Is Golf Story a hole-in-one or a swing and a miss? Find out here. The FingerGuns Review;
One of the joys of the current Nintendo Switch line-up is the sheer variety. Sure, each console has a magnitude of different genres on the go at any one moment, but in the Switch’s first six months – yeah, it’s only been available for half a year at this point – has welcomed a bunch of indies and original titles from Nintendo that really encourage developers to push their creative hive mind into ideas that we may not have seen before and it’s made the Switch a hugely tempting proposition to gamers who enjoy spreading their wings a little. The first-party Nintendo games are a nice bonus though, eh?
One such game is Sidebar Games Golf Story, a Golf RPG which none of us knew we ever wanted, but we’re so glad it’s here. Golf Story is a delightful game, and one of my favourites of the year.
What is Golf Story? Golf Story is refreshing. It’s unique and it’s a ton of fun. The fact that it would succeed on its own as a singular golf game without the terrific narrative running through it speaks volumes of how enjoyable it is to just play the sport away from the RPG narrative. It’s a sports game that is also a great RPG and an RPG that’s also a great golf game. It begins rather unexpectedly. As you jump in to learn the ropes of the game we meet our protagonist (who is nameless throughout) a kid, on the links with his father who is teaching him how to play golf. It’s here your players motivations are built, with the game jumping 20 years later to the same character leaving his wife(!) to pursue his dream of being a professional golfer. What comes next is a game so utterly batshit insane hidden behind this wonderfully cute, pixellated exterior, with side stories of murders, deception, money laundering, stolen turtles and more. The story of someone just trying to follow their dream is relatable, the fact it’s surrounded by a matrix of weirdness makes the whole game sing.
The aptly named ‘Wellworn Grove’ is where you need to make your mark at the beginning of the game. This is the same course your Dad taught you on all those years ago, so you have a feeling of unfinished business upon arrival. The course is broken, desolate and full of ‘youths’, hanging around and trying to learn how to play golf on the dime of their rich parents. They get priority with the coaches, who you need to convince to help you before you can move on. This involves beating all of his other students, tearing it around the completely open golf course and helping people who are either stuck in bunkers or in one case, has a child out on the vast lake where crocodiles infest. You’re challenged with a variety of different golfing related matters before the coach ever takes you seriously, and it’s here the real fun of the game comes in, and that’s just simply playing golf.
You’ve got to play the shot with a three-click swing meter, which is simple enough to get your head around, though the surprisingly deep gameplay ensures you don’t hit a perfect shot every time. Wind direction has to be considered, along with if the green is slanted or not (and if it is which direction), which could mean you putting your ball away from the hole. Of course, this being Golf Story, you’ve also got rather frustrating animals that are on the course, ready to pick up your ball and drop it in areas of the course where you’d rather not have landed. These can be easily avoided but you need to consider the roll of your ball, lest it gently slide its way into the vicinity of the birds and as such, ruin the shot. Precision mode is a huge benefit, where you have an extra change at ensuring your ball is going to land where you desire. Hitting Y will activate this mode, adding an extra click to your swing meter. Putting is probably the only area the actual golfing lets itself down, mainly because it’s rather easy with the greens being so small.
That’s not to say the rest of the game is particularly difficult, but certain missions can be challenging the further in the game you progress. Whether it be trading on Bermuda Isles, running around and searching for turtles (leading to a challenge which, on the surface is very simple, though I found myself consistently making it difficult for myself) or pretty much falling into the generic RPG tropes of questing on behalf of someone else in order to gain money or XP and even a running competition which I still don’t really understand the meaning of. In typical racing style, you need to run as fast you can around a course through light up checkpoints that appear in front of you as you tear it around so you can keep an eye on where you’re going. Only, you kinda have to scan around the screen in order to see them at first and they’re not immediately obvious, leading to me failing a couple of times before I finally succeeded, though I had to remember where they were in my own head. Not really a bad thing, though I don’t think this was what the mission was wanting me to do. Your skills will be consistently tested and it feels fantastic when you finally nail a tricky course or a particularly devilish challenge.
You can use your winnings – whether it be money or XP – to purchase new clubs, which you’re definitely going to need later on in the game. XP can boost your skills, such as power, agility, spin and the like. Naturally, the more side quests you do, the quicker you’re going to level up and fortunately, they’re a joy. It’s a credit to Sidebar Games that the side quests are just as engaging as the main story and it’s fun to get to know the characters, particularly with the humourous writing. There’s no VO, so everything people want to say comes out in these speech bubbles. If they’re saying something under their breath, the text will be very small. If they’re shouting, it’ll be very large. It’s a neat little touch which adds some characterisation to these little sprites that wouldn’t have necessarily come across should it have been presented more generically.
I’m struggling to find something I really didn’t enjoy about Golf Story. It feels fantastic on my Switch and is the kind of game I could play for hours on a train journey (battery withstanding). I’m delighted it’s as good as I was hoping it would be, it’s probably exceeded my expectations.
Golf Story is charming, funny and just plain terrific. Don’t miss it.
Golf Story is now available on Nintendo Switch (eShop only)
Developer: Sidebar Games
Publisher: Sidebar Games
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we purchased a copy of Golf Story. For our full review policy please go here.