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As someone - not Mark Twain - once said, golf is a good walk spoiled. Mario Golf: Super Rush, however, comes close to ruining a perfectly fun, refined-over-time take on arcade-style stroke play by putting so much emphasis on the walking - and the running, the boosting, and the bashing - between shots. The sixth entry in a moustachioed mascot-fronted sports series that began on the Nintendo 64 in 1999, Super Rush's unique gameplay additions bring little of lasting value to a formula that was polished several years ago - but there's enough included here to ensure they don't fatally compromise the complete package.
Of the new modes, Speed Golf has a number of players tee off simultaneously and race towards the flag on foot - via their strokes to get the ball onto the green, of course. Players have a stamina bar, and can bump competitors off their strides by boosting into them, a stamina-draining move that also sends your golfer of choice speeding down the fairways. The Golf Adventure story mode puts this gameplay at the core of its tournaments, where your Mii will have to both knock shoulders and trade putts with the likes of Yoshi, Toad, Boo and Chargin' Chuck. Hearts along the way will restore a decent wedge of energy, so plot your path right and you can pretty much sprint all the way to the hole. A cross-country mode does make walking between shots a little more challenging, as you'll have to scale near-vertical mountains against the clock and finish the whole course inside a set number of total strokes.
Check out some of the game's modes in action via the Nintendo Direct trailer, below
Battle Golf is set in a stadium, with four players competing against each other to be the first to complete three holes. There are nine to pick from, laid out for either speed or strategic play, and as soon as a player does get their ball into a given hole, it'll close, meaning you'll need to shoot elsewhere if you were too slow to the green in question. This can lead to some tense finishes when all four competitors are two holes to the good and all driving for the final pin. Obstacles to watch for include Thwomps, Chain Chomps and Bob-ombs, and being caught in their blasts will cause both players and balls alike to go flying, disorientating you and using up precious time. It's a mode that's rip-roaring fun for a few rounds, but it also begs the question: did we need this? After a few local-only sessions, probably not - and in the bigger picture, Battle Golf is something that will really live or die on its online popularity after Super Rush releases.
Onto the real appeal of this release, and playing a standard 18 holes in the opening, relatively simple Bonny Greens course will unlock the next, the mountainous and windy Ridgerock Lake, and so on until you've a neat array of options. Playing the story-mode Golf Adventure will also unlock these courses as your Mii progresses. There's the sandy Balmy Dunes, with Pokeys to bend your ball around, the forest course Wildweather Woods, and less-traditional offerings are unlocked the deeper into proceedings you get (with more coming via DLC). In Adventure, your Mii will receive experience points with each completed challenge or tournament, to upgrade their driving power, spin control and - because of all that walking that's necessary - their speed and stamina levels. You can also get new sets of clubs and dress your little you in fresh, stats-altering attire, should you be into customisation.
This being Mario Golf, there's a wealth of familiar faces to play as, when you're not teeing off against them. Each has their own locked-in stats and special shots available when a power gauge is filled, ranging from Wario's lightning-sparking blast to Luigi's ice-crackled ability to drop a ball onto a specific spot and lock it there with no carry whatsoever (very useful for a long-distance green approach). King Bob-omb, Pauline (who'll sing a little 'Jump Up, Super Star' when you activate her special shot), and Chargin' Chuck are all new to this iteration of Mario Golf, while all the usual suspects are present and correct, from Mario himself to Peach via Donkey Kong and Daisy.
How you get that little ball flying is more detailed than in previous Mario Golf games, but still very easy to click with. There's a power bar that'll fill, indicating the strength of your shot - with a 'danger zone' at the top where that power can become compromised unless you land a second button press ever so precisely. You can slice or hook the ball with the left stick to bypass chunky lumps of rock, fallen trees, or to whip around the sides of the occasional Sandmaargh or Ty-foo; and you can also add extra height to a shot or go low, should the situation call for it. There's the ability to use both a range and elevation finder, to really get the best idea of the spot you're aiming for; and either backspin or topspin can be applied, so as to really make every aspect of a given shot count. In every three-second action, there's a lot to consider - but it comes fairly naturally.
It's never not a delight to whack your way around any one of the 18-hole courses in Super Rush, when not having to race between your shots - playing a regular round simply teleports your avatar to the next spot. The speed aspect of the game, if anything, actually makes it a slower, less appealing proposition, especially in tournament play where you'll be waiting for the AI to finish up, with no option to skip forward available, and they're not always on their A-game. This hold-up in play is just one of the little wrinkles in Super Rush that lets its presentation down. There are instances where one character model will cross over with another, leading to some awful mutant Toad-Yoshi monstrosity; and there's an overall lack of polish in the menus and overworld Adventure area that has this feeling some way short of a premium Nintendo product.
What it's not, thankfully, is as bewilderingly difficult as Mario Tennis Aces was, back in 2018. You should be able to swing through the Super Rush campaign without smashing any Joy-Cons. Like Aces, Super Rush gently caresses its traditional take on the sport it's simulating to a new, better-than-ever standard - but just like that older game, too, its exaggerated extra modes don't stand above the 'basic' experience of simply playing 18 holes as a superpowered plumber. Which you might see as a missed opportunity; or, as all the information you need, as Mario Golf: Super Rush is what you already own and enjoy, mildly improved, and you're already opening your wallet.
Pros: the regular golf plays great, cross-country courses present some fresh challenges, multiplayer fun's assured in the short term
Cons: neither Speed nor Battle Golf are likely to appeal for long, presentation throughout feels a little unpolished, watching AI players finish their holes can drag on
For fans of: Mario Golf games, Everybody's Golf, Neo Turf Masters
Mario Golf: Super Rush is released exclusively for Nintendo Switch on June 25, 2021. Code provided by the publisher. Find a guide to GAMINGbible's review scores here.
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