Review: HB Arcade Disc Golf (WiiWare)

A discontenting discappointment

The sport of "disc golf" (so named here to subtract the more well known trademark, “Frisbee”) is perhaps played more often on the Wii than in real life. Even so, the sport itself is an obvious good fit for Wii owners as the entire sport essentially boils down to players standing in place and taking turns swinging their arm. Past iterations include a turn in Wii Sports Resort and Tiger Woods releases beginning in 2010. It also appeared on WiiWare recently in Zoo Disc Golf. So disc golfers have no shortage of choices on the Wii, and at least two of them are already highly recommended by us at Nintendo Life. Is there really room on the roster for one more?

Although some other games released so far have gone with a more realistic approach (with Tiger Woods using actual golf courses), HB Arcade Disc Golf follows Zoo Disc Golf's lead and kicks it up a notch. Featuring a wacky course design that resembles geographic terrain found in nature but unlikely to strike anyone as a place suitable for golf of any variety, the settings include canyons, caves, islands in a lake, and crazy Jetson-like mesas up in the air.

At first, these courses look intimidatingly difficult. And in real life, they would be. But the game mechanics make playing it artificially easy. Too easy. For one thing, you don't ever really have to aim. The game seems to choose a reasonably good starting position for you with every “stroke” you take. Although you can change your facing direction, there is rarely much reason to do so except to throw around an obstacle. Instead, your primary decisions are simply how fast to throw the disc, and whether to twist your wrist to the right or left to add “draw” or “fade” to your throw (curving your throw, for the uninitiated). So although there may be a huge canyon between yourself and the “hole” (a standard disc golf basket for catching the disc), your player always begins facing in the right direction, already corrected for wind resistance, and you merely must throw hard enough to get over the canyon. Throwing hard means simply swinging the disc in a longer arc. It is not measured by actual throwing strength.

Again, it's not as hard as it looks. As long as you can hold your hand steady, you'll either throw it too hard, or not hard enough, but you'll always be roughly on target. There is no MotionPlus support, so highly sensitive controls are not to be found here. As a result, your input was intentionally kept to a minimum. This makes the game easier than MotionPlus-supported disc golf games, but only out of necessity and not any sort of creative design choice.

What can be difficult is that on some levels you must target small platforms (the aforementioned Jetson-like mesas) and island hop from one to the other to the goal. This is especially bad in one level featuring a giant spider that stands between you and the hole. You must island hop around this obstacle one mesa at a time. This makes for probably the most difficult level in the game because it is so easy to overshoot your landing zone. The vast majority of that course is a bottomless pit and if your disc fall into it, you may be dropped back to the beginning (with a one stroke penalty, to add insult to injury). Although aiming may be easy, judging the distance needed for your throw is not and it can be difficult to judge how much “strength” to put behind each attempt.

Most holes are easier than this, but when a difficult one like this comes up, it reminds the player of just how little input was actually required on the other holes. If difficult holes like this one are too much of a problem, the game cuts you off at a +5 penalty and moves you on to the next hole.

The game features two courses of nine holes each. This is, sadly, the norm for WiiWare games of a “golf” nature, but it is still not very many and it won't take the average player very long to breeze through all 18 holes in one short sitting. After the regular skill level, you can try your hand at “Pro,” which uses the same courses but with a different starting point, usually farther back from the regular starting point and at more of a difficult angle from the hole. But once done with these 18 holes, there is nothing more to do but play them again either by yourself or with up to four friends in local multiplayer.

Or you could try playing as one of the other four animals. Oh, we neglected to mention that? Yes, you play as your choice of an anthropomorphic raccoon, beaver, skunk, or squirrel, whichever one you deem to be the best at throwing sports. We're not really sure if it's becoming an industry standard for disc golf games to feature animals as playable athletes, but once again the game seems to be following in the footsteps of Zoo Disc Golf. Regardless, the animals don't actually have any effect on game play other than to display exaggerated reactions to the results of your throw.

Lest anyone say we over-emphasized the mediocre while ignoring the positive aspects of the game, we should point out that HB Arcade Disc Golf does have one special feature. From the title screen you can view the credits at any time and players can fast-forward or rewind at any time. Now you can watch the credits backwards. Go ahead and try it, it's actually perversely more fun than the game itself.

There are no scoreboards or any evidence left over after you have finished a course. The game seems to expect that, like a crossword puzzle, you won't really care to revisit these same courses after you have played through them once on both skill levels. To solve this problem, HB Arcade Disc Golf comes with an in-game content download client to allow you to purchase additional courses. Unfortunately, no additional courses were available at the time of release, so we were unable to review this feature.

Despite the unusual course designs, HB Arcade Disc Golf is, sadly, a very average release. If there is one truly positive thing we can say about HB Arcade Disc Golf it is that the music is very appropriate to the game. Traveling to the most bizarre edges of the world to play disc golf with animals makes for a weird trip that only new age music set to the sounds of the ocean can explain.

Conclusion

We suspect that the lack of MotionPlus sensitivity or any real challenge will turn off avid disc golfers. As such, we are not really sure who the intended market is for HB Arcade Disc Golf. But we suspect that that market is now officially saturated with not one but two releases in the rapidly growing genre of “casual animal disc golf game.” With better graphics than Zoo Disc Golf and none of the slow down problems reported in that game, we think HB Arcade Disc Golf wins out in that comparison. And the creative direction of the included courses is good enough to enjoy at least one full play through, if only to see how you measure up against each hole. But with limited replay value (short of purchasing more courses) we couldn't shake the feeling that, although not the worst disc golf game out there, there are certainly better choices.

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