Nintendo Switch – eShop £13.49, $14.99
Back in 1999, Camelot showed the world that the humble game of golf could be successfully merged with classic RPG elements to create a highly entertaining and influential title with Mario Golf on the Game Boy Color. 18 years later, indie developer Sidebar Games have launched Golf Story, a Switch exclusive that is every bit as addictive and funny as its spiritual forefather.
In the game’s main story mode, you start off as a wee boy hitting the tees with his father in a brief but charming sequence designed to teach you the basics of its gameplay. Right from the offset, it’s clear that one of the game’s many strengths lies in its genuinely hilarious dialogue. The tutorial is woven directly into the script, but it also wastes no time in letting you know that your actions are under the scrutiny of the game’s resident geese. It’s quite dry humour that may not resonate with everyone, but it had me in frequent fits of giggles throughout.
Fast forward 20 years and your main character is now back in his hometown looking to become a professional golfer. From here, you’re taken on a wonderful journey across various locales filled with charming and eccentric characters along with a hefty selection of side-quests. Initially, it seems as though the entire golfing community is against your quest to go Pro, with even the local golfing coach refusing to teach you in favour of more inadequate (albeit richer) students. It’s only after you prove yourself in a number of tasks that you start to be taken a bit more seriously.
Of the myriad of tasks set to you by the townsfolk, a remarkable amount of them are actually entirely unrelated to golf. You may be asked to run around a course to prove your speed, or you may have to hunt down five young turtles and return them to their home in the water. Completing these tasks will reward you with a small wad of money along with experience points. Level up and you’ll be given the opportunity to improve your golfing abilities. It’s rather shallow in comparison to other RPGs, but it works very well in the context of a golf simulator – I believe anything more complex might actually turn some people off.
Naturally, you’ll find the bulk of your time spend with Golf Story will be on the course. The gameplay mechanics are relatively straightforward for the most part, similar to the Mario Golf series. The golf swing itself is initiated in a simple three-step sequence: press A to start the swing; press A again to set the power: press A for a final time to finalise the swing. Of course, you can adjust your swing in a number of ways, including fine-tuning the power for a more accurate shot, and adding topspin or backspin to your shot. It works incredibly well and there are actually some impressive physics on display. My only concern is that it can be difficult to discern how much of a slope is on the green, leading me to miss some otherwise straightforward putts (or maybe I’m just bad at it!).
Aside from the main story mode, you’ll find a Quick Play mode that you can access from the beginning with either one or two players. This is quite simply a barebones round of golf, although you can adjust the difficulty from the slope of the green to the strength of the wind. Additionally, much like the story mode, there will be additional hazards such as little critters littering the course that will steal your ball and plonk it in a bunker if you hit it in their vicinity. It’s equally hilarious and frustrating.
All in all, Golf Story is a surprisingly robust indie title boasting addictive gameplay and one of the most well written scripts I’ve seen in years. You’ll frequently find yourself grinning from ear to ear at some of the humour on display, and the actual golf mechanics are so pure and straightforward that even those of you who find golf to be abhorrent can have a lot of fun with the main story mode. A very well executed game indeed.