I have a weird relationship with Mario sports games. Is videogame golf more or less of an experience when Mario is involved? I say he doesn’t add much to any sports game and rest assured, the same is true in World Tour. It might actually be for the better.
Instead of shoehorning a reason to play as the plumber, in the main game you get to play as one of your Miis, and your opponents are assorted Mario and Nintendo characters. From there, you are thrust into the setting for the game, the ‘Castle Club’. Imagine Princess Peach’s castle if it were a golfing resort. It’s actually pretty cool and has a bunch of throwbacks to the classic castle. Your goal is to progress through the three tournaments and become champion of all three 18 hole courses of varying difficulty. In the quick play mode you can play as Nintendo characters with different stats, but the main game is played with your Mii only.
Along the way, there are themed 9 hole challenges which you can do as extra goals. Completing tournaments and goals earns you coins which you can use to upgrade the equipment for your character to raise their stats. There are also extra challenges which limit strokes and offer big coin rewards.
It’s worth mentioning that while the sound design is so-so, as it usually is on the 3DS, the actual theming of the overworld and courses is really well done. It still has that almost generic 3D Mario feel with none of the lustre of the Wii U hardware, but overall it’s nice to look at, which is super important for a golf game where a lot of your time is spent in scenery.
The castle overworld itself even has some light story going on, with a tonne of cameos from Nintendo and related characters. They could’ve just gone with a simple exhibition play mode instead of the fancy overworld, but it shows that Camelot; the third party developers of the Mario Golf and Tennis games, really put in effort to make it a bit more than that.
From there, Toad and his annoying voice tutorialise taking shots and shot selection. You can choose either auto or manual options, the manual options allow for spin on the ball and other refinements to your shot. I found auto to be totally fine to use along with choosing my club and shot power. I could see how it would be useful to spin the ball to compensate for wind, but I really had trouble with it, so I didn’t bother. The items are a nice way to shake up a regular game too, from helping you get to the green, to increasing your coin count with every yard the ball travels.
So as far as a novel golf game goes, it definitely hits the spot. It’s not going to set the world on fire in terms of raw mechanics, but things like the fast forwarding of shots and skipping of cutscenes really help speed up the game and not make it feel like a drag to play. I felt like I could put it down, and come back to it whenever I liked, without 18 holes feeling like a life sentence.
Other than the main tournaments and challenges, you’ve got local and online play, which aren’t functioning at the time of this review, assuming because the game isn’t out till May 3rd worldwide. Weirdly, there’s also DLC planned which adds graphical updates and new course packs. It’s nice to see they are willing to support this game beyond the release, especially a lower profile release like Mario Golf World Tour.
There’s a lot of golf to be had in this game, and it’s damn good golf, but it’s still golf, which isn’t going to be everyone’s taste to begin with. However, World Tour’s charming world and interesting overworld design sets it apart from the other titles in the series and earns a surprising recommendation from me.