Cool wasteland, shame about the golf.
There are few things that tickle my brain quite as much as a good arcade golf game. I think it stems from my real life love of mini golf. There’s a primal satisfaction from knowing that the confluence of luck and skill that you put into your shot, could result in it going in in one stroke, and permitting you to dance like a clown. Games like Golf With Your Friends do an excellent job of recreating that, but it’s actually Desert Golfing, a low poly put-em-up that I’ve spent the most time with in the virtual golf arena.
Golf Club Wasteland is a side-scrolling golf game in which you play as an astronaut who has returned to an abandoned Earth, finally able to enjoy a game of golf in peace. You’re given little context as to why you’re there outside of a few diary entries and a radio station that broadcasts throughout your journey, relaying anecdotes about life before a faceless corporation wrecked the planet and moved humanity to Mars. Something that could never happen in real life, mainly because we’d all kill each other first. The radio station also plays original music, a mix of somber wailing and electronic music that sounds like a Russian Chvrches cover band being broadcast from the bottom of the sea. That sounds like an insult, but it totally fits the vibe, it’s creepy and ominous, the perfect atmosphere for playing golf.
The gameplay revolves around using the right stick to aim the ball and the X button to hit it. There’s skill in lining up shots correctly, but I found actually determining how much power I put into a shot to be quite misleading at times. The right stick isn’t as precise as it could be, and thus I was often well undershooting gaps that I thought I’d calculated correctly, the later when I’d want to chip it in over the final obstacle, I’d twat the ball with the force of a traction engine.
So there’s your problem right there. The actual golf doesn’t feel great. I could honestly stop the review there because if your golf isn’t great then it’s like building your house on a foundation of digestive biscuits. But, I found myself ploughing on. Probably because the levels are very creative, since you’re exploring an abandoned earth, there’s plenty of variety. However, while I think the writing during the radio broadcasts is great, it’s understated and good set dressing, the levels themselves have you literally chipping the ball over BitCoins. It’s a bit on the nose.
Weirdly, there’s a much grander story in the background, which you only seem to unlock after you beat the game. Once you’ve finished the final hole, you’re given access to a slide show of art and text that explains to you why you’re back on Earth, why you left Mars and what the deal was with the wee creature that’s been following you about. Now, I may have missed something, although I’m pretty sure I didn’t, so I’m incredibly confused as to why this wasn’t interspersed between levels. I get the idea that you don’t want to interrupt people’s golf, but it seems like a waste of time to have all of this story stuff here and just… no show me it.
There are 35 levels, which can be played in a challenge or story mode, but beyond that the game feels rather empty. I suppose it’s appropriate for a game about the end of the world. I really like the premise, and the atmosphere of Golf Club Wasteland, but I can’t get over how clunky the actual golf feels. Also, absolutely criminally, there’s no celebration for getting a hole in one. There’s no confetti, no dancers, nothing. I get that they’d all be dead or on Mars, but some wee Martian dancers to celebrate my golf excellence would have at least made me feel like I completed the game for a reason.