2019 definitely has to be one of the wackiest years for video games. We’ve had a villainous goose, a cat in a mech suit, and even a sheep moving the world with words. But now comes the strangest of them all, the golf ball! If you’re not aware, Triband has recently released What the Golf? A game with a tagline stating that if you hate golf then you will love this. I don’t particularly *hate* golf, but I’m not the biggest fan so I thought this might be something for me and boy was I right.
What the Golf? is, at its core, a golf game [Ed. note: shocker]. You generally have to get an object from one area to the next based on varied strength you hit it at and obstacles in your way. However, that’s about where the main aspect of golf stops. It then throws you for such a wild loop by teaching you that although the main character you play as is a golf ball, you will often change into a wide range of objects. On any stage, you could transform into objects such as a soccer ball, a house and even the actual golfer himself getting smacked around the course.
Your objectives will also be much different than your average golf game as well. In most cases, you are not trying to get the ball in a hole but instead, have to just hit the flag itself. That would be too simple though. You can also get a level where there isn’t even a flag. You might have to play as the golf hole and jump to a giant one in the ground to get a hole in one. — Ba dum tish!
At every stage, I couldn’t help but laugh and be amazed at the amount of love and thought that was put into each map. The art style is cute and simplistic which allows them the liberty to focus on what is important: unique golf mechanics. With each object you play as the game will change slightly. For example, as an office chair, you will have an extreme amount of rolling potential after a swing but as a soccer ball, you can literally kick the ball endlessly, whereas other objects will make you wait until you have stopped rolling.
The overworld of the game has you playing as a golf ball in what is seemingly a golf experimentation lab. You putt your way to a flagpole where you are transported to a new stage where you must complete some zany objective. Many of these levels felt very similar to a mini game you would play in Wario Ware or Mario Party. Each of those levels are grouped into zones and each level has two additional challenge modes adding more to the mechanic you just learned.
Finally, the big twist comes right when you start getting used to the oddity of it all. About halfway in, the game decides to totally switch the format and pay homage to many other famous games out there. Suddenly, you are a golf ball stuck in a platformer, a first-person shooter, a racing game, etc. All while still keeping the same base mechanic, you have a whole new world of previous games to explore in a whole new light.
The game always had a way to draw me back in with that “just one more level” mentality. Each level was just the right length where it would offer either a challenge or some new fun way to reimagine the sport of golf. I did think the level of difficulty was a little strange in regards to the challenges. Some could be quite tough like the platformer one versus others where you just had endless swings to knock down random cats. Regardless, if one challenge wasn’t for me, I could easily move on to the next and have a great time with all the variety available.
Plus the humor in this game was on point with its announcer always using clever puns at the end of every level. I looked forward to completing each level just to hear his next witty retort. I may (or may not) have uncontrollably yelled some of them out as well. But even without the announcer, the sheer goofiness of the levels would have been enough to draw me in. The concept of playing a level where I had to act as furniture objects, load them into a truck and then become a house and move the house to the new spot for moving day was just outrageous (but in a good way of course).
For the most part, I can’t say enough good things about this game but there are some minor concerns I stumbled upon. Because they are trying to do so many things with all the different genres, the game felt unoptimized at times. The base mechanic being implemented into a platformer, while interesting, could sometimes feel a little frustrating rather than fun, for example. The controls could also sometimes feel a bit tougher to get used to in various levels due to them trying to stretch the game’s creative side. I had to actually switch from computer mouse to a controller halfway through because it just felt much more natural for certain levels. Whereas the first-person shooter levels felt awful with a controller and I would have to switch back.
That being said, this is an amazing piece of work and one of my favorite games to come out this year. It was a true delight to run through, to the point where I just couldn’t put the controller down. The team even states in the credits that they are actively working on more content and want your feedback in their discord regarding which game they should transform next. I personally, can’t wait to see what comes next from this team and I hope all those who love or hate golf give this one a swing!
Available now for PC and Apple Arcade.