I do love a golf game.
Over the years my friends and I have jumped into various incarnations of the genre that have appeared throughout the generations. From Tiger Woods PGA Tour to the sorely underrated Infinite Minigolf, we’ve had countless nights having a blast pelting golf balls up and down simulated versions of real life courses and futuristic sci-fi space stations. The competitive nature of being able to simulate golf when none of us would have any skill of the sport in real life (save mini-golfing our way around Butlin’s Minehead) is a guaranteed inclusion on our game nights. Golf With Your Friends will likely be a new addition to the rotation, even though it doesn’t quite match up to the genre titles we’ve dabbled in beforehand.
Golf With Your Friends is aptly titled. Probably more so than any other game I can recently remember. Upon starting the game, you realise that the chaos of attempting to putt a golf ball into a basketball hoop is close to no fun at all when not playing with your buddies to laugh through the absurdity of it all. Blacklight Interactive’s golf sim that’s lived on Steam for the past few years arrives on consoles with little reason to jump in as a single-player experience. The joy comes solely and absolutely through its multiplayer experience. Golf with your friends, folks. Golf with your friends.
It’s built as a party game to nestle in with publisher Team17’s other local multiplayer titles, namely Moving Out and Overcooked. You can see why the publisher took a chance on this one, they appear to be collating a solid list of games you can play together that aren’t all that fun and frankly more trouble than they’re worth when you’re playing alone.
Your initial impression of Golf With Your Friends will likely be somewhat negative, as it was for me. The menus are ugly, bland and lifeless. The merits lie in the detail. With a vast array of options to modify the incoming golfing experience you can tinker with pretty much anything you like to bend the game to your desires. From the amount of time you have to hit the ball (which begins at two minutes), the amount of shots per round you can take before the game tells you to give up and go home along with being able to tinker with gravity itself to as low as 25%. You can also adjust how bouncy the ground is, if you so choose. I won’t say the possibilities here are endless but there’s a nice collection of customisable options if you want to make your afternoon tee-off a little more exciting.
You have the option of exploring the course before you tee-off with the ‘Free-Cam’, but for some inexplicable reason this is timed (this can be adjusted in the course settings). Free-Cam allows you to see the entire course to try and work out a direction for yourself from beginning to end, look for hazards and where to use the courses design to your advantage. It’s a handy option though I certainly would have preferred a flyover directed by the game itself at the beginning of the course. For whatever reason the game will register analogue movement of the camera in ‘Free-Cam’ as an instruction to add Spin to your tee-off, and will add it inexplicably without your knowledge.
Obviously a bug that can be ironed out but in the review period it was infuriating and as such, ‘Free-Cam’ wasn’t used all that often, only to maybe attempt to work out where the ball needs to land if you can’t see it directly from where you begin. I should stress this doesn’t happen every time, but it’s certainly random and there’s no real way of knowing when it’s going to and when it isn’t, so I was far more cautious about using it once I realised there’s little to do about it.
The course variety must be commended. There’s a substantial amount of contrasting, non-identical courses to work through across the various modes. From the Forest which feels more like a tutorial course – though it can get deceptively tricky as the round continues – to the insane battlefield of the Worms themed courses (there’s even an Escapists themed course you can unlock), each course can elevate from a comfortable difficulty to utterly barbaric from one hole to the next. In the below recording of our Golf With Your Friends livestream you’ll see how Sean and I couldn’t even finish the Museum course, as the final hole baffled us to such a degree we couldn’t find any other way out but just pelting it out of bounds and thus ending our misery sooner rather than later.
As you can see, it gets wild. This is where Golf With Your Friends works exactly as it’s supposed to. As we moved through the game it became nothing but pure hilarity as we began to work together to figure out how the hell to get to the flag at any given moment. Once it’s figured out, players tee off at the exact same time so it becomes a challenge on who is gonna get there first and if it can be done under or on Par. At times it’s much easier than others, with plenty of ‘FOR F*CKS SAKE* screamed to such an extent a neighbour might imagine you’re assembling an IKEA cabinet rather than playing a charming little golf video game. Then there’s Candyland, which can disappear into the depths of hell and never return, taking its godawful theme music with it. Seriously, it’s the worst thing I’ve ever heard and I once went to a live Boyzone concert with Aqua(!) as the support act. True story.
