WHAT THE GOLF? Review $19.99
All my life I've been good, but now ooooohhhh I'm thinking WHAT THE GOLF?
While I don’t consider myself a fan of sports or sports games, I do appreciate a unique take on traditional sports that bring something new or innovate on the game. In 2017, Golf Story on the Switch turned a golf game into an open world, top-down RPG with great humor. This year, we have been treated to WHAT THE GOLF?, a wacky and surprising puzzle game with intense disdain for the sport that will have you cracking up almost immediately.
WHAT THE GOLF? aims to put as many spins on the game of golf as it can. Your projectiles, targets, and interactions with the world will all change as you make your way through a surprisingly high number of stages. Things start out simply and predictably, you line up your shot and power before sinking your ball in the hole. Things quickly take a turn for the weird when the next hole sees your golfer become a ragdoll, flying through the air towards the hole instead of your ball. The game continues to escalate from there, before dropping you into a lab-setting that you’re free to explore… as a golf ball.
This is where the game starts proper. You’ll putt your way around the lab, completing a hole here and there to open doors barring your progress. Each area has a theme for the stages, many of which are inspired in some way by a popular video game. Have you ever wondered what Super Mario Bros. would be like if it was a golf game instead of a platformer? How about Guitar Hero? Well, in WHAT THE GOLF? you’ll find out.
It would be easy for a gimmick like “beloved game as golf” to wear thin quickly, but the sections are short enough that they don’t ever overstay their welcome. They are also clever and subvert expectations to the point that you always feel like you’re encountering something new. You never know quite what to expect when you drop into a hole. Will the level be 2D or 3D? What will you be controlling? How will the world respond to your actions?
The only predictable thing is that the game is unpredictable.
You can revisit stages you’ve completed to attempt secondary challenges. Each stage has two additional challenges for you to complete. The first challenge is usually a par challenge, where you have a limited number of strokes to complete the hole. The second could be any number of things; a time trial, a more difficult version of the hole, or something bizarre. Some of these alternate challenges, especially getting par, can be quite frustrating as you get later into the game and the holes become more challenging and complex. The ways that the controls are altered for some holes can be unintuitive, but you move through the stages at a rapid pace. The only time this truly becomes a problem is for completionists who want to wring everything they can out of the game. And there is a surprising amount of game to get through.
The sound design and music are also delightfully odd, albeit a tad limited. Early on they really go for it, with unique music that aims to capture the feeling of the game it is drawing inspiration from. It is largely successful at this but also does so in an amusing way that I was sad to not see carry throughout the entirety of the game.
The art also left me wanting more. At least the art within the stages. It isn’t bad and translates well into all the different ways the game uses it, from varying perspectives and varying styles of gameplay. But the levels look somewhat generic, divorced from the absurdity of what is happening on the screen. The lab that you explore between holes has some fun design that I wish had carried over into the stages. Many of the zones do attempt to adapt an art style akin to the game being golfified, which works far more often than it doesn’t. The saving grace for this is the style and attitude with which everything is delivered.
WHAT THE GOLF? is a hilarious puzzle game that will leave you delighted and make you realize that golf, in its, current state sucks. The PGA should be getting in touch with the developers of Triband because they’ve created a fresh approach to golf that will revolutionize the sport, and then the world. If that doesn’t happen, the game will at least bring joy to everyone who plays it. Its quirky personality and presentation combined with simple gameplay make this game a FORE! out of five.
- Great sense of humor
- Surprisingly long
- Wide variety of themes and stages
- Makes golf interesting
- Music is inconsistent
- Art feels generic in much of the game
- Some jokes are repeated