Review by Matt S.
It claims to be a “golf game for people that hate golf,” and that is a good summary of the kind of irreverent humour that What The Golf? aims for. It’s not really golf at all though. Rather it’s a silly little physics puzzle game, good for a few laughs, and vivid in imagination, but by no means something you’ll remember, much less still be playing, a decade from now.
What The Golf starts out simple enough, and like any other indie golf game that you might imagine. You aim the ball at the hole, then press and hold a button to build a power meter, and then swing. Hit the pin to win the hole. That’s the first hole. Then you’ll play the second, and instead of hitting the ball, it’s the golfer that gets sent flying from the swing. I actually went into What The Golf? having no idea what the game really was about, so I actually thought that I was somehow playing wrong when my golfer went flying with the ball left behind. It was only after a retry or two that I realised that that’s the joke – the player was meant to be the one sent flying. I felt a little stupid that I didn’t get that joke immediately, I tells you what, but the game does pivot hard from looking and behaving like a simple little golf thing to this nonsense.
It’s not just the golfer you’ll send flying across the screen. On some levels, it’ll be the golf club. On others, it’ll be a thousand different balls (only one needs to reach the goal). Sometimes it’ll be a vase or a sofa. Or a soccer ball. And then sometimes it will be the power-up meter itself. That was a wild bit of subversion the first time I did that. Each time the basic game plays the same though: you navigate whatever it is that you’re hitting through obstacles, and try to avoid having it fly off the steep cliffs that line each course. If you play well you’ll hit the pin, and be able to move on to the next stage.
What The Golf? is the kind of puzzle game where the solution is immediately obvious, but the physics system is deliberately obtuse. It’s a popular thing with indies, whether it’s Human Fall Flat, Octodad, I Am Bread, or any other number of these kinds of games. It’s never sat that well with me, simply because I prefer to have fine control when I’m playing, and these games like to create a challenge by stripping me of that. In What The Golf’s case, fine control over the amount of power that you use to hit the “ball” isn’t really possible, and most levels are more a case of solving puzzles by working around the lack of control over where each “hit” goes. Thankfully there aren’t any penalties for failure, because I did fail quite a lot while playing this one.
It’s actually quite impressive how much stuff is in What The Golf? From a lot of single-player levels that steadily ramp up in difficulty, through to a daily challenge, a multiplayer mode (which, as with every comedy-inclined game, is by far the best way to experience the game), and an “impossible challenge” where the difficulty of the game and its systems is pushed to the limit. The one time I tried that my character got stuck on some scenery, which prevented me from taking another shot and make it an “impossible challenge” indeed. Those kinds of bugs are fleetingly rare, though, so I didn’t hold that against the game. It’s the variety in those levels and design elements that helps the game feel truly full-featured though. It seems like every level it’s trying new things, and the developers were unafraid to come up with some ideas and levels that were simply forgettable in order to keep the variety between levels strong.
This is one of the shorter reviews that I sometimes have to write. I’ve run out of things to say. What The Golf? is by no means a bad game – it’s actually highly entertaining – but while the developers have done everything that they can with it, at some point hitting anything but a golf ball around a golf course loses its lustre as a joke. It’ll only take you a couple of hours to work through everything in What The Golf?, and you’ll have a generally good time as you do, but I can’t see this being a game that you ever return to. There’s just not that much to do with it – the joke is funny, but single-note, and the developers are unable to offer anything intelligent to this game beyond the level design. Those levels are often smart, don’t get me wrong, but once they have been completed once, they also aren’t the kind of thing you’ll want to replay. Don’t let that stop you buying the game though. It might only be a weekend or two’s worth of fun, but you really will be in tears of laughter.
– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @mattsainsb
The critic was provided with a review code for the purposes of this review.