When you put the phrases smartphone game and 3DS eShop release in close proximity to each other there can be understandable concern - for dedicated portable gaming fans it can appear to be a marriage made in hell. Yet it's not always that simple, and titles that become a phenomenon on smart devices can succeed on Nintendo's portable if they have an addictive gameplay hook. Nintendo clearly thinks so, for example, partnering with GungHo Online to bring a Puzzle & Dragons double pack to the West.
Full Fat Games, a studio with a long history on Nintendo systems but which has found more recent success on smartphones, is getting into the swing of things on the 3DS with its eShop début, Flick Golf 3D. Featuring the full range of content available in the smart device versions, it aims to show that a significant success on phones can also score well in the more conventional - perhaps traditional - eShop.
The basic flick mechanic makes this a game for the trusty stylus, with full control being on the bottom screen. There are no intricacies of getting around a course here, but rather a focus on simply landing a hole-in-one - each hole is just one shot. An initial flick sets the ball on its way, but you then work hard to influence its path to the hole - flicks in mid-air can direct it in limited ways, and as the ball comes to land you begin swiping the stylus to apply over-the-top spin to try and direct the ball to the cup. As you'd expect from a game with a huge number of phone downloads to its name, the controls are instinctive and immediately accessible.
So yes, it's the very definition of casual gaming, though accessible may be the fairer term. Any player will be able to land relatively near the hole after a few flicks, though consistently nailing a hole-in-one is a trickier proposition. Wind needs to be taken into account, for example - the hole is always straight ahead, but an angled flick is needed to counteract wind; getting the perfect shot is more challenging than we perhaps expected.
This concept is spread across multiple modes to keep you busy. World Tour is the main attraction, in which you progress through - and unlock - multiple courses, shooting for the best ratings. Quickshot is designed for jump-in-and-play sessions, as you rattle through as many holes as possible in a limited time to set a high score - Quickshot Pro is the same thing, but with fierce winds to make life difficult. This perhaps falls into a similar place as puzzle games in a typical library - ideal for occasional short bursts.
What matters with an experience like this - which is a simple hook refined down to a core - is that it functions well, and Full Fat does deserve credit for optimising fully for 3DS: we've seen others move from smartphones failing to do just that. The flick controls feel tight and responsive, and certainly demonstrate the studio's previous experience working on the DS, and there'll be StreetPass sharing of scores as an extra touch.
It's also a strong port in presentation, too - the visuals are tidy, and most importantly (considering it's a game that necessitates subtle adjustments and reflexes) it has a silky smooth framerate. The graphics are among the cleanest we've seen from an indie dev on the portable, even if they're not pushing many polygons, but the solid framerate is what truly matters. The performance holds up with the 3D effect on, too, which looks pleasing on the eye.
What Flick Golf 3D delivers is a polished, simple and accessible experience. In terms of the quality of the port it's a hole-in-one, and the intriguing aspect will be to see how the full package feels as a whole experience on 3DS when it arrives, and whether a title like this can flourish on the eShop.