GolfStar review

GolfStar is a new iOS game from Com2uS. It’s available now as a free download from the App Store, and carries additional in-app purchases.

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GolfStar, as the name suggests, is a golf game, and like most of Com2uS’ other titles, it is a free-to-play game designed primarily to be enjoyed socially. The game begins with players creating their golfer avatar, which may be male or female and customized to a limited degree, and then moves straight into a tutorial that introduces the control scheme. The basic gameplay is very similar to how golf games have always been — players tap to start a swing meter moving, tap again to set power, then tap a third time as the meter returns towards the zero mark to set the accuracy of the shot. The player may aim their shot by tapping on the screen and then dragging a marker around, and an indicator on the power meter shows the suggested amount of power the player will need to reach the pin if they are within range.

As the player plays matches and levels up, they gain access to various items and skills which can be used to improve their game. Consumable items include a “putting guide” that shows the trajectory of the ball when putting and various “drinks” that make it easier to score perfect shots or set an appropriate power level. The player also earns currency through play, which allows them to purchase new equipment items that change the appearance of their character and improve their stats. Players’ stats also improve every time they level up.

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Leveling up also provides access to new courses and game modes to play, so there is a regular trickle of new things to try as the game progresses and the player improves their character. The game occasionally nags the player to check out the store and purchase some premium items using hard currency, but it is perfectly enjoyable as a free player up to a certain extent. If the player decides to get serious about online competition, however, they may find it necessary to reach for the credit card, as otherwise there is a distinct possibility they will be left behind by paying players with superior equipment and booster items. That said, the game is still dependent on player skill as much as stats, so it is absolutely possible for a skilled free player to beat an unskilled premium player who has purchased the best equipment.

GolfStar is an extremely well-presented game. The menus are clear and easily navigable — if a little cluttered on the small screen of the iPhone — and accompanied by some unobtrusive, soothing background music. In the game, sound is kept to a minimum with only impact and environmental sounds, and the graphics take the form of smoothly-animated 3D visuals that run at an impressive frame rate. Information is clearly presented to the player, and those familiar with the conventions of golf games on computer, console and handheld gaming systems will be immediately at home in GolfStar.

The game monetizes primarily through sales of currency, which can be used for a variety of purposes. Most notably, hard currency may be used to replenish a “hearts” system that throttles how many rewards a player can receive in a single play session, though it does not stop them from playing. Hearts may also be earned by inviting friends to play and completing certain in-game achievements.

The game’s social functionality largely centers around Com2uS’ proprietary network, which features Facebook connectivity. Using this, players are able to store their progress online and move it between devices, invite and interact with Facebook friends, compare their performance with other players and brag about particularly impressive achievements. The game’s achievement system doesn’t quite seem to be implemented correctly at the time of writing, however, since after a single three-hole game I had somehow apparently managed to achieve 10 birdies and 20 perfect shots as well as getting 94% of the way to achieving par 50 times, 93% of the way to clearing 30 quests (I had actually cleared one) and 45% of the way to 180 plays on the course I had actually played just once. These achievements were logged while I was a “guest” player, and connecting to Com2uS’ network didn’t fix things.

The game also has a few other flaws here and there. It can’t be played offline, for example, which will irritate those who have opposed recent controversial “always-online” games for home computer platforms such as SimCity and Diablo III. It also takes an absolute age to load the first time it starts up, with no on-screen feedback for a good several minutes while it is (presumably) downloading data from the network. These are perhaps minor flaws for those who always play games in a place where they have good Wi-Fi or cellular data signal, but for those who just want to play a quick round of golf on the go, it’s not ideal.

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This issue aside, however, assuming you can get and stay connected, GolfStar is a well-implemented free-to-play golf game with good presentation and a lot of content to unlock — and with its built-in social and competitive features, it’s certainly in a good position to build a strong online community of players.

You can follow GolfStar’s progress with AppData, our tracking service for mobile and social games and developers.

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A good free-to-play golf game marred a little by connectivity issues, achievement-related bugs and lengthy loading times.