Game Ramblings #161 – A Little Golf Journey

More Info from Okidokico

  • Genre: Puzzle
  • Platform: Switch
  • Also Available On: Steam

It’s perhaps ironic that this one was published by Playtonic, because my enjoyment curve of this game reminded me EXACTLY of Yooka Laylee and the Impossible Lair. The game slowly added mechanics throughout that worked well. It felt like it had an appropriate challenge curve based on mechanics that enhanced the puzzle solving. I got to the end of the game with a high level of praise ready to be put to ramblings.

Then I hit the long level for the true ending of the game that felt like it turned the mechanics on their head.

This is a puzzle game through and through. Ya it’s got its golf coat on, but that part of it isn’t really the point. Each hole is a puzzle to figure out what specific locations you need to hit the ball to in order to finish it in the correct number of strokes. That’s ultimately all there is to it. Ya there’s some dealing with power. Ya you get some wind later on. Ya you’ve got to deal with some gravity shenanigans in a moon world. Ultimately though, it’s a puzzle. What makes this work is that the entire game is a zen experience. You’re thrown into a little diorama and can move all around to plan out your shots, but you go at your leisure as you plot your course.

The way I would describe this is that you’re succeeding through trial and experience. Failures in a case like this end up being a case of not having enough experience – whether that be a lack of knowledge of how wind is affecting your ball, or how a slope in an area will affect rolling distance. However, it’s never because you were lacking information. Succeeding is because you’ve learned and applied your knowledge. In this case, the variable involved is purely your aim and your imagination in getting through the course.

When this all is working well the game is phenomenal. It’s the type of game that you can just sit back and relax to. You’ve got a pretty light ambient soundtrack that adds to the relaxation. You’ve got a game that isn’t rushing you, but is instead just letting you enjoy the experience.

What ends up being the enemy of this is time. For the most part though, the time-based mechanics aren’t too egregious.

The main mechanic that hits this is actually the core power selection. If you aren’t specifically focusing, your power and aim selection occurs via a cyclic infinity symbol. You can use this to increase or decrease your distance beyond the core aiming, which adds a bit of flexibility to the aim selection. While this works fine, it largely feels unnecessary to me. I don’t see a case where allowing the player to select their power around a target wouldn’t be beneficial to the player. The challenge of the game to me feels like picking your shot selection precisely. You can still do that with the cyclic aim, but it adds a level of imprecision that adds friction to the experience. It doesn’t make the game harder, it just makes it slower. You’re missing shots that you shouldn’t miss purely because of timing.

Later on in the game, the levels start getting some time-ish mechanics. These largely revolve around some lights moving items – asteroids in the moon levels, blockers in a computer level. Things of that nature. Again, these largely work fine but don’t really improve the game. Your shot selection doesn’t change because of the moving stuff, it just causes your pace to slow down.

And then I got to the final level.

The thing about the last level is that it adds a bunch of dynamic geometry. In some cases it’s geometry being created in areas panning around the world, while in some cases it’s creating holes in geometry. I get why this is happening, because ultimately the last level needs some challenge. However, it just doesn’t work to me.

The first thing is that the core golf mechanic is just too dynamic for this. I can’t tell you the amount of times I would land a ball perfectly, then sit there having to wait for it to shed the last little bit of speed. By the time I was able to shoot again, the geometry would disappear underneath me and I’d lose my shot. I’d then do nearly the exact shot on my next attempt, but a little shorter or a little longer and the ball would immediately stop and give me plenty of time to shoot.

It also just adds a time crunch that doesn’t really vibe with the rest of the game. Instead of planning your shots and carefully aiming, you’re just kind of rushing to generally the right area for your ball to land, then rushing to the next shot. Rather than trialing and gaining experience, you’re kind of just flailing around and eventually succeeding. It’s less learning and more just doing and it feels awkward compared to the rest of the game.

