Review by Trent P.
I have never played real golf, only ever miniature golf. And miniature golf… well, while I think I’m a pro at it, I’m fairly sure the last time I played it with a few friends their two-year old ended up with a higher score than me. With golf-inspired video games, I do find something more enjoyable about the sport.
I guess it could be the lack of an audience when you fail over and over. Or it could be because when you take away the sun, the heat, and go to the basic mechanics on what golf is, it makes for a good video game mechanic. Suddenly what would turn you into a prune after ten minutes on the hot grassy golf fields, leads to hours of skill-based fun, trying to get that tiny ball into a tiny hole hundreds of yards away.
Golf Peaks isn’t serious golf. Rather, it is a puzzle game that is closer in experience to that of miniature golf. The compact nature of the puzzles makes for good pick-up-and-play value, while some interesting mechanics are constantly being introduced throughout the game to entice the player to keep pushing on through sheer variety.
The Nintendo Switch release of Golf Peaks comes preloaded with all the worlds that are currently available in the game. Mobile and Steam players have had to wait for a drip feed of levels, while those picking it up for the first time on the Switch immediately have access to a lump sum of 9 worlds with over 100 levels in total.
Each of these worlds contain a total of 12 levels for the player to overcome. Players are locked to the current world that they’re playing in until they’ve completed nine of those levels, with the final three levels what could be arguably classified as boss fights. When I say “boss fight” I don’t mean a physical boss, as such. There is no monster… except for the one you become as you struggle through a genuine test of everything you’ve learned through the level to date. These can be hard.
Golf Peaks has a clever card-based selection system for picking what you would like the ball to do. For example, you might get a card with a straight line and the number “3”, and this means that the ball will travel three flat squares. Other cards give you the ability to jump the ball, or perform a range of other tricks that would make a pro billiard player blush. Once you have selected the card you want to use, you can draw on touch screen the direction you want the ball to go (or point the direction with the control stick if you’re not keen on touch screen play).
This gameplay, basic and elegant as it is, is amazingly clever and matches with the other minimalistic elements in Golf Peaks. Both the soundtrack and graphics are minimalistic in nature. The music score is comprised of simplistic melodies and is quite relaxing. The graphics are cell shaded line art, which looks crisp on the Nintendo Switch. It’s a very pleasant experience, and a reminder that minimalism can be a delight.
Challenge comes to the game in the later levels, as they start to throw in new blocks which can affect the ball in one way or another. The usual mud or sand trap is quite common throughout all the worlds. However more unique ones which theme the worlds, such as element-based obstacles (eg. Water), or movement-based obstacles (eg. Movement tiles which force the ball to go a certain direction). The common obstacles get introduced gradually through the worlds, with the original world especially focusing more on learning to move the ball then performing any tricky shots.
The game might have released first on mobile, but it doesn’t do the game a disservice. Presentation of Golf Peaks is very minimalistic, with the game loading into a list of the levels. It isn’t bloated by redundant concepts or additional features which may take the players attention away from the charm of the minimalism of the title.
The only issue I have with the is that while there’s plenty of meat across the nine worlds, it’s disappointing that there’s so little replay value; once you’ve done a level, you’re done with it. A level creator would be a really great idea for a game like this.
Golf Peaks isn’t going to stand out on the Switch. It’s well made, clean, and the minimalism is appealing, but it’s also somewhat limited and hard to sit down to for long periods. But jumping on a train for a short trip, or waiting for friends to get organised for a game of Mario Kart? Well those off minutes can easily be filled with some Golf Peaks action.
– Trent P.