody's Golf is a light-hearted take on the somewhat stuffy and serious sport of golf, full of bright colours, celebratory fireworks and comic-book style onomatopoeia words when you accidentally hit a tree. Perhaps unusually, instead of taking it in turns with your computer controlled opponents, everyone will instead roll up to each hole together, as you become part of a whooping, hollering mass of golf enthusiasts all lining up to take their shots at once. On the plus side, this never impedes your shots, as you and your ball pass straight through any folks in your way - but it does make golf seem way more lively a sport than you'd expect it to be.
When it comes to actually taking your shots, Everybody's Golf sticks to the tried and tested, simplistic three-click control scheme that means anyone can get in on the fun. All you have to do is line up your shot, then press once to start the meter building, another to set the power, and a third time when the meter reaches the bottom to line up your swing. Adding an element of timing-based skill to the proceedings, hitting it slap bang in the middle when it reaches the bottom is sure to send your ball straight, but too much either side and it'll curve wildly off course instead.
For the lone golfer, Everybody's Golf has a fairly extensive single player 'career mode' to work through, taking your own custom character from newbie to pro golfer, through various tournaments and versus matches along the way. New for this iteration of Everybody's Golf, you can now level up your proficiency with each golf club as you play - for every well-placed shot you pull off, your club will gain experience depending on the type of shot you've performed, levelling up its power, control, backspin and something called 'back door', which is a fancy way of saying those skin-of-your-teeth, grazing the edge of the hole putts that almost miss. Higher levels in each department will let you pull off fancier shots much easier, or simply let you hit the ball further when you're whacking it down the course with full power, so it's a handy way of getting the edge over your opponents. To be honest though, we've found ourselves struggling to get experience in anything but power, as everything else requires a bit more finesse. These stats also carry over into multiplayer, both online and offline, which can unfortunately mean that whomever has sunk the most time into the game will probably triumph regardless.
To make your way through the career mode, you simply need to accumulate enough experience points from playing golf tournaments to attract the attention of a key character, who'll then challenge you to a one on one versus match. After taking on and defeating two key characters, you'll be able to take on the 'boss' character, where beating them will increase your golfer rank, in turn unlocking new courses for you to try out, amongst other things. There's oodles of unlockable outfits, accessories and golfing equipment to unlock for your created character as you play and gain experience - and whether you win or lose, you'll still earn something for taking part, which is nice. There's no restrictions on what you can and can't wear or use either - so if you want to rock a bearded lady, or a burly man in a skirt, you can; Everybody's Golf is tres progressive.
However, working your way up these golfer ranks can feel like a bit of a slog. Before you can challenge the boss character, you'll need to play a good three or four tournaments on the same set of holes before the first versus character appears. Beat them, and you'll need to play another three or four tournaments on the same holes until a second versus character appears - then, once you've beaten them, you need to do yet another three or four tournaments on the exact same holes before the boss appears, where you'll finally unlock some new courses upon beating them. On the plus side, it means you'll be a dab hand at the course in question, but it can feel a bit grindy and repetitive after a while, playing the same set of nine holes a dozen or more times in a row.
Unlike your average serious golf game, though, Everybody's Golf does have a few mini-games of sorts for when you feel like a bit of a break from the green. Set in a beach resort hub world you're free to run around as you see fit (and even go for a swim), and as you make your way up the ranks, new features and attractions gradually unlock. First is a portly professor who likes to quiz you on golfing terminology, as well as Everybody's Golf specifics, with a reward waiting if you can answer them all correctly. Before long, you'll unlock golf carts, which you can both zoom around in and race, along with surprisingly extensive fishing game, with almost 70 different species to find and collect.
Still, if you do pick up Everybody's Golf, you'll want to stick with the grind, because without unlocking the courses in single player, you'll have a scant number of holes to play when you make the leap into local multiplayer. Hitting holes with up to four players all huddled onto the one sofa is the best way of playing Everybody's Golf, and with the option to pass a single controller between everyone, it's pretty accessible too. Letting you pick the number of holes and the course you want to play, along with setting various rule tweaks (such as tornado cups, which suck in nearby balls for a nice easy, breezy game), there's plenty of golfing fun to be had here, providing you're willing to put the time in in single player to unlock more.
Outside of local multiplayer, Everybody's Golf also offers a couple of unique online modes in the form of Open Course and Turf Wars. Open Course is pretty much what we'd imagine a golf-themed MMO might feel like - players from around the world wander freely around a sprawling golf course, taking on holes whenever and however they see fit... or sometimes just standing around in the plaza applauding a fountain. The idea is to try to set the best score on a hole in order to make your way up the leaderboard - although as with any online game, the top slots are usually occupied by whomever can get the flashiest hole in one. The real reason to take on the Open Courses is for the rewards - either the coin bonuses you earn for completing holes, or the coins, customisation options and power ups you occasionally stumble on while wandering around. Turf Wars, meanwhile, is a similarly open world experience, except this time you have a time limit and team mates to contend with. As with Open Course, the idea is to set the best score for a hole you can, although this time the game averages your team's performance, with the team with the highest score on a hole winning that hole - the team with the most holes by the end wins. You can also create a private 'Game Room' lobby, should you prefer some more straight-forward and standard golf matches with your friends instead.
If you're looking for a not-too-serious golf game to play with your friends and family, Everybody's Golf is pretty much as good as you'll get - its bright, light-hearted and simple enough for everyone, with full support for four player, same console multiplayer (did we mention you only need a single controller?), while still having a deep enough single player and online community for the more serious players too. Oodles of unlockable customisation options, courses and equipment keep you busy, although it can be a bit of a chore to unlock them all, as the single player requires an awful lot of repetition in order to progress.
Format Reviewed: Playstation 4