Monday 12 September 2022

Cursed to Golf Review (Switch)

Another day and another Indie Rogue-like appears. This one however is somewhat unique as it sees you as a golf player, struck down by lightning, needing to make it through 18 holes in order to escape from a cursed golf-based purgatory. While it takes the popular 2D platformer approach (but with golf?), we certainly haven’t played one like this before.

Awaking by the Eterni-Tee golf shop you are introduced to the spectre known as the Scotsman who explains the basics to you and that in order to escape, you’ll need to play a cursed and impossible 18 holes for all eternity. It’s a simple premise – complete each hole within par and if you fail you are dragged all the way back to the beginning hole, no matter how far along you are. It’s a good thing there’s a driving range to practice on.

Of course, these aren’t ordinary golf courses and are filled with traps, spikes, boxes of explosives and all manner of other things you’ll need to negotiate. Each course can be tackled in numerous ways and there are short cuts and teleporters all over the place. The Rogue element starts to kick in when you realise the courses are all remixed should you fail and need to start again. Later you’ll get the ability to set a checkpoint but even that only works for one death.

Along the way there are a number of things to help you. Within the courses there are totems which when struck add shots to your par counter, a golf based health pack if you will. There are also cards you can play which do everything from create multiple balls to turning your shot into a rocket. These cards can be picked up from the map screen or purchased from the shop in mystery packs and are vital to making any sort of substantial progress.

The holes themselves are fiendishly designed and you will see a change in environment as progress with areas like deserts providing extra sand traps for example. Each hole works as a kind of puzzle that players will need to check through for routes and totems in order to see the best way to progress. It’s just a shame that you’ll end up playing the first few areas much more than the later ones. The first time we got sent all the way back all we really wanted to do was go out and try the second areas courses again.

There are also boss battles of sorts where you must reach the hole before the guardian of the area. These are very tense and a highlight of the game. Here a new totem is added which when struck freezes the guardian for a turn, and you’ll need them. Once a boss is defeated, they remain so for future play throughs in a rare concession to giving the players a feint glimmer of relief.

Like most Rogue games the game will take time to click with most players. We found it was around round 6 where suddenly the games techniques clicked with us. From here we felt we had a good understanding of the three clubs, the need for cards and how to utilise the spin on the ball to make it change direction on the ground. Before that it really was a bit of a struggle.

There are some notable issues with the game though. First of all, trekking all the way back to hole 1 no matter how far through you are or what region you are in is a hard pill to swallow. Even Spelunky gives you short cuts to new areas but there’s no such option for players here. To compound this is the fact it takes a long time to get through holes. They are fairly lengthy and even fast forwarding, the number of animations you have to get through from setting, striking the ball, watching the ball, moving to the ball etc is just too much to keep things flowing quickly enough. When you start adding some issues with pixel placement of traps, more than once we have visually cleared a sand trap or made a ledge only for the ball to still fall foul due to the collision detection, it can put up quite a wall for players to try and break though.

Overall, Cursed to Golf is almost a very very good game. All the good stuff is here and all the minor issues with the game could be overlooked if there was of way of creating permanent shortcuts to the different areas. Of all the rogue games we have played this is one least suited to having to get through it all in one run as it takes so long to actually get through the holes. It’s fine to have it as an extra option but a simple permanent checkpoint in a couple of the areas would have turned this from a good game into an unmissable one. As it stands most players will likely give up long before the end.

Overall 7/10

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