But damn, we laughed hard. There’s something inherently hilarious about not only you but your friend both being terrible at a video game and just having a blast tearing through it together no matter what the hell happens. Golf With Your Friends is quite simple at its most basic level. The controls are as straightforward as using the left analogue stick to aim and power-up (though how this works is never explained and rather tricky to determine just by pushing it forward), using R1 or the equivalent to fine tune the aim and then pressing X to hit the ball. It’s by far the easiest aspect of the game to get your head around but of course it never stops being hilarious when you relentlessly – and I mean relentlessly – hit the ball out of bounds when you think you’ve got it spot on and your friend is just doing exactly the same damn thing with reckless abandon.
And that’s not even getting to the game modes on offer, which offer yet more ridiculous situations that are only funny if you’re playing with a mate. Away from the hit and hope wonder of minigolf is Hockey, where the ball is replaced by a puck and you need to score goals by beating the goalkeeper at the end of the level. There’s not a huge difference in the way this mode plays, only that the puck is far more slippery, so you need to compensate a tad. Then there’s basketball, which is a hellscape I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but still ends up being a genuinely fun addition to the package once you realise that being terrible at it is where the fun lies. This mode also features jetpacks to get from certain areas of the level to another. And they’re really fun to control. No, honest. I mean it.
A certain level in the basketball course set in the Worms area has you tearing it through the sky on jetpacks going through hoops to refuel to get to the other end of the course, only to come all the way back to the start to notice the hoop is below the area where you began. I’m pretty sure this course is designed for no other reason than to be a pain in the ass and it succeeds with flying colours.
The game offers unlocks – up to three a day – such as customisable items for golfballs, for no real reason other than because you’re playing the game. Whether it be trails, hats and the like. It’s a completely random drop so you won’t know what you’re getting one day to the next and you can’t choose what you’re working towards. Think of it like the floating balloons in Animal Crossing. You’ll just get something random out of the drop and you’ll like it, thank you very much. There’s plenty to unlock though, so the more you play the game the more you’ll unlock. Simples.
There’s a Party Mode which turns the difficult golf game into a frenzy of unfathomable madness. This mode allows you to add power-ups and obstacles for your opponent to get stuck in or behind. You can also change the shape of the ball to turn it into a rectangle or even a star. It’s about as fun as it sounds though adds an extra layer of chaos to proceedings. Playing through the mode with friends was fun once but we ended up gravitating back to the Classic and Hockey modes. Maybe we’re old and cranky but it was just more fun to play on an even playing field and well, Infinite Minigolf does it far better.
From a technical standpoint Golf With Your Friends is a bit of mess, and for a game that’s been in Steam Early Access for this long is a tad unforgivable. There’s little wrong with the physics of the ball or the movement, though the moment it collides with something it’s not supposed to – if the ball goes out of bounds, for example – all bets are off. The ball will reset to its original starting point if hit out of bounds, but sometimes it’ll end up in areas that it can’t escape from, forcing you to retire the hole and take the hefty penalty (this occurs a couple of times in our stream above). Having to take a massive hit to your score just to get out of a jam you can’t physically escape from because the game hasn’t been optimised efficiently enough is hugely frustrating, and there’s very little you can do about it. Again, this can probably be patched like the ‘Free-Cam’ spin glitch, but hell, I can only review what I’ve been given, right? Simply not good enough.
The online component of the game – which is clearly where the devs want you to play – works perfectly fine. In my several days of playing I never once had trouble finding a game, pre-and-post launch. Points on the board.
There’s not even the excuse of ‘visual fidelity’ to fall back on either. Golf With Your Friends is not the prettiest golf game you’ll ever play. The aforementioned menu screens are the worst offenders in this regard, but the game itself is full of collision failures and camera issues. There’s not an awful lot that ‘jumps off the screen’, it crawls towards you like the chick from The Ring. As the camera spins around your ball/puck/rectangle there are moments I couldn’t see it, because a pillar was in the way so I had to guess my shot. It was only a putt and I missed because the game decided to put a blockade in my way. It’s a real shame as it appears the developers had a lot of fun creating these courses, as each one has its charm – the Space Station and Worms being particular highlights -, it’s just a shame they’re not exactly ready to be played just yet. Again, this is a game that’s been in Early Access for a while. I simply don’t get it.
It’s a cracking good time with friends but on your own, it’s a meanderingly frustrating tiresome glitch-filled experience. There’s definitely fun to be had but in a package that still doesn’t feel quite ready for public consumption. It’s well intentioned, but doesn’t quite reach the lofty heights of other party titles on Team17’s bulging books. It’s exactly what it says on the tin;
Golf With Your Friends. Otherwise do something else.
Golf With Your Friends is available now on Steam, Xbox One, PS4 (reviewed on PS4 Pro) and Nintendo Switch.
Developer: Blacklight Interactive
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional code from the publisher. For our full review policy, please go here.
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