During the Autumn Steam Games Festival, demos for a ton of different games became available. One demo that caught my eye was Triband’s WHAT THE GOLF? Which our own Josh reviewed last year when it was exclusive to the Epic Games Store. Now that’s it’s available on more platforms and has several new modes, including a Level Editor, I decided to take another look at it. I’m no stranger to weird and silly games in the genre, such as Ribbit King or Mario Golf, and to a lesser extent Everybody’s Golf, but WHAT THE GOLF? Takes the weirdness to another level, and ends up being even better because of it.
Just to provide a bit of a refresher, WHAT THE GOLF? Is very much not a conventional game. Nearly every hole you encounter is different, and although some are similar due to previously introduced mechanics, like a box of chocolate onions each new hole presents new layers and you never quite know what you’re going to get.
Something else you have to realize about WHAT THE GOLF? early on, is that anything on the screen can serve as the ball or the hole, the ball itself, clubs, the golfer, the gauge, flags, goalposts, houses, you name it. You would think this gets old fast, but it always finds new ways to surprise you. Even now, after playing through most sections it still manages to somehow make twists that I don’t expect.
The new Level Editor mode provides you with a lot of tools to make your own courses, however, being in early access it doesn’t have everything it should yet. First, there seems to be a lack of a proper tutorial, so I wouldn’t recommend using this mode until you’ve gone through most of the campaign and understand all the different mechanics and how they work together well enough and It lacks the level of familiarity that many may find the Super Mario Maker series to have. Stacking a bunch of exploding barrels on top of each other, although entertaining, doesn’t really make for great level design (trust me, I tried).
Secondly, you only have a few options to use as the ball for now such as regular ball, golfer, cat, and car, but I would really love to see an option to change the ball into pretty much any of the ones featured in the campaign, or even combining different types together help make user-created levels even more unique. Imagine if you could mix a number of ball mechanics and then put them in outer space. Speaking of which, there are still a few bugs here and there, as when I used the cat as the ball in conjunction with exploding barrel obstacles, the cat was sent completely out of the world of the level and into empty space after it made contact. It was hilarious, but just another reminder of how you really need to understand how each type of ball, obstacle, and gadget work before you can make truly functional levels.
The themes you can base your levels around are also limited. Portals, 2D levels, Outer Space, and a number of other themes don’t seem to be available quite yet, and you can only use the basic grass terrain as of writing this piece. Imagine if you could put the people who deflect your ball in outer space, or throw them through portals if you hit something strong enough to move them at the right angle.
In the main campaign, there are computer bosses that block your way to the next section of levels. The objective of these challenges is to hit the heart-shaped mark until it runs out of tricks to use, which includes stuff like pong paddles, walls, and even tweaking the curvature of the ball’s path. While it may take a while to implement or may never be, being able to make your own computer boss levels and dialogue would be a great addition if possible. Adding these computers and their mechanics into the level editor could be great for even more creative levels than expected.
I’m also a little surprised you can’t select what music you want to use for your levels. WHAT THE GOLF? may not have the most extensive soundtrack, but it would be nice to be able to select between the tracks featured in the game. I don’t think most of the tracks are tied to a specific theme, so I don’t see how implementing this could be an issue in the future.
My one problem with WHAT THE GOLF? in general (not just with the level editor) was using the mouse and click controls. Simple enough controls but didn’t always feel like the gauge was angled quite right. Luckily there’s also controller support where you use a single button and stick rather than having to pull your mouse back and forth.
Overall, WHAT THE GOLF? Is one of those silly and weird indie titles that I didn’t realize I needed. I’ve been finding it to be rather stress-relieving even when I get frustrated. I still need to mess around with the level editor more and figure out how more mechanics work together, but I look forward to future updates making the mode less limited. The Level Editor has a lot of potential, so I’d say start now if you want to have a really good idea of how to design functional and challenging levels as the updates roll out. If you’re looking to take a relieving, goofy, and golf-y break from the stress of this year, I definitely recommend trying out WHAT THE GOLF?, especially since it’s available on more platforms now.
WHAT THE GOLF? Is available on Nintendo Switch, PC, and Apple Arcade.
Code provided by the publisher.