okidokico, best known for simple phone games like Pictominoes and Super Monkey Boost, has now entered the world on of PC gaming with A Little Golf Journey. I wasn’t sure what to expect from A Little Golf Journey. I’ve always enjoyed a good golfing gaming, but I didn’t know a lot about okidokico. So, when I discovered a vibrant world that was part-love story, part-puzzle game, and part-golfing sim, I was pleasantly surprised. I eagerly sat down to play level after lever, trying to perfect my swing. The world charmed me into a pleasant lull that I had no desire to escape from.
A Little Golf Journey as Simulation and Puzzle Game
Often when I think of golf games, I first think of Mario Golf or Golf with Friends, both of which have an emphasis on perfecting your swing. A huge part of both of those games is learning the strength of different meters and hitting your ball appropriately. This games does away with this mechanic – it’s very simple to understand how to hit your ball and there are never any surprises as to where it will land. A marker clearly shows exactly where (give or take a bounce) your ball will land.
Every time you complete a level, the world around it fills with color. As you progress, you get to see the world come to life. Overall, it serves as a really satisfying and endearing mechanic. I loved watching my progress as I brought color back to the beige world I was exploring.
So, naturally, you have to ask – where is the challenge?
Where this game doesn’t require the player to have mastery of the controls, it asks players to have spatial awareness. Like many puzzle games, every course has either 3 or 4 maximum amount of stars available, based on how quickly you are able to get the ball in the hole. Every map, lush with charming designs, has multiple ways to get your ball to the hole. Sometimes, this includes strategically putting your ball in a bunker or using the wind to your advantage. This led me to replay levels multiple times, as I tried to figure out the most efficient way to play. It also encouraged me to fully explore the little worlds created in the game.
That said, this was not the only aspect of the game that encourages players to really explore the worlds they’ve created. In addition to the built-in puzzle, many courses have “secrets”. These secrets, signaled by a translucent, shiny cube, often unlock challenges. The challenges are timed trick shots, which make players master the skills they’ve been practicing throughout the game. In addition to the secrets, there are collectable “blue things”. These are hidden throughout the level and, much like the secrets, they encourage players to really dig deep in the world the game creates and explore the cute dioramas.
In addition to challenges that encourage world-exploration, the game also has two other features that challenge gamers. The first are a set of three “caves”. These are each multi-section levels with various different (and challenging) mechanics. One is sparse on platforms. Another utilizes wind. And, the last incorporates moving platforms. Additionally, there are three “mini golf” portions. Each one includes an extra challenging shot that pushes players to really thing about angles and how to best get their ball to its destination.
The Charming World of A Little Golf Journey
For a puzzle-game-slash-golfing-sim, A Little Golf Journey certainly excelled in world-building. The story, music, and dioramas all work together perfectly to create a really engaging world.
Though the game leans heavily in the direction of “story-lite”, what hints at a story it provides players with is absolutely lovely. When you first begin, you receive letters from a mysterious person. They reminisce on your past, advising you that they’ll meet you at the next course. Naturally, this continues as you proceed throughout the world. The notes are every affectionate, and as you progress through the stages they change. Without spoiling anything, this change really kept me playing; I needed to know exactly what was going on in this strange golf world.
This story is punctuated with an absolutely wonderful soundtrack from Haakon Davidson. If you’re curious, you can listen to the soundtrack here. The playful, warm notes of the soundtrack accompany the sights of the game perfectly. One cannot help but feel a little happy listening.
As stated earlier, the story and music work together to really highlight the different stages. The various themes start typical enough. There is a plain green, a Japanese garden-inspired area, a desert, and so on. But as you progress, you begin to enter ancient tombs, outer space, and even extra-dimensional rifts.
Just Weird Enough (and Then Some)
As a general rule of thumb, I tend to like games that give itself room to be a little quirky (as evidenced by my raving review for Raptor Boyfriend). For a golfing puzzle game, it was really neat to see the developer lean into both the heartwarming and the weird. I can’t express how delighted I was to go to the moon (and deal with the mechanic of gravity there) or how happy I was to enter the Tron-like rift pictured above.
I feel like what pushed A Little Golf Journey from an “ok golf game” to a “really good golf game” is the risks they were willing to take. Not only are the world heartwarming, the gameplay tight, and the music dreamy, but it is willing to be different. Even the effort the developers put into the love notes you receive as you progress really add to the overall vibe of the game.
Overall, I’m super pleased with A Little Golf Journey. It is a great example of how a whole bunch of little things can come together to push a game to greatness. I eagerly await the next game from okidokico.
This review is based on a key provided by the publisher