Editor's note - At the time of this review, this game was known as "Clap Handz Golf", and has since changed its name to Easy Come Easy Golf.
Everybody's golf game, or for hot shots only?
This is the game that made me subscribe to Apple Arcade. For the first year-ish of Apple Arcade I really wanted to play Grindstone but I just couldn't justify $5 per month for what was, at that point, basically a Grindstone subscription to me. However in early 2021 it became clear that Apple was going to take their gaming service a little more seriously with the release of several "big name" titles including deals with Lego, Disney, Konami's Castlevania, and this lesser known golf game - Clap Hanz Golf. Well, is Clap Hanz Golf really unknown?
Sure, Clap Hanz Golf is a totally new golf game with totally new characters, but fans of the developer will instantly recognize that this is essentially the next game in their Everybody's Golf/Hot Shots Golf series. Everybody's Golf (also named Hot Shots Golf in the west) has been around since the PS1 and remained a Sony Playstation exclusive up until now. However in April of 2021 Bloomberg reported Sony is no longer interested in publishing non-AAA titles. Everybody's Golf (their last entry on Sony's PS4) was specifically named in the Bloomberg article as the type of game that Sony is no longer interested in - They were no longer interested in games that only performed well in Japan.
I have played Everybody's Golf since the PS1 (along with thousands of others no doubt), and even though it's not a AAA megahit it is still an incredible arcade golf game that can compete with Nintendo's own Mario Golf series. So while it's incredibly sad to learn that Sony is no longer interested in publishing Clap Hanz' golf games, I am so thankful that they have decided to self publish their new golf game on Apple's platform.
New name, same tee-rific game
Clap Hanz Golf retains the classic gameplay of earlier titles while at the same time making everything much more suited for mobile/shorter play sessions. The main mode here is "Tour" which sees you earning stars by competing in games of your choice - You can choose to hit a few holes (earning more stars depending on the number of holes) or you can play a match against a CPU opponent. Once you earn enough stars by winning games, you can eventually challenge a boss character who will become playable once you beat them. Then as you defeat the boss characters your overall rank will increase. You can also unlock skins for characters by completing their VS. matches.
One way that Clap Hanz Golf differs from previous entries is that you enter games with a party and each hole is played by a different character in your party. All of the characters each have their own strength such as backspin, playing in the rough, playing in the rain, etc. and the game encourages you to use every character. They all level up via gameplay, and if they have a chance to rest between games then they'll perform better the next time they're used.
While having a party system may sound strange for golf at first, I actually liked the variety. The only complaint that I have about the characters in Clap Hanz Golf, and this is going to sound so incredibly vain, is that they're sort of ugly? The character design of many Everybody's Golf games hasn't exactly been my thing, but interestingly the more you play Clap Hanz Golf the more the characters later get vastly improved by unlocking other skins.
There are a few other notable gameplay modes, some of which were added in updates after the game's initial launch. "Survival Mode" (where you have to clear challenges) and "Pass A Club" (local multiplayer on one device) are fun distractions, but World Tournament is the main attraction beyond the single-player tours.
World Tournament offers a chance to play against, well, the world. You can jump online and hit a set of holes where you're competing for the best score using a set party that cannot be changed. This mode is fun and serves as another method to level up your characters, but I found that there isn't a snowball's chance in hell that I'll ever be able to compete with the best players. I actually wouldn't even recommend checking out World Tournament until you've unlocked most of the characters. This is because while you can play as characters that you don't own, you won't earn any experience points for using them.
I hope that Clap Hanz will consider offering a more simple "play with your friends online" mode in the future, because even at the time of this review (January 2022) there's no way to do that beyond the World Tournament.
Easier to control than an actual golf club
The controls in Clap Hanz Golf have also been expertly tuned for mobile devices. While I initially missed the triple click of standard arcade golf games on console, this game's swing using your thumb feels very natural and actually provides an interesting level of control. When Clap Hanz Golf first released it was somewhat difficult to control the backspin or topspin of your ball, but after a few updates it has become much easier. Essentially your type of swing depends on how far your thumb moves up while swinging as well as how straight you aim. In practice the controls are very easy to get used to. Clap Hanz Golf also has controller support, but the touch screen controls work so well that I found myself never pulling out the ol' Backbone.
The game also has traditional arcade golf elements such as wind speed, occasional inclement weather, and power shots (stronger shots that become less difficult to control). Everything is bubbly and fun even if you're not great at golf in real life. I did find some of the boss encounters to be a bit frustrating as it became clear that Clap Hanz made these matches slightly more difficult. For example the character Colin (an old man) was able to 99% consistently putt his ball right up to the hole when he was on the green no matter how far away he was, but he always had to take a second shot to actually get it in.
I also want to mention that while Clap Hanz Golf has a few great music tracks, the tunes that played throughout entire courses in Everybody's Golf are gone. I understand that many mobile players might not even have the sound on AND it's likely that Clap Hanz lost the rights to music they previously made for their Playstation games (there are no returning characters either), but I found myself looking up older Everybody's Golf soundtracks to listen to while I played.
A FORE-gone conclusion
Clap Hanz Golf is without a doubt the best arcade golf game that you can play on a phone. I would even go so far as to argue that Clap Hanz Golf is better than both the recent Everybody's Golf on PS4 and Mario Golf Super Rush on Nintendo Switch. My only gripe with the game, and once again I know this sounds vain, is that I think the game might initially turn some people off with its ugly character models. That said if you don't let the scary characters push you away, or perhaps you have nostalgia for older Everybody's Golf titles, the new Clap Hanz Golf is an amazing game.
I sincerely hope that Clap Hanz is working on another installment in what is due to become the next great arcade golf franchise. Maybe just don't put granny on the logo next time? I know how bad that sounds.
Touch screen controls feel great
Party system adds a unique twist
Ugly character designs (I'm so sorry)