Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour Review (NGC)
I was eager to play “Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour” when I recently purchased a GameCube. I’d only played the version for the N64 briefly before, but did enjoy the little time that I had spent with it. In the last two years, I’ve become a fairly big fan of golf games. I played a lot of “Tiger Woods” last year and spent a great deal of time with “Links” this year, so I wondered how the latest version of “Mario Golf” could stack up against the two big dogs of golf games.
“Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour” doesn’t focus much on the realistic aspects of the game, but instead tries to create an experience that will allow this game to be enjoyed by everyone, not just golf fans. The biggest adjustments from “Links” to “Mario Golf” were the small things that you get used to in sim games that are not available in “Mario Golf”. An example of this would be the luxury of not having to adjust your shot to the lie of your ball. The only factors you need to take into consideration when viewing the flight path of the ball are the wind and weather conditions - other than those things, if the ball is hit well, it will follow this path exactly. This flight path does take trees, hills, and other objects into consideration, which takes a great deal of the difficulty away from the game. Knowing if a ball is going to hit an object takes most of the guesswork out of how to play a shot, and therefore out of the game, and it will save you quite a few strokes per round.
Almost instantly after putting in “Mario Golf”, I was disappointed at having to revert back to the 3-click method of swing after using the analog stick for “Tiger” and “Links”. It seemed like a big step back in gameplay, but then I took a look around the Mushroom Kingdom, and remembered that this game was not supposed to be like any of the other golf games on the market. The swing can be simplified to become a 2-click swing if you do not want to add spin. You’ll simply hit the “A” button to start the power-up meter, and then hit it again at the desired power level on the bar. Adding spin can be a bit more complicated; there are four options for types of spin to put on the ball. Topspin and backspin can be used when the shot needs that extra little something. Then super topspin or super backspin come complete with skidmarks and fire trails when you really need an extra special touch. These can be added by hitting the proper two button sequence at the time you wish to make contact with the ball.
Starting off, you’ll have two courses available: Lakitu Valley, which is a pretty basic course that you wouldn’t be surprised to find in any of the other games. Congo Canopy is a course compiled of par threes located far above the ground on greens suspended by trees. While Lakitu Valley starts off pretty bland, it’s a good warm-up for beginners to the game, Congo Canopy is about as unrealistic as courses come, but that’s part of what “Mario Golf” is all about; enjoying courses you’d never see in sim games. Congo Canopy is not an overly challenging course, although most players are likely to pick up at least a couple penalties for going out of bounds while missing some of the smaller greens. As you unlock new courses, you’ll see new features or themes for each course. Shifting Sands is a desert course, which gives you large sections of sand traps to work around. Peach’s Castle Grounds brings out pipes that will allow you to warp balls to other parts of the course. While hitting into a pipe often pays off by rewarding the player with a spot closer to the green, it can also be quite a challenge squeezing your ball into one. Players will have to weigh the risk and reward factors for their current position in the round when attempting to accurately hit into the pipes.
Putting is a big part of golf, but unfortunately it’s not one of “Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour’s” stronger areas. The grid for the green is very user friendly; allowing you to see which way the green slopes as well as clearly giving you the up or down hill information. However, even with this effective tool it’s often hard to tell just how much you need to aim to the left or right of the hole when there is a major slope to the green. This does take a bit of the fun out of the game, but all the other things that “Mario Golf” does well helps to make up for below average play on the greens.
This is an area that “Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour” excels, boasting enough activities in the game to keep you busy for quite a while. Not only are there many different activities for you to take part in, but records are tracked for you in each of the different game modes, including highlights allowing you to watch your best holes. Since there are quite a few different game modes, I’ll break each one down individually.
Tournament: The tournament mode is only available in single player, and this is where you’ll get your opportunity to unlock all the courses in the game. Each tournament is 18 holes and you’ll compete in stroke play against the other characters in an attempt to win the tournament and unlock the next course. Generally, to win each tournament you’ll only need to shoot par, but even that can be a challenge as the courses get more and more difficult.
