Mario’s adventures into the world of arcade-style sport have been around for a long time. However, some games have definitely been better than others. Now, Nintendo has once again tasked Camelot with this generation’s stroll onto the greens. Happily, like their other recent endeavours, there are bits that are undoubtedly a lot of fun and will keep you coming back for more. The clever new ball control mechanics and interesting new modes add a little something special. However, I just couldn’t help but feel that although Super Rush is swinging in the right direction, it doesn’t quite land a birdie on the 18th hole. Let me tell you why…
A good approach
The good news is the tee-off is fantastic. When you first start up the game – you’ll be met with a simply wonderful cinematic. A lovely animated section that introduces you to several of the Mushroom Kingdom’s favourite characters all dressed in their fancy golf-garb, as they take each other on in a Battle Golf championship match. It’s only a couple of minutes in length but you’re instantly enticed by the promise of what the game has to offer and this little cartoon actually leads straight into the single-player story mode.
While improving your stats is still pretty straightforward – the game does make it a little more interesting in that increasing one skill affects the others.
Your Mii character is introduced as one of the rookie players on the circuit and after a few encouraging words from ‘mama Birdo’, you’re quickly given a crash course on the game’s basic controls and modes. You then make your way through several themed areas – improving your game, gaining XP and partaking in one quirky competition after another in fun, light-RPG fare. While improving your stats is still pretty straightforward – the game does make it a little more interesting in that increasing one skill (like driving distance) affects other abilities (like control/spin adversely). So you can’t simply pump all your experience points into your drive because if you do every time you hit the ball 200m, it will also fly in a completely wrong direction. It sounds like a small and obvious change but I found it added at least a little more strategy and means everyone’s Mii will theoretically play slightly differently.
Unfortunately gaining XP still feels rather easy. I never struggled to beat a CPU opponent and while I did not finish every level on my first attempt – this was usually because I was struggling to manage my own game; a new mechanic or location. This idea of “playing against yourself and not the opponent” is probably quite an apt and a rather zen way of describing real-world golf. But when you’re stuck on level two for several turns because you can’t quite figure out the elevation of the next hole, the feeling I got was not self-actualisation – but rather mad frustration and that’s never too good. Happily, this only happens very occasionally on the trek through the Mushroom Kingdom and adjacent areas’ country clubs.
A fairway hazard
After Camelot’s last sporty Mario (Tennis Aces) got some flak for the lack of a beefy single-player adventure – fans of older games will be happy to hear that this mode not only leans a little heavier on the RPG side of things (as discussed above) but is a bit longer too. Now, before you get too excited – I should temper that comment a little. Aces’ story mode took around 5 hours to complete. On the other hand, Super Rush clocks in at around the 9-hour mark. Possibly even quicker if you’re a better golfer than me. And sure that’s almost double but I did find the whole mode a little odd. For about 75% of the game, the storyline is rather bland. Sure, the courses have some character and the Speed Golf is a fun little twist. But other than that and the odd appearance of Jedi-master-like Golf-Koopa Troopas – you’re just a young (almost real human person) golfer slowly improving their golf stats.
Then, out of nowhere 75% into the story, fantastical elements are thrown in.
Then, out of nowhere some fantastical elements are thrown in. Power-ups and some whimsical lore (if you can count the Mushroom Kingdom shenanigans ‘lore’) suddenly become part of the story. And the whole adventure goes off in an interesting new direction. And for fans – I’m happy to report that Wario and Waluigi and their wonderful pants take centre stage. And then, just like that, within two hours or so it’s over. I really enjoyed it – but I couldn’t help but feel like I wanted the magical nonsense to start earlier in the adventure. And when the credits suddenly rolled I was left feeling like it ended far too quickly. I’m not an expert when it comes to these things – but to me, it felt like either the fantastical elements were added as an afterthought or at least felt super rushed. Pun intended.
The right club
So while the story is probably still not the ideal adventure many were hoping for, the good news is that there are several other clubs in the bag. First off, there are three basic modes. The standard mode probably needs no explanation – it’s the same golf you’ve fallen asleep watching on TV with some brighter colours and cooler characters. But to spice things up we also get a Speed and Battle Mode.
