Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08

The impact of Tiger Woods on the world of golf is hard to overestimate. Before the youthfully exuberant American came along the sport had become hopelessly uncool, populated either by capable yet criminally unfashionable types or poorly dressed also-rans. Woods gave them the kick in the pants their baggy chequered trousers deserved.

Small wonder that he's since become the world's most marketable athlete, with deals from the likes of American Express, TAG Heuer and Nike. EA was in quick with the sponsorship dollars, too. If nothing else, Tiger's provided the company with the perfect excuse to include the same irritating hip R&B styles within its golf games that incongruously infect its other sports titles.

Thankfully though, hooking up with the Tiger Woods brand has forced EA to take the rest of the game more seriously. So after the first DS title, the noticeably rough-around-the-edges Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005, was released, EA sensibly decided to make sure its follow-up would be more in keeping with the professionalism associated with the Woods' ethos.

For that reason, it skipped the potential 06 and 07 editions; a decision that's paid dividends when it comes to Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08, seeing as it's a vast improvement in almost every respect.

Ignoring the traditional EA plan of building a game engine and then tweaking it year after year, developer Exient has instead thrown out the old template and started afresh, constructing every element of the game from the ground up.

The first thing to go was the control system. The method used in the 2005 edition was clunky and unsatisfying. It was clear the developer of the maiden DS installment was finding its feet when it came to making convincing use of the touchscreen. Its replacement is a joy to behold, though. Simple to use, it grants an astonishingly complete degree of control over your irons and woods.

Simply tapping the end of the club with the stylus and pulling back to the required power level primes the swing; skimming the stylus forward activates the shot. Speed of movement is registered with impressive accuracy and curling your stylus motion as you complete the swing adds directional spin to the ball. Like all good control methods, it takes moments to learn but several hours to successfully reach the standard of the Tiger himself.

Once you've mastered the controls, it's time to dive into the game proper. The 'Create a golfer' system is refreshingly comprehensive. You can tinker with all kinds of different features, from body type to the brand of shorts you wish to clad your avatar in. Once you've finished moulding your digital alter ego, you'll be faced with a dazzling array of different play modes in which to send them into.

Play Now enables you to jump right into a game, and if you're playing for the first time will offer various hints to make the learning curve a little smoother. Tiger Challenge, meanwhile, is packed to the rafters with a wide range of mini-games – from putting exercises to hitting certain targets on the green to score points. As you progress through this section, further events are unlocked, with the eventual aim of topping Tiger himself, hence the title.

The core of the game is represented by PGA Tour, however. It's effectively a career mode where you start off a relative rookie and attempt to work your way up the ranks of the golfing world around eight 18-hole courses. Good performance is rewarded with cold, hard cash and this in turn can be splashed on new kit, such as better balls and superior clubs.

But the most exciting facet is undoubtedly the multiplayer mode, which makes use of the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection to link you with PGA fans around the globe. Finding a competitor and joining a game is relatively pain-free but we did notice there aren't many players online at present. This could just be down to the fact that the game is rather new. Equally, it's unlikely a Tiger Woods game is going to attract the kind of support enjoyed by a Pokémon or Mario Kart. Still, local wireless play is also featured if you want to play against a friend.

Despite the fact Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 isn't the sort of game you'll start playing with particularly high expectations, then, the result is a more than pleasant surprise. Graphically, it's a bit blocky as the game runs in 3D on both DS screens. But where it really matters, there's a stacks of options, a solid online multiplayer mode and a control system that is almost perfect.

Frankly it's hard to imagine how a golf game on the DS could be much more impressive. Presumably EA and Exient have future plans about that, but for the time being golf fans should be more than satisfied with this release.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08

After a two-year hiatus, the Tiger Woods franchise makes a triumphant return to the DS with this exceptionally entertaining golf simulator