Mobile games are often simple affairs, and all the better for it, as their very nature means we play them when there’s only a few minutes to fill. How long does a level of Angry Birds take to play? Not long, but it’s addictive enough that you’ll keep going if the 15 minute train journey ends up taking 30 minutes. Does that mean we don’t want complex games? No, but there’s complex and then there’s Golf Star.
Golf isn’t the most accessible game as it is, with all its different clubs and baffling language, but Golf Star has added its own layer of confusing terminology over the top, making it very frustrating, particularly for the newcomer. Before we get to this, let’s take a look at the game itself. We’ve been playing Golf Star on a Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7.0, and it plays very well, with only the odd stutter. It’s a hefty download at more than 450MB, plus there’re a few minutes of installation time when you first boot up the game.
Golf Star looks fantastic, with beautiful colours, excellent animation, and rich textures. It’s also optimised for the tablet, which isn’t always the case with Android, and the larger screen is ideal to make the most out of the luscious visuals. The game itself is relatively standard golfing fare, in that to complete your swing, you tap a button to power up, then tap it again to measure accuracy. It’s tried and tested, and there’s a good reason it’s used often – it takes a degree of skill to get right.
Each game takes place over three holes with varying par, and most levels come with sub-missions to complete, for example you must obtain a certain quality of shot, or manage to come in under par a fixed number of times. The game looks and sounds so good, it’s a pleasure to play through the levels several times to make sure you pass each mission. We love the sound of the driver hitting the ball – a really satisfying metallic thunk – and the trail the ball leaves behind as it soars through the air. Golf Star is properly polished, and a candidate for being one of Android’s best apps in this respect.
Until you get to the menus, where the screen becomes cluttered and confusing. For a game which plays so well, and looks so good, it’s a real achievement to have made navigation so messy and unpleasant. There are buttons everywhere all leading to options to do this and that, and it’s easy to miss the ones to continue the game, which aren’t even clearly marked themselves. Then you get to the scoring system. Forget the official golf scores, they’re as plain as day next to the points earned in Golf Star, which include hearts, stars and GP. You earn GP and stars when you play – although the way they’re assigned is a mystery – and hearts are needed to actually access levels.
Stars and GP can be purchased using real money, but hearts must either be earned or swapped for stars. After you finish your round, hearts are used by the game to alter your score, or to buy multipliers, often without your input. Why? No idea. Golf Star would be a vastly improved experience if it just got rid of all the options, weird scores and confusing menus.
The multiple in-game currencies can also be used to buy new clubs, clothes and accessories, some of which are officially licensed. You can tell because they’re obscenely expensive. Take a set of TaylorMade RBZ clubs, to buy them you’ll need 2495 stars, an amount which costs $50 if you can’t wait to earn them in-game.
Golf Star has an online mode, but it quickly becomes a pay-to-win situation, as inevitably the folk who have the best equipment and classiest golfing togs win more often. Great if you’re willing to spend potentially hundreds of pounds on a virtual golf game, but not so much if you’d rather not. Golf has never been, and will never be a cheap sport, but it’s a shame Golf Star has to be the same way.
Golf Star is free to download and is a really great golfing game, but once you start to run low on hearts – needed to enter competitions – it’s a slippery slope to spending a lot of real money on in-app currency, of which there are two examples, don’t forget! Download it, have some fun until the free money runs out, then decide if you want to pay to get better.