It is always good fun to see golf integrated into other gaming genres as sometimes it throws up some really ideas. Wonder Wicket and Golf Peaks are great recent examples of this merging golf with puzzle mechanics. Gold Zero attempts to merge golf with a Super Meat Boy like hardcore precision platformer. It has lofty ambitions but lacks the technical prowess to pull it off.
Golf Zero puts you in charge of a cute golfer who has chosen the worlds worst golf course to attack. There are spikes and bounce pads everywhere and he will be wall jumping like a drunk ninja – all so he can attempt a hole in one. For each course you have three balls and three shots at the hole – you just have to be able to traverse your way to a point where you can actually take the shot. Levels start off with a simple jump or two but it quickly ramps up to include spike walls, rolling boulders, a runaway minecart, a few enemies and a lot of trial and error. It’s never full on hardcore but later levels aren’t far off.
When you do get into position to take the shot Golf Zero enters a slow-mo bullet time of sorts. You have an arc to aim your shot and the longer you press the shot button the harder the hit will be. If you are confident you’ll fire just one ball to get the hole in one but sometimes you’ll just be grateful to get to the end of the level and will fire all three balls at once to give you better odds. There is also an optional gold medal you can collect which usually involves taking a harder platforming route to collect it.
There are two sizeable issues I have with Golf Zero, which is a shame because the premise is decent. The first involves the controls of the golf shot. You are given a full 180 degree arc to aim with but you move it using the left and right direction buttons/analogue stick. This is really unintuitive when you are trying to aim upwards in a 45 degree angle. I never felt comfortable with the controls and as a result my aim and shots were wildly unbalanced. This is exhausting when the game does its matrix slow down for the shot but it jars you by feeling more like its dropping frames rather than using slow motion. It judders along rather than feeling or looking smooth.
The second issue I have is around the collision detection and physics of the character in general. When a game demands some precision platforming, it needs to have a consistent feel to play fairly. Golf Zero is all over the place as momentum seems to count greatly at some times and then completely ignored on others. It made the harder levels feel much more like a lottery rather than being fair or rewarding skill. Add to that poor graphics than feel fuzzy and undefined and you have woolly collision detection that loves to say you’ve died on things you aren’t even sure you touched. This physics weirdness extended to the ball physics too – especially in terms of power as there is no gauge to understand how hard you’ve hit it. I was already wrestling with the controls, I didn’t want to wrestle with guessing the physics drama too.
Golf Zero is a good idea poorly executed. A game this basic looking and feeling shouldn’t also feel like its about to break through frame drops and clunky controls. A more refined and defined set up would make this a sleeper hit but right now, I cannot recommend it.
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PS4 version tested. Review copy provided by publisher.