Chill vibes, a curious narrative and challenging optional tests make A Little Golf Journey an interesting take on the world’s most boring sport. The Finger Guns Review.
I’m just going to put this out there – I dislike golf. A lot. I hate watching it and I don’t enjoy playing it. To use a quote that Mark Twain is famously mis-attributed with, “Golf is a good walk spoiled.”. Don’t get me wrong. I love the concept; The challenge to put the ball in the hole is certainly appealing. It’s just everything else that comes with it that frustrates me. For me, the only form of golf that is any good is the virtual, video game kind. When the core aim remains but all the pomp and circumstance of the sport is removed, anything is possible in golfing video games and they can be excellent because of it. Games like What The Golf? and Golf Club: Wasteland are proof of that. A Little Golf Journey from Okidokico is the latest game to take the world’s most boring sport and transform it into something else. Sure, the trappings are their – there’s golf balls, flags and greens – but A Little Golf Journey is more so a chill physics puzzle game set across a series of gorgeous locations. And it’s certainly worth your time.
Navigated via a linked overworld, A Little Golf Journey is made up of more than 100 virtual dioramas set across 9 themed zones. Each of these little worlds acts as its own golf course with a starting location and a hole in which to putt a ball. The levels each present their own unique, custom made environment and obstacles to overcome. At the start of the game, this is simply about navigating the occasional copse of trees which stand in the way. As you progress through the game, you’ll reach new locations which add ever more complex elements to overcome. Ditches make shots more difficult if you end up in them. Wind will curve shots. Bodies of water will send your ball out of bounds and cost you a shot. Ruins block the way forward or act as a helpful guide.
The characteristics of each course are only half of the consideration with A Little Golf Journey. The other is the arc of the ball and the ingenious way it has been implemented here. When you choose to hit the ball, a line representing the trajectory appears. If this is on a green, it’ll flow along the ground, taking into consideration the curve of the floor. If it’s anywhere else, the curve will look like a drive, arching into the air. This arc tells you exactly where the ball will go – but there’s a catch. The further the shot is aiming to go, the more the trajectory arc moves of its own volition, like a built in challenge in order to hit the ball further. Whatever the trajectory is when you press the button to hit the ball is the one that will follow, so timing and patience become an integral strategy. This is most prevalent during power shots. These strokes go much further than a normal shot but the arc swings wildly left and right, back and forth. You can temporarily use the left trigger button to steady that sway, sending the ball directly towards the centre of your target area – but you’ll often want to utilise that sway and inaccuracy because it can allow you to hit the ball further than you could otherwise.
Each level has been designed around the capabilities of this arc. You’ll receive a star rating on each level depending on your performance. If you want to leisurely hit the golf ball from path of fairway to chunk of fairway through a level, you’ll probably easily putt the ball and get a one star rating. If you want to reach those 3 or 4 star ratings, you’ve got to investigate the level and the possibilities they hold. Can you power shot the ball to that tiny chunk of fairway in the distance which will shave off 2 strokes? Is there a way to hit the ball through these ruins rather than around them? Is it actually more effective to hit the ball into the sand trap from here and then hope I can chip the ball onto the green? This might seem like an odd comparison but A Little Golf Journey shares the same feeling of progression as the latest Hitman games do. Sure, getting the job done is easy. The challenge is to explore the possibilities a level can have and finish it off in style and with efficiency.
While you’re scouring the levels looking for the most effective way to get from A to B, you’ll also find that a large portion of the levels in A Little Golf Journey have hidden secrets and optional objectives too. In some levels, the putting hole isn’t the only exit from a level. Secret exits can open up new holes on the overworld maps, like bonus mini-golf style courses or unique takes on the setting. Some levels have separate mini-games too; Hit a floating cube and you might trigger a mini-game to collect glowing orbs within a set time or have to hit a ball along a particular arc. By participating in these games, and by completing the secret courses, you can collect “Blue Things”. Collect enough of these and you can open a pair of very impressive special stages as well as unlock the true ending to the storyline.
The narrative to A Little Golf Journey is a curious little thing. It’s presented as a conversation between 2 unnamed characters, described as X and Y, via little cue cards which are shown at certain junctures in the game. The 2 characters leave little haikus, statements or questions for one another as they discuss the settings that they travel through. It’s an alluring story that you’ll want to see through to the bitter end, despite its less-than-traditional delivery.
The thematic zones throughout A Little Golf Journey allow the game to show off some impressive visuals and a varied art style. The first zone of the game looks like you might expect a golf game to look. Green grass, greener trees and shiny ponds. Later you’ll be golfing around the glinting sands of a desert, over Japanese themed bridges surrounded by fireflies, through snow kissed mountains, in the dark chambers of a pyramid, around a crumbling ancient kingdom and even over the craters on the moon. As each area introduces their own game play elements – low gravity golf on the moon is super fun – they bring new landscapes to take in at your own pace.
And that’s the beauty of A Little Golf Journey. A frankly excellent soundtrack, full of gentle rhythms that worm their way into your brain and take over your inner Juke box, complements the visuals and the straightforward game play to create a really chilled and relaxing experience. Whatever pace you take the game at, whether you’re putting a few holes on the bus or you’re playing for a few hours straight curled up on the couch, A Little Golf Journey is a cathartic, satisfying game to play. Even for people who dislike golf as much as I do.
My only complaint about A Little Golf Journey is that the camera can occasionally be a little unwieldy when trying to place a shot. It’s possible to flip the camera so it focuses on the destination rather than the ball’s current destination but in some of the later themed zones, when things are zipping across the screen and can block your shot, a side on view would have been very welcome. It’s a small complaint because other that that, this game is very well put together.
A chilled and deeply satisfying golf game, A Little Golf Journey combines small scale courses with a pleasant soundtrack, a varied art style and a real sense of adventure in a really pleasing way. Even if you don’t like golf as a sport, the environmental puzzles and quirky narrative in this game make for a gratifying experience, even with an occasionally unwieldy camera.
A Little Golf Journey is available now on PC via Steam and on Nintendo Switch (review platform).
Publihser: Playtonic Friends
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.
If you enjoyed this article or any more of our content, please consider our Patreon.