Nothing has captured the charming absurdity of golf quite like the movie Caddyshack, but Everybody's Golf 2 (Hot Shots Golf: Open Tee 2 in the US) comes close. For anyone who doesn't understand the appeal of a sport that demands putting a tiny ball into a tiny hole hundred of yards away, this is a light-hearted revelation. Bobble-headed characters meet simple, addictive gameplay in one of the most enjoyable portable games of the year.
Really, what makes Everybody's Golf 2 a fantastic game isn't its assortment of modes or options; rather, it's in the masterful way in which it moulds to the portable for a near-flawless handheld experience. It isn't revolutionary or mind-blowing, but it manages to deliver gameplay that works perfectly on PSP. You can spend a quick few minutes and finish an entire round of golf, or sink several hours in online tournaments. This balance between short-session play and depth is one that few handheld games ever achieve and here it's done with panache.
The biggest new thing Everybody's Golf 2 brings to the table is online play. Two modes are offered: Tournament and Match Play. Up to 16 players can participate in ranked tournaments, each person completing holes on their own with scores compiled at the end of each hole. Naturally, at the end of the match whoever sits at the top of the table is crowned the winner.
Match Play has you competing head-to-head for individual holes, the player with the best stroke count winning the hole. At the end of the match, whoever has taken the most holes wins. While the two modes available here aren't exactly new, international servers allow you to take on a diverse range of players.
Both Tournament and Match Play are also allowed in Ad-hoc mode. A maximum of 8 players can sync up for stroke-based competition, which is undeniably generous. Tournaments work best online, where extreme distance has everyone playing on their own, whereas Match Play is well suited to local play. Competing for each hole with your buddy right next to you lends an intensity to the game that just doesn't come across quite as much when engaging in match play online.
A dozen new characters and half as many original courses join the added online functionality in Everybody's Golf 2. Unlocking them all for use in multiplayer, however, can only be done via the game's single player Challenge mode. Akin to a building a digital golfing career, you complete various challenges in an attempt to climb your way up from rookie to seasoned pro.
Challenge mode is organised into levels within which you earn cards by finishing events. Once you've accumulated the designated number of cards for a level, a head-to-head match unlocks. Beat that character and you move up to the next level. With 11 characters to unlock, it's the epitome of a long-lasting single player game. It's possible to play for weeks without even touching any of the multiplayer modes and still not have fully completed Challenge mode.
Along with opening up character matches, earning cards unlocks items and increases your character's attributes. Cards come in three flavours - head, body, and accessory - that correlate to control, power, and spin abilities. You don't have to earn every available card in a level to open up the character match; however, getting every last card is beneficial to maxing out your character's stats. Even more, you only unlock items which to customise your character through the cards.
If loot lust doesn't drive you to compete in Challenge mode, single-player Match Play against the computer is available; additionally, there's a hole-in-one mini-game.
Everybody's Golf 2 doesn't necessarily have the best selection of modes, but it more than makes up for it in the quality of its gameplay. It's accessible, customisable, fully featured, and well-balanced. The attention paid to tailoring the game for portable play sets it apart from so many other PSP titles, even if it has slipped under the radar.