Developed by Chuhai Labs and published by Thunderful, Cursed to Golf is (surprise) a golf game. Only, this isn’t PGA Tour, a cheeky 18 at Pebble Beach and then onto the clubhouse for an egg and cress sandwich, washed down with a sparkling mineral water type of golf. This is… well, this is golf done very differently.
“Cursed to Golf is a golf-like adventure where every shot counts. Players are tasked with making it out of Golf Purgatory to become a Golfing Legend. With insane hazards, otherworldly power-ups and tons of replayability, will you make it back alive or will you forever be… Cursed to Golf!?”
The opening of the game works as a tutorial to get you used to the basic controls. Playing as a champion level golfer, taking part in the Eternal Golf Championship tournament. A storm begins to build and clouds form in the sky. You are on the last hole and are about to sink the ball to take the title. The storm has gotten worse, a lightning bolt hits your club and you are killed. Yup, you are dead. Sent into purgatory, golf purgatory. Guided by a ghostly Scottish golfer in a kilt called The Scotsman, you have to beat several devilishly tricky 18-hole golf courses to be returned back to life and back to the Eternal Golf Championship tournament.
The controls for Cursed to Golf are beautifully simplistic. No lugging a golf bag full of clubs around here. You only have three clubs. A driver for long-distance and powerful shots. An iron for medium-distance and more controlled shots. Then you have a wedge for shorter chip shots. The mechanics of using the clubs is just as simple too. Select your club, press the button to bring up the power bar and press again to select how hard you want to hit the ball. You’ll then have a trajectory line that sweeps up and down, waiting for you to press the button for the final time to select the angle of your shot.
While the controls and mechanics are simple enough, making your way through 18 holes of a golf course in purgatory isn’t. The courses here are not your usual golfing experience. Here, you’ll have to contend with the typical golf hazards such as rough grass, bunkers, water and the like. But then there are very untypical things like blocks of TNT, teleporters, fans that blow your ball and a host of other hazards that I don’t want to spoil here.
You start each hole with only 5 shots but there is no way you are going to make it to the pin in 5 shots or less. The holes here are massive and closer to par 10s+ than par 5s and under. So then, how do you make it to the hole when you don’t have enough shots? This is where things get a lot more tricky. Along the way, you will come across statues, smash the statues with your ball to earn more shots. These statues are rarely in easy-to-reach places and will often have you pulling off trick shots to reach them. Then there is the addition of ace cards. These things are one-use power-ups and can get you a few extra shots too.
Put the ball in the hole with shots to spare, and you earn money. Use that money in the golf shop to buy more ace cards. There are a variety of these ace cards too, not just extra shots ones. Various perks and power-ups can be used via the ace cards, while out on the Hellish links. Turn water into ice, stop the ball dead without bouncing, turn it into a controllable drill, adjust the direction of the ball in mid-air, have it split into three balls and so much more. With 20 different ace cards to nab, there are a lot of different ways to navigate the labyrinthine-like holes.
If you fail to get through all 18 holes in one go, it is game over and you have to start from hole 1 again. This is where Cursed to Golf goes a bit Rogue-like. Every time you do have to restart the course, the holes are randomly generated. Oh yeah, it’s a right fucker. You think you have learned a hole and can put the ball away with relative ease, only for the game to change each and every hole next time around. Now, the holes here are not procedurally generated, they are pre-deigned, but there are around 70 or so of them that will be thrown at you randomly each and every time you play.
This is a very tough Rouge-like, not lite, as you don’t get to restart with anything that you have unlocked. No ace cards carry over, you fail, you lose everything and have to start over with nothing. There are a couple of saving graces that may ease frustrations. There is a checkpoint system, but only one per round and you have to beat a mid-course (level) boss first… which is not an easy thing to do. Plus, you can store a set number of ace cards in a binder in the shop for later use. Storing the cards does mean that you can’t use them while they are in the binder though, so you effectively lose them for the round you are currently playing.
Make no mistake about it, Cursed to Golf is hard. The holes are really difficult to navigate, and that is just for the ‘normal’ ones. There are special challenge cursed holes that really push your golfing skills to breaking point. Randomly and continually through one of these challenge holes, you are given a handicap to contend with. These are not your average handicaps though and offer things like turning the screen upside down, removing the bonus statues to gain extra shots or forcing you to only aim one way and more. The boss battles are pretty damn tricky in their own right. The 16-bit inspired graphics are really nice and offer a lot of little details. Everything just suits the game on a visual level. That carries over to the music and sound too.
£17 is what this game is going to cost you and it is out on PC and all the consoles right now. Yes, this is well worth a purchase, but be warned… this is a very, very tough game. The simplistic controls and mechanics, the cute 16-bit pixel art and the chirpy music are a front for just how unrelentingly difficult Cursed to Golf is. Still, that difficulty does just add to the satisfaction and enjoyment when you do make good progress. Unrelenting, unapologetically hard and yet, unbelievably playable and rewarding too.
Cursed to Golf is not an easy game to get into. It often feels downright impossible at times. Still, perseverance is key here and spending a bit of time with it, learning how to best use the ace cards, trying to memorise the 70-odd courses and navigating them with confidence? Well, that just makes the game even more enjoyable and rewarding.