Occasionally here at Player2.net.au, we will play something that deserves your attention but probably doesn’t need a full review written for it. Be it DLC for the latest AAA title, a little indie game or even an Android/iOS title. We play these titles for a blockbusting amount of time (2 – 5 hours) and report back to you the reader on what we found. So grab your popcorn and settle in for the latest episode of Blockbuster Gaming.
Blockbuster Gaming – Dangerous Golf
I stood ready over the golf ball, looking off into the distance in the direction I was aiming. Driver in hand, I was confident in my ability to smash the absolute bollocks out of this ball. Being a spritely five-year-old at the time, I didn’t care about trying to get the ball in a hole. I just wanted to smash it good, so smash it I did.
I took my club, lifted it back, then swung it forth with all the force I could muster from my stick-like frame. The ball didn’t really go up. It just kind of sat at a certain height a few feet off the ground, moving at tremendous speed. Instead of launching over my roof (yes I was aiming at my house, what of it?), the ball sailed right through the front window.
Fast-forward 25 years to today and the first game from a group of ex-Criterion developers – who are calling themselves Three Fields Entertainment – lets me relive this glorious, glass shattering memory over and over again in their first game, Dangerous Golf. Whilst it’s a great first attempt at playing on the detailed destruction that makes physics based games so enjoyable, Dangerous Golf somehow takes a simple idea and presents in a convoluted way that ultimately works to its detriment.
You won’t find any power bars or golf clubs here. What you will find are four different locations, each filled to the brim with statues, glasses, chandeliers, paint tins, light fixtures and just about anything else you can think of to drive your ball through. Aim your shot, and with a quick flick up on the left stick, the ball launches into the air, smashing through almost everything in its path in a symphony of sparks and debris.
It looks beautiful, putting the power of Unreal Engine 4 to good use, resulting in highly detailed lighting and shadows as well as some spectacular displays of physics systems. Larger items like bookshelves and statues still break apart in predefined chunks, but they are quite small, so it still gives the impression that things are smashing fairly naturally. If you hold the right bumper during a Smashbreaker – an ability granted after causing a certain amount of damage that allows you to control the movement of your ball through the air – everything goes into slow motion and not only is it really bloody impressive, it’s immensely gratifying. Watching a bookshelf shatter into pieces, sending wood chips and books in all directions, never gets boring, because you are watching the carnage unfold. Smashing the living bollocks out of things that look expensive is something I think we’ve all wanted to do at some point, and Dangerous Golf lets you wreck everything like a toddler in a building block house.
You get two shots – the first to cause as much damage as possible and the second to finish things off and putt the ball into the hole. It’s a simple concept – wreck everything and score points. Incredibly, though, it’s muddied by a complete lack of context given to the player, at any point. Dangerous Golf doesn’t feature any kind of tutorial, or any real explanation of anything in the game outside of a help section that’s buried in a sub-menu, somewhere. In fact, the only time I was served any kind of useful information – stuff that actually tells me what I’m meant to be doing – was the ‘did you know?’ tips that display on the loading screens.
So it’s very much a case of jump in and hope that you can figure out everything along the way. Where a game like The Witness gives the player a subtle introduction to a new mechanic within a puzzle, Dangerous Golf doesn’t do anything of the sort, preferring to let you figure it out in your own way. It’s not an ideal way to introduce players to new ideas, and instead feels rushed and a little unfinished.
Thankfully, the destructive core of Dangerous Golf is actually very fun indeed. It’s entirely one-dimensional, but, in the same way, that my jaw dropped at the visual spectacle of the ‘lobby’ scene in 1999’s The Matrix (17 years old OH MY GAWD), most of the time my jaw is locked open at how cool this game looks. On PC, Dangerous Golf is an absolute stunner. Consoles are pushed a little harder, but the PS4 manages to run at a full 1080P resolution, whilst the Xbox One, also the console I’m reviewing this on, sits back at around 800P to keep the frame rate up. There are a few graphical aberrations here and there, particularly visible in slow motion, but for the most part, Dangerous Golf is all about being a visual spectacle and it succeeds in pulling this off.
There are online modes, though these have all appeared to be rather barren whenever I try to find a match to play, as well as a co-op campaign mode. This lets you take turns with a couch friend, then combines your scores at the end to give you a result. It doesn’t change anything up gameplay-wise, though it’s fun to watch the destruction a bit more closely whilst your friend is having their turn. Other extras include some collectable unlocks, but these don’t appear to amount to giving the player anything meaningful.
It’s clear that Three Fields Entertainment were making this on a budget. It stutters and stumbles at times, enough that it might drive away anyone not willing to invest the time or effort to work things out. Fair enough, too. Dangerous Golf isn’t a game that should require you to figure anything out. It should be simple enough to just jump in and go, without needing to decipher poorly explained mechanics. That said, the core of the game is super fun and intensely satisfying for the most part, albeit quite singularly focused. At $US20 on Steam and $AU26.96 on the Xbox and PlayStation stores, it’s well-priced, but its issues make it difficult to recommend to anyone outside of those who, like me, really just like to watch the world burn. Or, in this case, shatter.
James Swinbanks is a Games Critic currently writing for GameSpot, although you’ll still occasionally see him popping up on Player 2, because frankly, he loves the smell of the place.