When it comes to video game golf, I tend to prefer games that are a bit more fantastical rather than realistic. However, I do have my limits. Mario Golf on the Nintendo 64 finds my perfect blend of realism vs. fantasy, but its sequel on the GameCube was completely off-putting for its overly fantastical courses and power shots.
What the Golf? pushes the fantastical elements so far into the realm of silly that it’s only a golf game in the broadest of senses. Though the game bills itself as being a golf game for those that like golf, does it have any appeal for those that do?
Your goal throughout What the Golf? is to strike the object(s) into the goal. Control is as simple as pointing in a direction, holding down a button, and letting go at the desired power. But after the first hole, things start to get very silly.
One hole has you launching the golfer at the tin. Another has you flipping a house. Later levels have you navigating a soccer ball past a group of soccer players before kicking the ball into the net. Some levels are even parodies of other video game levels. If anything, What the Golf? is a physics-based puzzle game with golf-like mechanics. When I started my run through the campaign, it almost felt like it had an Angry Birds sort of quality to its gameplay.
All of these holes are strung together by a golf-based overworld. As with everything else in the game, you have to hit your ball into the hole to play that level. It’s an interesting way to keep players constantly engaged, but I did get a bit confused coming to grips with the game’s tiered level system.
Each hole has three different variations. Your first run simply asks that you complete the goal. I like to think of it as a warm-up for the second two phases where challenges are put in place. Complete all three phases of each hole to earn crowns that will unlock more stages.
It’s very easy to simply jump from one level to the next, completely missing the second and third variations of each hole. At a certain point, I hit a dead end and had no idea what the game wanted me to do. It wasn’t until I accidentally hit the ball into a hole I’d already played that I realized that there was more to each level and that multiple plays were mandatory.
Once I understood that, I had a much smoother time. Each level provides an interesting puzzle to solve, even if it barely resembled golf. I much prefer playing the last two phases of each level, as it gave my actions more meaning. If anything, I could do without the introductory run of each level, as it’s mostly there for the punchline.
Speaking of humour, the game heavily relies on it. Each level is designed to make you laugh, from the actions it asks you to perform, to the punchlines that appear in all-caps after completing each hole. It’s very silly, but I grew to appreciate its charms.
What the Golf? is barely a golf game, and that’s okay. Though its humour wasn’t my cup of tea, I applaud it for being a clever use of golf-like mechanics to create something very unique. Once I got a grip on its level structure, I powered through the main story and had a good time.
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