I guess despite the last level, I still recommend the game. There’s enough there that I enjoyed that if I ignore the last level, I’m fine with what I got out of it. It’s the same thing that I ended up doing with Impossible Lair. Enjoy the parts that are great, and just don’t actually finish the game.

Game Ramblings #54 – Golf Story

More Info from Sidebar Games

  • Genre: Golf / RPG
  • Platform: Switch


  • Charming RPG with gameplay reminiscent of Mario Golf on the GBC/GBA
  • Entertaining writing, good mix of quests, and a bunch of clever hints at games from the past.
  • Golf game is serviceable and fun, despite obviously not being the focus of the game.

Out of everything that surprises me about this game, it’s that I can’t figure out who the hell the development team is.  The game’s credits simply had their studio name, they have no website or Twitter beyond the game’s info, and I can’t find a damn thing on Google.  Yet despite it all, this is potentially the best of the so called Nindies to come out this year.  While the game owes a lot to Mario Golf before it, it leans heavily on the writing and questing RPG to make a game that ends up being one of the best non-combat RPGs I’ve played in a long time.

Sometimes you play golf, sometimes you have rap battles.

Given that this is RPG first, the writing was always going to be important.  While this definitely isn’t deep, and it definitely ends abruptly, the writing is lighthearted and entertaining throughout.  Each course has its overarching story that takes place through a couple main quests and a lot of optional side quests.  These run the gamut from a Caddyshack-inspired battle against (and with) moles to rap battles between an old country club and a rival invading course to a haunted course where you help create a zombie army.  While the main story line of rising into the pro tour provides the overall push to the end, the individual stories and the wide range of characters you meet throughout are easily the thing that kept me going back and digging into all the available quests.

Among others callbacks, you sometimes just end up playing Pac Man while invading a base Metal Gear style.

There’s also a very distinct sense of playing homage to games of the past.  The visuals are very clearly styled after SNES and Genesis era games, even if the quality is somewhat higher than would have been possible on those systems.  However, it’s the game references that really hit home.  The Pac Man example above is just one.  There were also side quests based on Micro Machines, NPC hints at the Mario

Tennis series, a built in recreation of NES Golf, and more.  There’s a lot of love shown in bringing in elements of the past in ways that really succeed in giving a lot of life to the RPG aspect of the game, elevating it significantly above the similar Mario Golf games in that regard.

Even playing golf itself, you get a lot of non-standard variety like this Par 1 only course.

Since this is a golf game that side also had to not suffer, and while it’s nothing deep it works pretty well.  It’s a pretty standard 3-click setup (start, set power, set aim) for shots.  It also has your standard mix of curving, spins, and wind effect on the ball flight path.  There’s a bunch of different clubs with various effects on shots as well, giving a bit of flexibility in the gear build out.  The RPG aspect also plays out here, with XP going into the golf stats.  Like Mario Golf, increasing power lowers the other stats, giving a balance between quickly increasing shot power vs. not throwing other stats out of whack.

However, there’s also a lot of depth at play here in the style of game available.  For the most part, there’s really no normal courses.  Even the first course with a standard layout has mole traps that can cause your ball to be carried all over the course.  From there you get courses with no greens, tar traps instead of sand, par 1 courses, turtles that bounce your ball down the course out of water, and more.  In general you basically have to be ready for anything and can’t settle into the typical pattern of a golf game where any course generally plays the same.  The only thing that really was consistent here is that I could aim smack at the flag and more often than not sink the shot, which admittedly is both highly satisfying and incredibly hilarious when hitting a 300 yard shot into the hole during a match play event.

If I made the rules, this would definitely be in there.

I think my big takeaway here is that Golf Story proves the value of making RPGs without combat, particularly in lieu of Nintendo abandoning the idea of the Camelot-developed mobile sports RPGs.  There’s enough golf here to still be considered a sports game, but the RPG aspects pulled in bring so much to the game that non-fans can also find a lot to enjoy here.