I feel like I’m forcing myself to enjoy Mario Golf: Super Rush. There are fleeting moments when I’ll chip in a lovely shot from the rough, perfectly anticipating the lay of the green, or when my drive will just make it over the water leaving me with a chance at an eagle, that I’ll think “no, this is actually great”. But then, just as suddenly as I fooled myself into being happy, I’m brought screaming down to Earth by a lack of content, a plodding, empty single player offering, and a general lack of polish.
Mario Golf: Super Rush is the latest in developer Camelot’s series of sports games that pits gaming’s Jesus and his disciples against each other in tennis, golf and, though tragically not for a while, football. The last time the gang were on out the links was the incredible 3DS entry, Mario Golf: World Tour. Where that game excelled in creative courses and a rewarding, engaging single player experience, Super Rush feels assembled with zero thought for people that don’t have friends round every night to play like they live in a Switch advert.
When you start the game you’re presented with the option to Play Golf or Golf Adventure. The former is the traditional Mario Golf experience, play against up to four friends or AI in either stroke or score play, or to play one of the more gimmick-heavy modes like speed golf or battle golf.
Golf Adventure is the game’s single player offering and it’s one of the most boring, perplexing and utterly vacuous attempts at single player content in a sports game I can remember. What begins promisingly as an RPG-like quest to level up your Mii and explore the various courses you will visit quickly becomes a pointless exercise in running around following a red arrow. Each town you visit will have it’s own gimmick, like courses which have more weather hazards or a focus on one of the modes, such as speed golf. Once you complete the required round, you can level up your character and earn passage to the next area.
However, due to the lack of courses – only six at launch – you end up playing the same holes over and over again with the only difference being that suddenly your victory counts towards your progression, as opposed to the last time where you apparently just went round for a laugh. Every single character you play against is braindead. This becomes a problem when the tedious speed golf mode forces you to watch your opponent struggle to find the ball. I understand speed golf in theory, but in the world of video game golf, we’re used to every player having the ability to teleport, so making us sprint down a course instead, if anything, makes it significantly slower golf.
I was desperate to just play golf. Because when you’re just playing golf, Mario Golf: Super Rush is great. The mechanics are as rock solid as ever, and even things like the power-ups don’t mess up the fun too much. But the Golf Adventure tries it’s absolute hardest to stop you from doing that. Some excursions, like a challenge in which you have to complete nine holes that are all open from the start in any order, under 40 strokes, is a novel change of pace, but as quickly as it’s introduced, it’s soon forgotten about.
These towns are littered with NPCs, but basically none of them serve any purpose other than to offer sage advice such as “If you’re putting up a hill, hit it harder”. There’s tutorialising and then there’s assuming that your players don’t understand the laws of physics. There’s also a incredibly strange plot that begins as you wanting to be good at golf and by the end you’re literally doing boss battles against flaming birds that are lobbing balls of cosmic energy at you. It’s so left field that it feels like you’ve suddenly started playing a different game. It feels like they were trying to think of ways to introduce interesting new mechanics, and instead of, for example, making you play against a Mario villain using only that shot, they decided to suddenly chuck in lightning swords and haunted statues.
If you have pals that have the game, or that are regularly round at your house, there’s plenty of fun to be had, just playing round after round of normal golf. Even Battle Golf, though thin in terms of maps, is fun for a few rounds. Just hitting the ball is satisfying, and having your shot perfectly trickle into the cup never gets old, but I just wish there was more reason for me to do it, other than playing against my best scores.
Each of the characters has a few sets of clubs you can unlock, but outside of that there’s no real reason to play if you’re not playing with someone else. Speaking of, the main Mario crew all look fantastic in their golfing finery. There are 16 playable characters, and after you play a bit of Golf Adventure, you can play as your Mii. However, there’s a huge balancing problem, as after completing Golf Adventure, something that barely took me four hours, my Mii was able to drive the ball significantly further than Mario, Luigi, or any of the other characters. Meaning if I wanted an even semi-competitive match, I couldn’t play as myself.
I really hate how bitterly disappointed I am in Mario Golf: Super Rush. All I wanted was a version of the incredible, and vastly superior Everybody’s Golf on PS4 with Mario characters and that signature Nintendo charm. Hell, even a wee upgrade on the 3DS version would have made me at least a bit interested in playing more of it. But as it stands, it’s a game with great core golf mechanics imprisoned in a game that gives you no motivation to play it. The Golf Adventure mode is a great idea that falls off course so quickly, you wonder if the developers had to Super Rush to get it in. The speed golf mode is fine the first few times, but becomes tedious the second the novelty runs out and you realise that it’s slower than every golf game ever. Battle Golf could have been a new multiplayer staple for my friends and I, if there were more than two courses. It’s just dull. How can a game in which Waluigi is dressed like he’s being done for possession be so utterly devoid of life?