Since the N-Gage’s miserable launch last year, industry insiders have been trying to pinpoint just exactly what went wrong with Nokia’s handheld. Some fault the inane design while others are quick to point out that most of the library is comprised of sloppy console ports. When the unit has so many problems it’s very difficult to place the blame on one distinct problem. Personally I’ve always felt that the unit was undesirable because it was unnecessarily complicated. When people are in transit they like to play simple games that they can pick up and enjoy. And that’s exactly where the problem lays, the N-Gage features complicated games that are best enjoyed in the comfort of a living room, not in a hustling and bustling subway. It took them awhile, but some of the developers are finally starting to grasp this concept. It all has to start somewhere and EA takes the honors with Tiger Woods 2004
, quite possibly the most addictive portable game ever made.
Sports games in particular have suffered on portable devices because the developers always try to add too much depth to them, names like NCAA Football 2005 and MLB Slam! come to mind. With TW2004 EA avoided this pratfall by making the game simple; keeping the core elements and stripping the game of the unnecessary features. It all begins with the smoothest swing system ever developed for a portable golf game. Using the d-pad you simulate the swinging motion of your golfer. Press down to simulate the backswing and hold up to simulate the follow through. The key to success is the timing of your swing; better timing equals better contact while a poor swing will result in less power. In order to make the game easier for players on-the-go, the swing system only takes the up and down motions into account, not the horizontal motion. This means that you can’t accidentally shank or hook a ball by messing up the follow through. It would have been more realistic if the game incorporated it, but would have been amazingly frustrating for players. It should also be noted that the swing system is incredibly fluid and does a great job of recreating the feel of an actual swing.
In a nice move, the swing system retains some of the same features of its console brethren. By rapidly clicking the 1 or 3 keys on your backswing you can add a little bit of oomph to your swing. While the ball is in flight you tapping the 1 or 3 keys and a direction will add some spin to the ball. This is a crucial part of the gameplay as it can add a few extra yards to your booming drives or reel the ball back towards the hole on an approach shot. The last part of the gameplay is the true key to this title’s success. In the past, portable games have had some huge problems when it comes to implementing a putting mechanism. They’ve always felt un-natural and were either too difficult or too hard. Tiger Woods takes solves both of these problems by giving you a caddy who tells you where the ideal putt should go. You can either take his advice and putt to the exact spot he tells you (represented by feet and inches indicators on the bottom of the screen) or take a chance and follow your gut instinct. If you choose the latter a dotted line pops up on the green to tell you the predicted path of your putt. It gives you instant feedback as you move and try to situate it so that it falls onto the hole. The drawback of this feature is that it’s not always accurate and depends on how much you’ve invested in building up your putting skill.
Speaking of which, winning tournaments will afford you the option of building up your character. As you win more tourneys you’ll gain more cash that can be placed into power, accuracy and putting. At the onset of the game you’ll begin with 0 skill points in each category but you’ll be able to boost that number all the way up to 25. Other than that there’s not much else in the way of character customization. When creating a golfer you can choose from one of six character models: Tiger Woods, John Daly, “Pops” Masterson, Big Mo, and Solita Lopez. There’s also an unlockable character, Cedric Andrews, who is available only through N-Gage arena.
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