Initial Release: 28 September 2017
As much fun as Mario and as diverse as any of Zelda’s shrines , Golf Story is quite possibly the most fun I’ve had with a game all year.
Golf Story is one of the biggest surprises for me in 2017. I was drawn in by its charming art style but stayed for its excellent writing, depth and originality. By fusing an Earthbound – esque RPG with a technically sound golf game, Golf Story cements itself as one of the best experiences you can have on Nintendo Switch.
Nintendo have had one hell of a year in terms of first party releases but look a little deeper and you’ll also find an incredibly strong set of indies which are the perfect fit for the Switch. Golf Story might just be the best example of this. From the level design to the pacing of its plot, Golf Story is well suited to being enjoyed in small chunks. There are variety of courses to visit, all with a different them and set of challenges. Challenges earn you XP and money which is then used to level up your character and in turn tackle harder challenges. This gameplay loop is at the heart of hat makes the gameplay so damn addictive. Think Stardew meets golf.
Golf Story tells a Karate Kid tale of a young golfer determined to turn pro. Armed with a woefully unconventional swing, his Father’s teachings and a child-like optimism, the main character aims for the big leagues by working up from the very bottom. In the world of Golf Story, golf is comically important and integral to every day life. Every character lives and breathes the sport and is used wonderfully to poke fun at and occasionally pay tribute to the oh-so-odd game. The writing is key to making the wackiness work. I’ve not laughed this hard a game in quite some time, which took me completely off guard considering the way the game was marketed. I’m not kidding when I say this game is wacky. Golf Story features rap battles, undead skeletons, a crazy ex-wife and more inventive ways to use a golf club than you could possibly imagine. This lunacy can get in the way of gameplay sometimes. There were a few occasions where I genuinely had no idea how to complete an objective only to find the solution was something trivial like moving a gravestone or handing a ghost a chilli pepper, or something.
These brief moments of frustration are definitely the exception and not the rule however. Golf Story‘s moment to moment gameplay is very simple indeed but an absolute joy to experience. A power meter, ball placement and wind icon all help you judge your swing while later-earned skills like a power shot mix things up. The game really excels at keeping the core golf mechanics fresh by placing the player into different environments. There’s a mountain stage in which the wind plays a huge part, a beach full of sandy bunkers and even environmental hazards like thieving moles and birds. By throwing caution to the wind in terms of level design the game manages to keep each section diverse and the pacing consistent throughout.
Not every minute of play time is spent on the course however as Golf Story is as much an RPG as it is a golf game. There’s fetch quests, NPCs, loot and a semi-open structure to proceedings. The retro art style only adds to the charm, making every second spent in the game an absolute delight. The game performs great both in handheld and on the TV but I definitely felt that it was more at home on the go.
I think what surprised me most about the game was a combination of the overall length and amount of content on offer and also just how invested I became in the story. It’s the classic underdog tale but with some seriously inspired comedy sequences. Every character you encounter is as eccentric as the colourful vests they are wearing and the love story between your coach and that of another pupil is hilarious to behold. There’s a murder mystery sequence halfway through, the aforementioned rap battle and ghost-lawnmowers which do a wonderful job of distracting you from the fact that you are having as much fun as you are with a golf game.
A local multiplayer mode really opens the game up and adds a competitive element, especially given the Switch’s inherent party design. There are also multiple layers of challenges available for each hole including an alternate course which opens up late game. These courses make use of the stranger elements of each area and are genuinely challenging. Of course, you can also tee up anywhere with the press of a button and attempt your own challenges, giving the game a sandbox element which gives it real legs.
Golf Story creates a world in which almost every problem can be solved by hitting a tiny white ball at it. It manages to take expectations and drive them 300 yards into the ocean. By never taking itself too seriously but also offering solid and accessible golf mechanics, the game provides something for everyone and keeps things fresh right up until the credits roll on the fourth wall – breaking story. As much fun as Mario and as diverse as any of Zelda’s shrines , Golf Story is quite possibly the most fun I’ve had with a game all year.
Verdict: 9 Out of 10
We were supplied a copy of the game for review purposes by Sidebar Games