Golf games have seemingly been around as long as gaming has existed. The inherent inactivity of the sport means that developers have been able to translate it to even the most modest hardware and still convince people it’s fun. I’ve certainly had my share of mediocre fun playing golf games over the years, but none of that prepared me for What the Golf?
What even is golf?
What the Golf? (question mark included) is the golf game for people that don’t like golf. It starts you out with a very basic premise of pulling back power meter, aiming an arrow, and putting a golf ball toward a flag. That’s very innocuous, right? It’s very much in line with other golf games. However, on the next hole, you pull back that power meter, aim the arrow, release it and… the arrow goes flying. You’re now putting the power meter toward the goal.
That misdirection is one of the cornerstones of what makes What the Golf? so entertaining. You go from hole to hole and every time you start one, you essentially have no idea what you’re going to encounter. Sometimes you’re hitting a golf ball in weird ways, sometimes it’s a weird bouncy ball, sometimes it’s tethered by a string, and every so often you’re just playing soccer. There are many moments when there’s nothing even remotely related to golf going on at all. If you like being caught off guard by comedic ways to move an object toward a goal, this game has it. It’s what “surprise mechanics” would be if not adopted as a terrible rebrand of loot boxes.
Games in the game
One of the fun parts of What the Golf? is that many of the levels within it have a theme based on other games. There are homages to Mario, Super Meat Boy, Metal Gear Solid, Katamari Damacy, and Superhot just to name a few. Each hole takes on some mechanics from these games and mixes them into golf with some strange outcomes. Somehow, it always makes a lot of sense and is surprisingly intuitive for every level.
The amount of times that this game feels like it’s just superbly designed is incredible. I didn’t think that the novelty would hold up for hours but it did, and I only want more. Every time I could recognize a new game that What the Golf? was mimicking, their ability to channel it so well immediately impressed me. For instance, there was no way I could have expected a Guitar Hero level. How would you make golf into Guitar Hero? Yet, here it was, happening in front of me.
It’s ok to hate golf
The developers, Triband, make it clear that they don’t like golf. I don’t know if that’s true, but What the Golf? does everything it can to take the game of golf and make it into an entirely different experience. It took a sport that is as bland as anything could be and made it both engaging and comedic at the same time. The worst thing that could come of it is confusing people into believing golf is more entertaining than it actually is.
Hole in One
What the Golf? nails it on nearly every level. The visuals are subdued, but more than appropriate for the context of the game, and the design of the various environments and levels still shine. The game is drowning in originality with its zany and ridiculous levels, even the ones channeling other games. Even the music is entirely original – often using the lyrics “What the Golf” transformed into a variety of different songs designed to fit each particular type of level. There is no part of this game that misses the mark in a way worth mentioning.
It is a rare thing that I don’t have at least some noteworthy criticism of a game worth mentioning. While I don’t know if the comedy or gameplay is necessarily for every human being on the planet, the “mass appeal” factor in this game is pretty strong. It’s approachable and relatively simple, but also offers optional challenge levels that can give people more to do. What the Golf? is so much fun, I can only assume extenuating circumstances (like the limited platform release) are leading to it not generating more buzz. I do believe that when it makes its way to the Nintendo Switch sometime soon, it will be much more popular than it is currently. That being said, however you can try it, you should try it.