Character Match: Character match is also only available in single player. By beating characters in this mode you’ll be able to improve the original characters given to you, unlocking a star version of each of them. The characters will challenge you to 18 holes of match play on the course of your choice, and after beating a character it will then allow you to advance to the next challenger.
Speed Golf: Speed Golf is pretty self explanatory - it keeps track of the amount of time it takes you to finish each hole. Unfortunately, it’s only single player, so if you’re competing with friends, you’ll have to take turns playing the courses.
Training: This is the last mode that’s only available for single person play. In this mode you can practice individual holes of any course; allowing you to hone your skills if a particular hole or shot is killing you.
Stroke Play: Fewest strokes wins. Here you’ll be able to choose from one to four players, as well as from three to eighteen holes of play on any course.
Ring Attack: In Ring Attack, you’ll have to hit your ball through giant rings suspended in mid air throughout the course on the way to the hole.
Club Slots: This is one of the more creative modes in the game. Before each hole, you’ll see a slot machine and each person will get to test their luck and see which clubs they’ll be able to play with for the hole. On your slot machine you’ll be given a column for one wood, one iron, and one wedge; there are also stars in each column that could get selected. If you get a star in an individual spot you’ll get no club in that area, so at times you may be forced to play an entire hole with just a wedge and putter. If you get all three stars, then you’ll be allowed to use all your clubs for that hole. The scoring for this mode is different as well; you’ll be attempting to score the most points with an eagle worth four, a birdie worth three, par two, and bogie one. Before you start the round, you’ll also have an option to add a fourth slot which would give you different power ups or a chance to add a mulligan to your round. The Club Slots mode is a great addition for multiplayer games; even though it’s not nearly as enjoyable alone.
Near-Pin: This tracks the distance to the hole after one shot, as well as keeping track of the total distance for the round. The person who’s closest to the hole wins. Good for those of you who hate putting.
Match Play: Match Play is only available for two players, and who ever wins the most holes wins the match. You can compete on any number of holes between three and eighteen.
Skins: Skins play is only available for two or more players. Each hole is worth a skin, and if players tie on a hole then the skin is carried over to the next hole. Whoever has the most skins at the end of the round wins.
Coin Attack: Coin Attack does not score you on your strokes; but rather on how many of the coins you can pick up across the course. They have scattered coins on the fairways and green, as well as many suspended in mid air. There are two ways you can play; but personally, I prefer the option that forces you to make par in order to keep all your coins. The other option is that you’ll have two shots less than par - so if it’s a par three hole you’ll get only one whack to pick up as many coins as possible to add them to your score. Much like Club Slots, this is a game mode that’s best when played with a group of people.
Doubles: Allows you to alternate shots with a partner in stroke play, match play, slots play, or a skins match.
GRAPHICS AND AUDIO
The game looks exactly how you’d imagine “Mario Golf” should look. It has a lot of bright colors and cartoony landscapes - these continue to drive home the point that this is not a sim golf game - and they fit in perfectly to the feel of the gameplay. You’ll get fountains in the middle of lakes, pipes off to the sides of the fairway, and even the occasional ball and chain in a sandtrap ready to devour your ball on impact. For people that want a true to life golf game, this is going to drive you out of your mind, but then again if that’s what you’re looking for, then the title ““Mario Golf”: Toadstool Tour” should have scared you off already.
The sound and music are probably the weakest point of this game. The music can be tolerated for a round, maybe even two, but at that point it had to be turned off. After turning off the music, the game is much more enjoyable, as you’ll hear the calming flow of the water and birds chirping in the background. In multiplayer games, you’re able to hear the obnoxious heckling from the other players - which also may get old quickly, but can be ignored.
“Mario Golf: Toadstool Tour” boasts a surprising amount of depth to keep gamers coming back for more; offering hours upon hours of gameplay before the user has unlocked all the courses and characters, as well as multiplayer game options as deep as any of the other games on the market. If multiplayer games are your thing, then “Toadstool Tour” should be an excellent addition to your gaming library. It obviously won’t get as much play from golf fans as “Tiger” or “Links”, but if you’re looking for a golf game with a change of pace - this could be it. It's the perfect game to enjoy with kids, the wife, or friends who may not be into golf while still giving you that golf fix you need.