Review: Golfie [PC]
Tee off. Very much off.
Minigolf simulator and grindy deckbuilder are two genres of video game that you would never, in an unfathomable number of years, ever conceive would shack up together. But that’s precisely the insane matchup that Golfie, an early-access physics-platformer for PC, is aiming to pull off. Billed in the very logo as an opportunity to partake in (and I quote) “roguelike deckbuilding minigolf,” this is a surreal little title developed by Triheart Studio and published by – get this – Yogscast. Yes, that Yogscast. 2013, how lovely to see you again, me old mucker.
The team certainly deserves credit for the originality, and for taking a swing (heh) at something that, by all accounts, is a surefire recipe to get sales and marketing executives jumping out of the nearest window. But sadly, while there are times Golfie manages to highlight the potential of its melding of the two game styles, they never truly coalesce into a satisfying whole. Indeed, much like ketchup and steak, Looney Tunes and basketball, and, ironically, Yogscast’s own cameo in Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed, I’m left with a feeling that there are some things that you need to keep as far away from each other as possible.
Hole in one (hundred cards)
Golfie doesn’t beat around the bush. No expansive narrative or explanations here. You’re thrust right into your first course and taught how the card mechanic works. Let me tell you, even as someone who’s sunk a considerable chunk of time into other deck-based titles, I was struck with the most immediate and pervasive sense of faff I’ve experienced in a long time. In essence, you are to build a hand of cards that designate the shots you can administer to Golfie, the titular spherical hero who looks a bit like those creepy things that hosted Nintendo Land if you shoved them in a trash compactor.
You have your basic lob shots, putts and the like – but there are a few quirky ones in there, like the ability to strap the fella to a jetpack for extra height, or place walls and grenades to steer him on a particular course. (In the common vernacular, we call that ‘cheating’.) This is all fine functionally and doesn’t stumble on the fundamentals, as can sometimes be the case. But the reality is this (fairly complicated) deckbuilding system is married to what is a basic golf game. This is the same issue I have with modern Mario Golf and its ever-mounting bloated mechanics.
Simply put, you accomplish nothing by carefully assembling and picking your deck that you couldn’t do in an equivalent game by clicking and dragging the mouse to choose power and angle. NES Golf, the pioneering title in the genre, understood this, and that was in the 1980s. Golfie seems more concerned with adding unneeded additional steps to a time-honoured concept than ensuring the central gameplay is fun.
Not having much of a ball
Unfortunately, it isn’t, particularly. The basic controls are wonky. The ball frequently keeps rolling long past the point physics should take hold. The yellow guide arrow intended to show you where Golfie will wind up when you take the shot often isn’t accurate.
A major red flag rears its head not two holes in (out of the eighteen you’ll face per run) – and not the kind you’re meant to be putting toward. Golfie’s stages are procedurally generated, meaning you’ll get different, ostensibly tight, courses each time. Procedural generation is a major bugbear of mine. Infamously, No Man’s Sky couldn’t get it right with a massive budget and the eyes of essentially every gamer on the planet fixed on it. Golfie has neither, so you can imagine how well it goes down here. Mapping issues abound, with ramps and hills not properly merging with the ground, resulting in unnavigable portions. Traps are scattered around with reckless abandon. A few times, I spied scenery floating off in the distance. Twists and turns achieve only irritation and are haphazardly placed.
A proper golf course, especially one built for minigolf, should feel rewarding and offer you thought-provoking options. Do you have a crack at the windmill for a guaranteed hole in one, despite the risk of smacking into its rotating blades repeatedly? That gutter looks tempting, but it’s up a steep incline – do I bother? Golfie provides none of these scenarios. AI just cannot design well-thought-out golfing terrain the way a human can, instead preferring to shove you in the lava every chance it gets; which, true to its Yogscast origins, will doubtless elicit the desired anguished screams from streamers.
Not quite in the green
The result is a bit of a mess. There is fun in unlocking more cards for your deck, and experimenting with the host of bonkers moves you can pull off. Likewise, Golfie is a charming (literal) ball of energy, with a quip for each situation and appropriate reactions to the absurd difficulty spikes. The music is sufficiently bouncy. Every so often you’ll happen across just the right combination of cards – or a vending machine selling said cards – to clinch victory in spectacular fashion. However, these perks aren’t enough to salvage a package that just isn’t up to par.
Golfie is still in early access, meaning that the version I looked at isn’t necessarily representative of what the final product will be like. If Triheart can iron out some of these faults, and make a more compelling case for the clashing playstyles being forced to play together like two kids whose mothers want an excuse to sit in the other room and booze, we might have something more palatable on our hands. At present, though, Golfie is several drivers short of escaping the sandtrap.
Golfie is available now on PC. Review code kindly provided by Yogscast.
If Triheart can iron out some of these faults, and make a more compelling case for the clashing playstyles being forced to play together like two kids whose mothers want an excuse to sit in the other room and booze, we might have something more palatable on our hands. At present, though, Golfie is several drivers short of escaping the sandtrap.