Golf’s no football, is it? As skilled as it is, I’d rather watch Sunday League or my kid’s primary school team play than the PGA Tour. Triband know that golf isn’t for everyone, but there’ still something alluring about playing it on a console. Take Everybody’s Golf, for example. I spent hundreds of hours with it, not because I enjoy the sport but because there’s something rather cathartic about the slow pace and peaceful courses. What the Golf? is a golf game, but it’s also not a golf game. What it is, is a puzzler that makes you laugh, keeps you feeling challenged, and throws tons of cool references at you that you can’t help but love.
You never stop putting and swinging, but what you’re actually putting and swinging with changes a lot. The controls are as simple as they come: aim and swing. Even outside of the levels, you’re hitting the golf ball around the weird laboratory that takes you from one course to the next. What makes What the Golf? so unique is the different ways it allows you to play. Sometimes you’re driving a car and others you’re throwing yourself down the green. The ball may become a box, wine bottle, spaceship, or a blob of slime, and with each one the mechanics change.
To get from the putting green to the hole, you may be required to aim in the direction you want your bicycle to go, and then power up and “swing” to choose how fast you want it to go. Sometimes the courses have obstacles to overcome, such as exploding fuel drums, security cameras, and pesky children, and with each one you must do your best to avoid them to get to the hole. Most of them aren’t overly challenging, but you may find the odd course becomes an Achilles heel. There’re tons of levels, each taking on a particular theme, and whilst a lot of levels feature normal golfing mechanics, some of them are completely ridiculous.
You’ll be a cowboy standing from a distance to hit the flag, a runner carrying a torch, or a horse racing down the course. The Nintendo Switch’s motion controls are even utilised, as some holes require you to play in handheld, opting for a first-person approach. They are stupid, but in the best way possible. If you’re willing to enjoy the silliness, then What the Golf? will give you a damn good time. Triband has not only thought long and hard about the design of each level; they’ve spent a considerable amount of time looking back through the history of video games, and wondering how they could incorporate weird mechanics into their own game.
Perhaps the best courses in What the Golf? are the ones that take you by surprise, feeding you courses based on games such as Super Mario Bros., Portal, and Metal Gear Solid. One set of holes uses the mechanics seen in Superhot, sharing the same aesthetics as SUPERHOT Teams’ unique shooter. You’ll use a Portal gun, race through a course as a Flappy Bird, and even play a ‘level’ of Guitar Hero. It’s fan service you never expect, and even when you’ve completed these holes, a small amount of text pops up providing you with a chuckle or two.
There’re tons of courses in What the Golf?, and although it can be finished in a few hours, there’s more than enough reason to go back and play through it. Each course has two additional challenges. One will see you hitting par on each one, and the other earns you a crown. These can be completely different to the original course, giving you even more content. You can earn trophies for collecting so many crowns, and whilst they aren’t vastly difficult, they flesh out the overall game.
Along with the main story of What the Golf?, there’re other modes you can enjoy, both alone and with friends: local multiplayer and an ‘Impossible Challenge’ provide you with more golf-but-not-golf to enjoy. There’s so much to love about What the Golf? that it keeps you hooked, and I have played through almost all of the courses at least twice. It’s a physics puzzler that continually surprises and entertains, whilst pushing you to keep playing.
Triband has crafted a loving tribute to the game of golf without actually being about golf. The physics work wonderfully, and the courses are so diverse and entertaining. Despite there being a few duds in the rough, and some being a tad frustrating, you’ll get a lot of enjoyment from it. It’s packed with humour, tight gameplay, and more courses for you to shake (or throw) your stick at. What the Golf? is a cracking indie game made by developers who may not know anything about golf, however, they make up for it in every other department.
Tons of courses
Loads of surprises
Great physics and gameplay
Always makes you smile
Some weaker courses