WHAT THE GOLF? (2019)
Time goes by strangely fast way during this "quarantine" period, and during these two weeks I didn't get around to playing some requested games. Instead, the only thing I wanted to play was a mindless, silly and comforting game that I finally picked up. I first got to check out WHAT THE GOLF? at SXSW Gaming 2019, well before the game was released. Even though this game came out for PC in late 2019, I knew this was a perfect Switch game so I ended up waiting until it finally came to switch about a month ago. WHAT THE GOLF? is a comedic physics-based "golf parody" game. Although humor and charm first drew me in to this game, it held my interest with a good amount of challenge and rewards.
WHAT THE GOLF? starts you off as a little golf ball in the game's overworld, every movement forward being made by a golf stroke, which means sometimes you putt yourself too far and too hard at once. You appear to be in some sort of research lab, and checking on the computers informs you that this lab's sole mission is "how to make golf not boring". Every golf flag you come across is a level of its own. The first few seemed fairly familiar, and honestly pretty dang easy. As I came across levels I hadn't seen before, they were definitely more entertaining and often pretty funny. It was only once I came around to the first locked door that I realized I could earn a crown in each level if I did all three different challenges. Once I went back and did the different challenge stages of each of the levels, I realized this game was actually a pretty good puzzle. Many of these were definitely a good bit harder, as they involved doing the same stage in a certain number of strokes or meeting a completely different challenge that had to do with the environment. I started having a lot more fun once I started doing every challenge stage in each level I passed through. There's at least two or three that I had to skip and come back to closer to the end, as they were actually really difficult to complete within the parameters given.
I had watched through the first couple of levels of WHAT THE GOLF? (multiple times) at SXSW, so I was initially a little worried I already knew pretty much what to expect the whole way through. I thought if the premise was just to keep making you play golf in different silly ways, it could get old pretty quick. "The golf game for people who hate golf" is a pretty smart tagline, though, and I was still intrigued. However, I found that the game surprised many times at where it would take you with its levels. At some point I wondered if instead of being a game about golf, it was actually a game about videogames. I won't spoil the fun for you, but WHAT THE GOLF? has several areas and levels that are clearly referencing popular videogames and their play style, including both AAA titles and indies. There isn't exactly a clear overarching storyline to the game, except that you're reaching further and further into this strange lab and breaking through its security measures. I think that's fine, because along the way you still get to meet some interesting little characters and get more information from the computers in the lab. The joke of the game is that "all of this is actually golf", which is pretty amusing since the game goes from actual normal golf balls to stealth sequences to a crab climbing around waterfalls.
The graphics in WHAT THE GOLF? have a cell-shaded style and look quite simple, but this works well for the type of humor and silliness that the game so perfectly communicates. The music in this game, even more so than the graphics, works to fit this mood as well. I enjoyed the lyrical portions of the music especially. There were also certain areas where both the art style and music shifted to fit the particular reference they were making, honoring other games in their own way. However, listening to this game from afar, as my partner did, you might instead just hear the sound of chaos from certain levels, like cars honking, beeping, and screeching.
WHAT THE GOLF? has a few other modes besides the main game. There's a "party mode", a co-op game where you race through different levels. This can be pretty fun, but the game does seems too random and silly for anyone to really feel like they won. There's also other competitive modes that allow you to do a series of challenges and see how you line up against others on a leaderboard. The top-scoring numbers on the leaderboard where miles away from my own score. However, WHAT THE GOLF? is one of those few games I actually completed 100% on because, like Minit, it constantly lets you know your progress and what you need to do to fully complete the game. It also rewards you with real in-game collectibles for completing each area fully, so it motivated me to want to fill up the trophy room with all the silly collectibles. I was pretty proud of myself for finishing it completely, especially since I spent over an hour trying to complete one random level where I had to move extremely fast as a little crab on a hill.
WHAT THE GOLF? is consistently creative and charming, and you can see the developers were devoted to making sure it felt fun and lighthearted all the way through. It's an excellent game to take on the go with Switch, full of puzzles and challenges that will keep you entertained for many hours. There's certain times closer to the end where a little more detail and explanation would've helped its purpose, but all in all it's a lighthearted, comforting, and at times challenging adventure.
WHAT THE GOLF? is available on PC, Nintendo Switch, and Apple Arcade
Played on: Nintendo Switch
Playtime: 12 hrs