Golf Story – Review
I don’t know what it is about golf that makes it so much fun in video game form. I’ve only tried to swing a club a few times in real life and I’ve never actually played a hole, yet for some reason, the game always appeals to me. Perhaps it’s the whole risks vs. rewards thing, how it takes skill and finesse to stay on the fairway and set up a decent putting chance. And, of course, it has those big goal moments whenever you get a birdie or – grip a fist – hole in one.
Golf Story is less about the traditional game of golf and more about using the mechanics of golfing to solve problems in a nice, pixelated little world. You start out as a low-hitter searching for a coach to give you a break. Through completing various small challenges given to you by NPCs dotted around each themed area, you’ll level up and earn money, which in turn allows you to buy better clubs and hit farther.
Each area has its own quirks, such as a prehistoric park where everyone dresses like cave people and speaks moronically. Tar pits replace sand pits here, though neither those hazard nor rough grass are particularly difficult to hit out of. Golf Story is a very forgiving game, to the point where it almost plays each shot for you. The mechanics of hitting the ball are tried and true, utilizing the three click system we’re used to. You can shape your shots to move around obstacles by pressing X and you can fine-tune the length of your swing by pressing Y – just be sure to take the wind direction and speed into account.
Even with all these bells and whistles, beating your opponents at nine holes is never difficult. The holes are generously large and the ball seems to magnetically seek it out as you get near. But Golf Story is about more than just playing a round. It’s about existing in a cute, ocker world where everyone is more useless than you and where you can reliably use turtles’ shells in the water to bounce your ball across to land. It’s about finding a pie in the fridge and cooking it in the microwave, then giving that pie to someone, just because you can. It’s about mowing the lawn for the groundskeeper and then witnessing a bizarre sequence where he takes over and gets moles to help him finish . . . and he also mows the sand traps for some reason.
Golf Story is quirky and a little bit obtuse. You have a diary that keeps track of your quests, but I frequently had to look up what to do next online as it was often not at all clear. And you cannot trust the putting meter – it lies every single time. I also wasn’t a fan of the disc golf controls. It took me a long time to work out how to control the disc through the air, and when I did it still wasn’t much fun. I was glad to find only a few such missions and I never sought to play that mode unless necessary to continue the story.
The main story is a lot longer than you might expect, with each of the eight areas offering a couple of hours of golfing pursuits, plus secrets to dig up. In terms of gaming time to dollars spent, Golf Story is one of the better offerings on the Switch. I also enjoyed the fact that you can tee up anywhere in the world. It made completing the area’s challenges feel a bit personal, as you can opt to challenge yourself or just move a bit closer.
The dry Aussi-ness of Golf Story wins through. I still can’t quite tell if the developers secretly hate golf and the whole thing is a big piss take. Either way, it comes across as well-meaning and tongue-in-cheek. I even chuckled a few times at the charming innocence of this world where everyone loves golf and all the world’s problems can be solved with a handful of balls and a good swing. Wouldn’t it be nice?