Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 makes previous iPhone golf games look like kittens playing with balls of yarn. This is one fierce feline that doesn't mess around, delivering serious play coupled with inventive controls and quality visuals.
Despite its disappointing multiplayer options, it knits together the best elements of those that have come before it and adds a touch of innovation.
PGA Tour serves as the focus of the game, letting you take an original golfer through an entire season of competition packed with tense tournaments. Cash acts like experience, rewarding skilful shots with small sums and delivering substantial payouts for tournament victories.
Invitationals carry entry fees, so earning money is a must for advancing through the season. Additionally, you can turn around winnings to purchase skill upgrades from the clubhouse.
Since the game rewards small successes along with big tournament wins, you're always encouraged to keep playing regardless of how you finish a round. A nice drive may net you $50 or getting to the green within regulation a quick $100, ensuring that you earn some money even if you end up at the bottom of the tournament standings.
It's evidence of phenomenal game design that motivates continued play through a finely balanced system of rewards.
Not that Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 is a cakewalk. This is a challenging game of golf that doesn't coddle you with easy courses and loose controls. The courses, which are based on their real life counterparts, demand attentive play and a mastery of the game's revolutionary swing mechanics.
Replacing the ubiquitous digital power gauge, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 introduces a totally new analog shot meter. Swinging your club is a matter of sliding your finger down the meter to set its power, then up again to complete the shot.
The act of sliding your finger itself isn't what makes the scheme brilliant - it's how the game processes the tiniest movements of your swipe into the ball's trajectory. Instead of a digital swing, here your finger acts as an analogue club that can slice with a veer of your fingertip.
By innovating in this key area, the entire experience avoids being another on-par instalment of an established franchise. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 feels fresher and funner than any handheld golf game before it as a result.
That doesn't, however, imply that the game is a complete package. The omission of online multiplayer and scoreboards, or even local wireless play, keep the game from perfection. Multiplayer is offered with an array of options, though only on a single device.
Other ticks include unintuitive reverse controls for the shot camera and the inability to adjust the parameters of the putting meter.
These are but quibbles when compared to the innovation brought by this ferocious iPhone outing. Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09 easily surpasses others on the platform with its sophisticated controls and superb design.