The release and strong indie success of Golf Story has created a weird situation in the minds of a lot of “sports” gamers. I mean, sure, Golf Story is a fantastic title, full of mirth, heart and a lot of good character development, but the actual golf part of the game is pretty trivial in comparison to the overall idea. I’m not trying to downplay the golfing or how the sport core of this hugely successful, offbeat RPG is handled, but golf is now viewed a bit differently on the Switch. It’s a game that involves thought, choices and consequence, like chess with sticks. Wouldn’t it be great if someone would just boil it down to striking a ball like crazy while trying to shove your friends off the sofa? Good news, bored golf club at a local high school, Party Golf has come home to roost.
The concept is simple and genius in execution: four people are all playing what is essentially mini golf at the same time. And by at the same time, I mean they are all swinging and trying to hit the same hole at the exact same time. Time is limited, the courses are bumpy and your friends are all tangible. First in is the winner, and different conditions lead to overall victory in either long or short form gameplay. There isn’t really a storyline to talk about, because, hey, it’s a game of golf with all your friends.
Execution of Party Golf plays a lot like the classic Atari, DOS and even earlier games of executing angles and velocity. Rather than choosing clubs or dealing with different wind factors, you have to line up your shot based on degrees, plot out how hard you want to hit the ball, and then just press a button to launch it. If this were turn based, like the classic Gorillas.Bas, then this would be pretty forgettable, especially considering how simple the game in at the core. But the true enjoyment comes from the inherently frantic nature of things: everyone wants to be first off the tee, everyone wants to be first to the pin, and everyone’s balls can collide with each other. The pressure to coordinate and do well can cause players to swing wildly, ending up falling off the ends of the stage and having to respawn at the tee, which is usually a recipe for last place unless everyone else does the same.
In just your basic quick play mode, Party Golf is a simple and enjoyable concept, simply trying to get to 500 points by being first every time and occasionally getting a hole in one. The terrain is often rocky and slanted, with some courses causing you to have to shoot almost straight upward in order to approach the green better. If that was all, that would probably be enough for this to be a short but still enjoyable situation. Giant Margarita, however, was not content to make this game just “ok” and went balls-to-the-wall with other scenarios and situations to add a massive amount of replay value if you’re at all interested in the core fundamentals.
For all things ridiculous, Party Golf has more than fifty different kinds of pre-made custom games with all sort of particular changes. There’s ultra challenging, labyrinthian courses. There’s a matter of low gravity and your balls flying into space. There’s increased contact physics so striking another player’s ball will cause you both to blast off in different directions. Be bigger, be smaller, change the rules and all things inbetween. King of the hill, sumo-wrestling style. Most strokes, least strokes…this game can do it all! And if that wasn’t enough, there are the super powers.
The powerups range from practical and interesting to insane and rather broken. Being able to stick to walls and ceilings makes for some interesting plays, and the results bring out the thinkers and geometrists in the group. The ability to stop in mid air isn’t as great as you’d think, as it sometimes makes you an easy target for a “friend” to slam you far, far away from your destination. The rocket boosters should be fantastic since you can change direction in mid stroke, but I always pushed the wrong way and ended up sailing way out of bounds instead. And the force field felt like the computer was better at pushing me away than I was at pushing them. Those aren’t even all of the powers either, but this is a review, not a manual, and some things should be discovered, pleasantly so, by the players themselves.
Naturally, Party Golf also allows you to customize rounds yourself by offering a ton of tweaks mentioned above to allocate at your own discrepancy. These can all be modified and set up for the final, ultimate game: eight player golf. Remember how I said “four?” You can take four sets of Joy Cons and have legitimately EIGHT balls going at the same time. If you really want to see pandemonium in real time, set up a table with some liquor, grab friends and get ready. Everyone always talks about eight player Smash Bros, well, now it’s time for eight player drunk golfing.
As the title would suggest, Party Golf is going to be positively prime when you have a group over to play. Eight players, as fun as it is, can sometimes be a bit much, so four is really the ideal size. You can enjoy the game on your own, as the CPU is pretty tenacious, though I do argue that it’s most effective with humans. Human players can trash talk, roar in victory or anger, and push each other to try and throw off the shots. It’s not a game with prizes (unless you assign them) so there’s no shame in defeat. And that’s the main takeaway from Party Golf. You’re not always going to win. You’re going to miss shots, flub strokes and ruin your groove. And that’s ok. It’s so damn fun. Even if you’ve never played a game of golf in your life, you can find serious enjoyment in this funky, fresh game.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Nintendo Switch code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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