As more and more console games receive complementary iOS releases, it’s heartening to see the quality and depth improve so quickly. Even a year ago, it would have been difficult to imagine a golf game doing such a competent job of representing the sport as Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12, but EA has managed to deliver both compelling gameplay and a broad feature set, all without inflating the price beyond a reasonable level.
In tour mode, your player starts with a $50,000 allowance that can be spent on upgrades to skills and equipment, as well as to enter into the tour’s tournaments. While that may sound like a lot of cash, it won’t get you very far without a bit of caution – the cost of participating in a tournament means you have to be careful about where your money goes until you’ve built up your bank account.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12 also supports several other game modes, including a Bluetooth/Wi-Fi multiplayer option and a simple “quick game” mode that lets you dive straight onto the links without having to bother with equipment purchases and tour standings.
The game's controls are excellent, and with a game that takes so much time to master in real-life that’s very important. At the beginning, all it takes to get the ball in the air is a swipe across the app's power meter; this allows you to determine how hard your character swings their club, thus affecting the distance the ball travels. A particularly well-placed swipe will result in a “boost” that makes your shot reach farther than usual.
As your skills improve, you can tweak your shots to impart spin, and even swipe the ball while it's flying through the air to alter its performance. Just like on the greens, a full complement of clubs is available at all times, though at first you’ll probably want to stick with the app's default recommendation, which is normally geared towards the type of terrain and your distance from the hole. The gameplay feels expertly designed and adapts easily to your degree of interest in mastering the minutiae of proper golfing technique, resulting in a player experience that is enjoyable without ever becoming unduly frustrating.
The graphics are Tiger Woods’ other major strength, with EA taking full advantage of the iPhone 4’s Retina display to deliver crisp, detailed visuals, but there are a few flaws beneath the sheen. The sound, in particular, leaves a lot to be desired, with the commentary coming across as patronising and repetitive. Luckily, this isn’t integral to gameplay, and won’t be a bother in most cases.
EA has chosen to publish a separate version of the game for the iPad, which includes a similar interface and feature set, but comes with a slightly higher price-tag. But if you’re not the most ardent fan of the Tiger Woods franchise, the low cost and high quality of the iPhone version makes it a near essential purchase.