What The Golf? – Better than Beating Shooter McGavin
I’m not much of a fan of silly physics games. Sure, it’s a bit of fun to muck around in Goat Simulator or Human: Fall Flat, but any desire to keep playing them soon wanes for me. I think the unpredictability, while often funny, often fails to be merged with anything more involving than loose, meaningless objectives.
What the Golf? has silly physics in it, but it also has precision. This may seem a conflict, but it manages to offer just enough floaty madness when it is needed, then brings things in tighter whenever a par run is desired. After you’ve smiled through the opening dozen or so WarioWare-style golf mini-games, you’ll come to see that this is something special. The combination of unpredictability and so-bad-it’s-good humour will keep you glued until “just one more flag” rolls into many more and you’ve spent an hour trying to beat the Impossible Challenge.
As an example, you might start off with a golfer holding his stick and the flag/hole just waiting for your ball. You push the thumb-stick in the right direction, hold in the button for power – and the club itself goes flying! Or the golfer, or sometimes you’re the actual hole, or a rug, or a ball that shoots out sticky arms, or twenty-five balls all at once. The ideas get whackier and whackier and no one idea outstays its welcome. Just when you might be getting frustrated with a mode, everything switches up. It’s only on replay that you can feel any measure of predictability and control. Surprisingly, there is some aspect of precision when you do so, creating the incentive for replaying each challenge once they have all been experienced the first time.
What the Golf? is at its best when it is parodying other games – so you have whole sections devoted to the styles of Portal, Super Meat Boy and even Superhot. It’s clear the developer loves videogames and stretching the limits of gameplay systems in interesting ways, twisting them around and making objectives less about the endpoint and more about how you get there. Flip an entire house down the fairway? Why not? Let’s see how it goes. This brand of experimentation creates a lively, cheeky title that just oozes enthusiasm for coding and play.
What the Golf? is not particularly difficult. In fact, most of the challenges that award you with a crown (there are three different versions of each course – the original, a par run and a crown challenge) aren’t actually challenges at all, but just fun variations on the original idea. Some of these throwaway levels could even be entire games in themselves. But What the Golf? seems aware that repetition breeds boredom, so it never gives you time to either love or dislike any particular type of mini-game too much.
While the game is not that long, longevity comes in trying for all the crowns, as well as trying for high scores across daily challenges. There’s also, as mentioned, the Impossible Challenge, which will take you over a thousand shots to complete. Between that and trying to beat the world’s highest scores, there’s more than enough challenge for those who really want to take a big bite into what is ultimately a tongue-in-cheek take on whacking things towards a hole.
An extra addition is the Party Mode, which pits two players against each other. This looks like it could be a blast, with some funny challenges, such as trying the wind a big ball around a pole until it hits a flag and literal duelling banjos! You’ll also race across existing courses, trying to beat each other to the goal, while scores are kept and an eventual winner named. I could see this coming out as a party addition if a) I had friends and b) enforced social isolation did not make us terrified to get together.
The game’s touch controls work well, which is to be expected given its original release as a mobile/arcade title. But to be honest, I found I preferred proper buttons and thumb-sticks. I felt more in control and less likely to obscure what I was aiming for.
What the Golf? Was reviewed on the Nintendo Switch with code kindly provided by the publisher
It is said that Dylan Burns has no shadow, or if he does that it portents a shifting of the elder signs that govern the floating curses of the universe, gathering their power and directing ill intent and misfortune to all game developers that enact post-release patches. Consequently, Dylan’s shadow curse finds itself working overtime, permanently engaged, thus the propagation of legend. When not guiding the swirling forces of evil, Dylan enjoys writing (evil) fiction, taking menacing walks, and lurking behind bus stops with a general demeanour that suggests malevolence.