For those of you that haven’t been counting, it’s been a decade since Nintendo’s stalwart plumber last picked up a set of clubs – after accomplished Gamecube and Game Boy Advance outings, Mario Golf skipped the successors to both systems. This isn’t apparent when playing Mario Golf World Tour – as you hit your first drive in Peach Gardens and hear the familiar theme borrowed from Mario Kart DS, it becomes clear that dependability and familiarity are the watchwords here, as is so often the case with Mario games.
If you’ve played an arcade golf game before, you’ll be in familiar enough territory to skip the pleasingly comprehensive tutorials and get into the action. For most players, that will mean starting the Castle Club mode, in which you play as a Mii and establish a handicap before taking on a series of tournaments. It’s a brief affair, taking place across the three most conservatively designed courses in the game, and you’ll see the credits roll within a few hours. While Castle Club affords you the chance to customise your Mii by buying new clothing and equipment, items must be unlocked before purchase and the process is painfully slow. It all feels rather weak.
Thankfully, the majority of the game’s content is to be found outside of Castle Club mode. While the Mario-themed courses are accessible via Castle Club, they are barely integrated into the mode and can’t be unlocked through it. These courses resemble those of previous Mario Golf instalments, complete with the fanciful elements common to Mario sports games – pipes to shoot your ball further, dash pads to send the ball skidding across the fairway, and the debuting item boxes. Much like in the Mario Kart series, these bestow single-use items which provide effects such as perfectly straight shots and boomerang curves. Each of these six courses is a pleasure, though they only offer nine holes each.
To unlock those courses, you’ll need to complete the challenge mini-games, of which each course offers ten. The challenges take a variety of forms, from coin collecting to playing holes against the clock, and range from the trivial to the infuriating. They’re generally good fun although rather repetitive – most courses offer the same challenge types, and often feature two or three of the same type. These challenges also represent the quickest way to unlock new items for Castle Club, which makes us wonder why the challenges weren’t just integrated into that mode in the first place.
None of Mario Golf World Tour’s changes are revolutionary – ten years away has brought surprisingly few new ideas – but the core gameplay is as fun and attractive as ever, so if you’re looking for a golf game for the 3DS this will do just fine.