This review is based on the Xbox One version of Powerstar Golf.
There is a really small selection of powers enhanced sports titles on consoles over the last few years, as the popularity of casual and “bite size” experiences proliferate on portable gaming and mobile devices. Gone are the days when franchises like NBA Street or brands like EA Sports BIG were constantly releasing newer versions with wilder abilities: there was a time when I was constantly rolling around and performing mid-air double alley oops to grind out power meters on the GameCube, but that gameplay style has come and gone.
While the major sports and especially skateboarding have driven away the audience for their respective arcade style sports franchises (sorry Tony Hawk, it’s definitely over now), golf is still up for some new and fanciful takes. Between the popular variety in mini golf and the generally sparse selection of games in the sport, there is a niche that Powerstar Golf on the Xbox One fits nicely into with its formula of boldly styled golfer avatars with distinct powers, supporting caddies with complementary abilities and a handful of courses made available in either free play or career modes. Players can quickly identify the avatar that suits their approach from power drivers like Frank to tacticians such as Reiko, and switch among them from round to round to maximize their fit for the variety of park, island and forest levels in the game.
The rise of micro transactions is also present in the game, but you can enjoy the experience without engaging with them: the credit rewards for completing a round of golf are fair, which are supplemented with an assortment of performance based medals and corresponding credit bonuses. These can be spent on a variety of card packs that include an assortment of equipment, boosters and abilities that slot into your golfers and caddies to improve and customize your performance: I had a lot of fun taking my golfers out with fantastically styled clubs and driving balls that could magically reorient away from hazards, magnetically pull towards the cup, split into multiple balls or other arcade style enhancements. That said, I chose my avatar primarily based on their equipment load out or the achievement(s) I was working on which is also perfectly valid: the abilities can make a big impact on a particular shot, but they are limited to a few uses at most to prevent overwhelming the core experience of the sport. This focuses the gameplay on navigating the standard course factors such as landing on fairways and the green with drives, chipping out of sand traps and avoiding roughs or hazards which leads to a more satisfying golfing experience.
Powerstar Golf is a fun bit of simple, casual gaming for a next generation console lineup that consists mostly of visual spectacle and combat focused action. There’s no multiplayer (aside from leaderboards) and no story at all: if you’re looking for a quick break or a way to relax while listening to podcasts, Powerstar Golf is the Xbox One title for you.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars