Why Video Golf Is Like The Strokes

It's a slow week for games and the ones that have been released are kind of like The Strokes, decent, but ultimately uninspiring. Actually, it makes sense that few games are released in January. Most crazed, eyeball-bulging geeks get their video games in December. Since some games can take 40 hours or more to play (twice that when you're like me, taking time to look around), no one's is really up for a bunch of new games just yet. Heck, I still can't bend my sore middle finger from playing a season of NHL 2K6.

Still, game makers feel the need to release something, anything, in January. After its inventive Electroplankton, Nintendo brought TRUE SWING GOLF for the DS to the shelves. I guess there's logic to this since the big Bob Hope PGA event happens this week. But to call the game True Swing is really an overstatement—unless you play your real-life links with a plastic gray stylus, and not a titanium club.

While there are some problems with True Swing Golf beyond the name, I have to say it's often fun to play. There's a pleasant piano background music that's a step up from porn music and it helped me relax when I whiffed the ball on the classically designed easiest course, the Bluebird Country Club, one of 15 courses available. And the graphics are better than you'd expect for the DS since the courses look realistic and even lush. (Oddly, it rained on one hole, then stopped, then rained on another, the only unusual thing to happen in this game.) Whacking at the ball with the stylus is something you get used to quickly, and it's challenging to hit the ball straight (I mean, it's hard to make a quick, perfectly straight line with the stylus on the touchscreen.) Also nice is a fast, to-the-point tutorial to get you started.

Different strokes for different folks
image: courtesy of Nintendo
Different strokes for different folks

Details

True Swing Golf
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
For: Nintendo DS

Nicktoons Unite!
Publisher: Thq
Developer: Thq
For: Nintendo DS

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Yet overall, it's kind of like Emily's Reasons Why Not, ho-hum and so-so. At least, that show has a star, Heather Graham. There are no pros in True Swing Golf, no big names like Tiger or Vijay. There's no create-a-golfer, either. You choose from eight male and female characters with the option to make their personalities 'cool' or 'wild' (of which I'm neither). In other words, the golfers are a bit like those in the well-known Hot Shots Golf from Sony, cute in an anime-inspired way. There's wi-fi play, but I have to wonder how many people want to play video game golf head to head.

NICKTOONS UNITE! gets many of the Nickelodeon characters together for a sci-fi battle of good versus evil (ho-hum and so-so) with the nastiest criminals in the Nicktoons universe. It's a variation on the popular console version of the game starring SpongeBob, Jimmy Neutron, and Danny Phantom as forces for good. Professor Calamitus and Vlad Plasmius sneer and pout as the baddies. SpongeBob can use his pants as a parachute and blow bubbles so he can fly through the air.

But one of the things that bothers me here is that you don't hear the strange, humorous albeit sometimes grating voices of the characters. Instead, you have to read their comments as text. I'm certainly not against reading even if it's The Devil Wears Prada, but the sounds of the characters' voices are so familiar and funny, they would have added some joy to the game. Still, I have to like some of the minor baddies here, like the Half-Finished Robots (which you can get by if you watch the patterns they make and move accordingly). Then there are the semi-cute Anti-Fairies who float toward you kind of sweetly (like some of the people you meet at Fat Baby). But if they get you, they place you at the beginning of a level. So watch out.

There should be something really unique about these games beyond using a stylus to hit a ball or a cartoon character saving the world from evil. I mean, evil is so old, so 2001-Bush-speaking-about-the-evildoers, don't you think? How about next time, they're good and evil at the same time . . . with a real golf club?

Check out reviews of all the latest and greatest games (updated every week), along with past faves in NYC Guide.


Electroplankton
Publisher: Nintendo DS
Developer: Nintendo

In "Part One: Life," Emily Dickinson wrote, "The Brain—is wider than the Sky—/For—put them side by side—/The one the other will contain/With ease—and You—beside—." That must be how media artist Toshio Iwai thought when he created the ingenious and expansive ELECTRO- PLANKTON for Nintendo.

Nintendo is probably the most imaginative of the big three game and game hardware developers. Forget the technology within Mario Kart DS. Forget the beauty within The Legend Of Zelda series. I'm talking about smaller things, delightful gizmos that may or may not sell as well as Nintendo's big names. For instance, years ago the Japanese company pulled out its hat a small plastic camera peripheral for the original black and white Gameboy. They even added a whizzing, battery-operated printer so you could take hard copies of your grainy, stamp-sized photos with you. Last year, they barked and out came Nintendogs for the DS, probably the smartest version of the virtual pet ever made.

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