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Avatar Golf

Hit the links as your Avatar in style. Features: Play as your Avatar, create and share courses over Xbox Live, 8 player online matches, unlockable titles, player statistics, course records, weather conditions and much more! With 9 uniquely themed 18-hole courses you'll have a blast playing Avatar Golf. Avatar Golf is for gamers of all ages and skill levels.

When Xbox Live Community Games launched in November 2008, Barkers Crest Studio's Easy Golf: Course Architect was among the handful of releases which showed real promise for Microsoft's independent game development endeavor. Easy Golf allowed players to enjoy six courses of Hot Shots-style golf, but the real incentive was in its easy to use course editor. The simple XNA game offered many features other golfing games lacked, giving it depth well surpassing that of the competition such as Housemarque Games' Activision published Golf: Tee Off Golf. Easy Golf was one of those early successes coming out of Community Games, and although the 800 points price might have scared people away, it did well enough for Barkers Crest to come back a year later with Avatar Golf, a new title building upon the original and sold at just half the price.

Avatar Golf sold more in five days than Easy Golf did in its lifetime up to that point, and while the lowered price surely helped, it's both a testament to the excellence of Avatar Golf along with the strong desire by Xbox 360 owners to be able to use their avatars to play Video games. The addition of avatars being used to play golf instead of the original game's robot is a big incentive to upgrade over the first game and instantly offers a level of character customization that just wasn't available in Easy Golf while providing far more options than the hideous cast of Tee It Up and assorted competition. Up for four people locally and eight players on-line can enjoy playing golf with all of their avatars present on the course, and it adds a tremendous level of personality not found in most other games of this sort. While the avatars' swing isn't quite as smooth as it should be for something players will see repeatedly while playing, it looks good enough to move on and play through. The avatars will cheer for the birds and grow angry at anything under par, which is a nice touch not realized with the emotionless robots of the original game.

In addition to the presence of avatars on the course, Avatar Golf also greatly improves upon the original game's already excellent graphics with a slew of new course elements including houses, boats, bridges, and more. Whereas Easy Golf's holes were noticeable floating in a void, the additional scenery helps each hole feel part of a larger world despite it, too, resting on nothing more than a rectangular patch of ground floating in space. The ability to create cart paths, rivers, and more help give flavor to Easy Golf's solid terrain manipulation tools. With four kinds of rough, a nice selection of trees, and the ability to draw fairways, sand bunkers, and greens just as before, Avatar Golf's course editor remains just as flexible and powerful as it was in Easy Golf but with even more tools with which to play. Players can even pull a hole from any of the nine starting courses and edit from there as a base to work from if not in the mood for designing one from scratch. The game allows people to create an entire 18-hole course of their own and share it with friends for local or on-line matches, and Barkers Crest still enjoys a healthy community of players enjoying and contributing to the game. Even going on a year later after release, Avatar Golf enjoys a strong enough player base where one will almost always find people playing on-line, and the active community definitely is a big draw for such a game, particularly given the potential stream of new golf courses to explore and enjoy.

Players begin by selecting one of nine courses, choosing whether to play the entire course or just the back nine, then setting one of five backgrounds, the weather, and the starting tee. Anyone familiar with Hot Shots will feel right at home with Avatar Golf as it uses the tried and true three click swing method -- first click starts the meter, second click sets the power, and the third click determines the accuracy of the stroke. While the game doesn't allow for point of contact positioning on the ball, Avatar Golf players can select whether or not to apply top or back spin to the ball on the stroke along with the usual assortment of clubs and aiming options. Avatar Golf's gameplay lacks innovation but is as solid as they come, and at no point will a player be able to blame the game for a poor swing or bad ball placement. The game will even recognize when a stroke is being immediately blocked by a structure and prevent the player from attempting until moving so a path is clear for the ball to travel. While I'm sure there's room for improvement with any game, Barkers Crest really seems to have thought of everything when it comes to Avatar Golf and what fans of the genre want in a title.

Avatar Golf tracks individual player stats from every hole played, allowing any who play to see how many eagles have been scored over the lifetime of play among other details. The game also allows for titles (re: achievements) based on courses won, good shots, and so on. It's simply a wonderful game, so well made that until Microsoft included a separate indie tab, Avatar Golf sat on the 360 dashboard's list of recommended avatar games to play right beside XBLA titles like Kingdom for Keflings and UNO. Despite the poor reputation Xbox Indies' avatar games have developed since its release, no golf fan should be without Avatar Golf. It's truly in a class by itself.

★★★★★
August 5, 2010
September 2, 2009 | 240 points
Developer | Video | Download

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