There’s been a mini sub genre of golf games breaking out of their usual sports trappings and seeing the golf mechanics being used in other genres or ideas. It’s something I’ve really enjoyed seeing so I was extremely curious when Cursed To Golf was announced. It’s a 2D platforming roguelike with light deckbuilding elements to it as you try to survive 18 holes of golf in purgatory. It is a unique premise that delivers on most of its promise and will be a great pick up for those of you who enjoy the more unusual game.
Playing as a golfer (wee un) struck by lightning and sent to hell, you’ll need to play golf to sink the putt before you run out of shots in each hole. There are over 70 holes that are grouped into three distinct areas and you’ll get randomly picked a selection of them every time you play. The holes look like dungeons and they are. Low ceilings, bunkers, spikes, traps, teleporters and dynamite everywhere for you to avoid or use to your advantage. It feels like a precision platformer at times and that’s because it is. You chose from a driver, iron or wedge and then select your power on a timed button press and the angle of hit the same way. It reminds me of golf games before The Golf Club came along and added added analogue stick flicks into golfing. Whilst in the air you can button mash to build up after shot power so that when you land you can influence the balls direction. As the game gets increasingly difficult straight away, you’ll be using this every shot to get yourself into better positions.
Each hole gives you five shots to start with but the hole is littered with idols for you to smash to get more shots. Reach the hole under par and you’ll get some cash to spend in store to unlock cards. Cards are a mixture of adding additional shots, giving you practice shots or mulligans to retake a shot or ball effects. The ball effects are sometimes instrumental in survival as they’ll explode dynamite, let you switch course mid-air or stop and drop to the ground when you time a button press. Cards, like all your progress, go in the bin when you die though and so you’ll need to use it or lose it which feels a bit annoying but that’s the roguelike way. In the shop, you can store cards in a binder to pick up in future runs but it is such a lottery as to what holes you’ll get and how well you are doing, it feels quite an underwhelming carry over. You can also collect cards in between levels when you ride a golf buggy in the overworld map to choose your route between holes, cursed holes with special requirements or treasure chests and shops. At the end of each biome area you’ll have a race to the hole against one of the other characters in the game who have special powers and the only way to beat them usually is being perfect yourself and using your cards effectively. These levels are bottlenecks in the games difficulty but feel great when you beat them.
Cursed To Golf looks beautiful, sounds amazing (the chiptune soundtrack is 16-bit dreams) and goes out of its way to make long, complicated levels that will drag you back to hell over and over again. Whilst most of this feels very difficult, there are two issues I have with Cursed To Golf that make it feel unfair at times.
My main annoyance is the lack of zoom out for a view. Drivers and sometimes irons will blast off the screen and you can’t see where you are going to land. You can fly around the level with a camera before you take the shot but once in shot mode, you are stuck zoomed in. Have you ever played a precision platformer that doesn’t show you where you are going to land and not have it be a rageful comedic send up? Me neither and it drove me bananas. It drove me bananas as the game requires such precision from you but doesn’t give you the same respect back. This is made more obtuse at times because of problem two – the levels are extremely narrow. Its designed like a dungeon and often flows like a collection of narrow corridors. Sometimes you can’t see that you’ll hit a wall or miss a narrow opening because of the view problem and then you get annoyed at the restrictive level design. I get that things are like that to be tricky and difficult but the two problems wind the player up somewhat. If the view was wider, problem two would be less of an issue. I was also surprised that with multiple characters and colours to your playable character there’s no pass and play multiplayer mode either. Cursed To Golf would have been superb with this addition and everything feels like its there to do it already.
I’ve been a bit moany at the end but its because the fundamental gameplay loop of Cursed To Golf is really well done. It just feels like those two decisions in design work against the player and the games enjoyment a little and so what would have been an easy recommendation becomes a bit more nuanced. If you love a challenge and want to go up against something that feels a bit unfair and conquer it, Cursed To Golf is a great find. If you are going to get steaming frustrated because you don’t see every consequence of your actions on screen immediately, this might be one to skip for now.
Review copy provided by publisher.
Cursed To Golf
Some odd camera issues slightly mar a challenging and unique roguelike. One for the sadistics.
Feels unique with its multiple mashups.
Looks beautiful in motion.
Card system works and feels integral to the game.
Lots of character and charm.
View is far too zoomed in for its own good.
Levels sometimes feel like long narrow corridors rather than individual levels.
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