Because part of the game is built on you running after your ball once you’ve hit it, you have to make all decisions and tweaks before you hit it, making hitting exact areas a little harder to do.
Speed Golf is standard golf but once you play the shot – you’ll run to where your ball lands and try to play your next shot as quickly as possible. I liked this version because it’s not only about getting to the hole in the fewest shots possible but also in the shortest time. Adding in a meter to show off your stamina and some crazy super dashing and swinging abilities – means you’ll be ‘bumper-car-ing’ your way past the competition and doing your best to freeze or explode the putting green to your advantage. In Battle Golf similar rules apply but instead of a regular golf course – you’re treated to a madcap arena (think of that old tv show ‘Gladiators’) and it’s a first-to-three type event. I already prefer digital golf to the real thing and these arcade versions of the game – just add another layer of enjoyment that even really good games like PGA Tour or the older Tiger Woods games generally lack.
With all video game golf though – often what really matters is how it feels to whack the digital ball. And for this, Super Rush has its own new take on the club swinging and ball spinning mechanics. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I didn’t. What the game does really well visually present to you how the ball is lying and how that ‘lie’ will affect how the ball will fly through the air. The user interface is simple and clear and other than wishing the text was a little more prominent when indicating the wind speed – I thought it was something future golf games should take note of. However, unlike other golf games – once you actually hit the ball you can no longer affect its trajectory in any way. Now, I know this makes sense realistically. But I think I preferred when other golf games allowed you to decide what spin to put on the ball once it was in the air and you had a clearer idea where it was going to land. Here though, because part of the game is built on you running after your ball once you’ve hit it, you have to make all those decisions before you hit the ball. And I found that it made hitting exact areas harder to do.
A Fourball with friends
Where this game does really come in stunningly under par is that its enjoyable solo but even more fun with friends. On your own, not only can you tackle the story mode, but you can also best your high score (either time or number of shots) on the courses that become available. I do wish there were more than 6 courses – but what’s there is quite fun. However, throw in some friends and once they’ve come to terms with all the controls (a bit of a learning curve as with most golf games) – Battle and Speed Golf ratchet up the enjoyment level several notches. The added element of super shots, bullying others as they run towards their ball and a madcap golfing arena are best enjoyed with a group of friends. Plus, for those of you that prefer swinging about in your lounge – motion controls are an option. My wife and I tried them out and while they’ll probably be fun to whip out at parties and for new/younger players – the level of control is much tighter with button controls as you’d expect.
Where this game does really come in stunningly under par is that its enjoyable solo but even more fun with friends.
Also, while there is an online component and you’d think that would open up even more marvellous multiplayer action (especially during the extended ‘no visiting other people’s homes’ we’re still experiencing) I sadly cannot comment. Unfortunately, during the review period, I could not find any players online. And while this is likely because the game had not officially released yet and may improve later, after my experiences with Tennis Aces, I’m depressingly sceptical. I suspect online matches just won’t be great for us here in South Africa. I hope I’m wrong but – I suspect finding players will prove difficult. But we’ll have to keep an eye on that one going forward. Here’s hoping something has improved this time around.
So what’s the score like for this new golfing adventure? A string of double bogeys or eagles and albatrosses all the way? Well, it’s a bit of a mixed day out on the course. The story mode is definitely a little better than Camelot’s last outing. The roster sports 16 of your favourite characters with their own unique animations. The new modes and well-presented swinging mechanics are a hit and in general, this game is fun and you’ll probably come back to it again and again – whether you’re playing it solo or with friends. However, there are some sand and water hazards along the way too. The story mode feels oddly paced and incomplete. The CPU opponents are overly kind (with no way to ‘up the challenge’) and my trepidation over the online options here in SA means it doesn’t quite hit the heights of a ‘great’ game. Thankfully, it’s good overall. Plus, we’ve been promised DLC with more characters and courses in the future so there’s enough to be positive about and you’ll probably find it’s closer to a birdie than a bogey.