What a strange game King of Clubs is, and not in a Japanese, bizarre otaku way either. It's strange in a "I wasn't expecting this kind of game based on the title" way. To me, King of Clubs sounds like a violent gangster epic, perhaps set in the east end of London, or, at a push, some kind of card game. But no. King of Clubs is a crazy golf game set in Vegas. Weren't expecting that were you?
Essentially, it's a puzzler - this is no sim. From a third-person perspective, line up the shot (with or without a white line guide), press X, then adjust the power bar then press X again. The fewer shots you take to get the ball in the hole the more dollars you get, to be spent on super-powered clubs and balls in the shop, but that's pretty much it. We haven't got a problem with simple gameplay, not when it's fun. Unfortunately King of Clubs simply isn't fun. It's anti-fun.
The courses do get increasingly difficult and more elaborate, but there's no motivation to soldier through the tiresome single-player career mode, which sees you attempt to beat par on hole after hole in a number of themed courses. The feeling of apathy is further compounded by the overly long loading times, and the inability to quit out of a course attempt. If you go over par and you know you won't beat the course par, you need to press the Home button on the PSP and load the game up all over again. Sigh.
Variety is added by a range of purchasable clubs and balls, each with different effects. You can also buy Mulligans - which let you replay a botched shot - ball tints, trail tints, new soundtracks and, get this, action figures. The problem is that these purchasable items don't add replayability at all. They're just inconsequential extras.
Adding to the woe are the poor graphics (everything has a dull, matt effect) and the annoying music. The game isn't funny either, despite its numerous attempts at humour. The opening FMV, which shows the game's playable characters, is more likely to make you cry than laugh. After seeing what the PSP can really do with God of War: Chains of Olympus, King of Clubs' poor presentation looks even more disappointing.
Playing with a friend in the multiplayer mode does make the game more entertaining, as you'd expect, but it won't hold either you or your pal's attention for long. King of Clubs isn't unplayable, or broken, it's just a bad game. The PSP has really come into its own in the last half year or so, with some excellent, high quality titles. It's just turned three years old, and Sony has already said it believes it's capable of a 10-year life cycle. Not with games like King of Clubs it won't. With an RRP of £24.99, this is one crazy golf game you'd be out of your mind to buy.