Golf Club Wasteland is a game that understands atmosphere and aesthetic can absolutely sell an idea and make it more than the sum of its parts. Spending time in this dystopian world is an utter joy because of everything that the game does to sell its world above and beyond its simple golf gameplay.
You are Charley, a guy golfing in privilege as one of the few people relocated to Mars after Earth is destroyed following an ecological event. Each of the 35 holes in the game plays like a very simple 2D golf game. Its a simple aim and shoot – using the analogue stick to determine angle and power. Aim at full power and the club starts to shake so you lose some of the accuracy so being soft and precise with your movement is key. It is easy to understand and the holes are designed in a way that allows, from the second half onwards, multiple routes to reach your goal. Each hole has a par to reach but you can ignore it with story mode or focus in on the challenge in challenge mode. That way, your experience is either a narrative or a skill based one.
Part of the fun is exploring the unique traits of each hole. Animals interact with the ball, the environment collapses or moves, toxic wind pushes your ball off on a tangent. Trophies and achievements can find some of the gems but exploring and finding hidden sewer pipes for example that pop the ball out next to the hole rather than actually playing it is a good side quest.
However, as you play this a radio station is playing over the top of your broken world. This fully hosted radio show selection includes music, host clips, pretend sponsor ads, government campaigns, evil corp messaging and all kinds of world building nostalgia. A recurring feature is talking to humans recounting simple things they enjoyed on Earth. It is genuinely nostalgic and actually quite emotive. Did I expect to be emotionally invested in a golf game? No – but this lands the sucker punch perfectly. Add to this the way the world is neon tainted, broken and crushed – it really sells a world that feels both sombre and regretful. Charley himself feels conflicted over the whole golfing on Earth idea too – he is homesick. The feeling of belonging and missing something is palpable.
Hitting par or lower opens up a diary that expands on the story. Completing story mode opens up a digital art book that expands the world further too. This is good fun and as you can download the stellar soundtrack via a QR code post game too – this makes Golf Club Wasteland a great all round package. Add in a golf game that is simple to pick up but with holes that are tricky to master and you have an instant classic to enjoy. Holes can be replayed over and over but my one negative is that I couldn’t see a way to choose each hole rather than replaying everything in a loop over and over.
Golf Club Wasteland is a genuine indie gem and I recommend this to anyone who enjoys world building and games that target a feeling or atmosphere for you to experience. I didn’t expect a golf game to make me feel longing and nostalgia for planet Earth. Superb.
Review copy provided by publisher.
Golf Club Wasteland
Golf Club Wasteland is all about selling an engrossing dystopian world both visually and audibly. Golfing through it with simplicity is just the cherry on the cake.
A variety of hidden puzzle elements that reveal secrets and alternative paths to complete a hole.
Fantastic visual and audio storytelling.
Easy to pick up and understand - with room for challenge if you want it.
The inability to choose specific holes after completion - you have to play things in totality.
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