Game Review: Golf Club Wasteland

“Golf Is A Good Walk Spoiled”

A quote often attributed to Mark Twain. However, there has been plenty of debate as to just where that quote originally came from. Anyway, the origins of the quote are not really that important. What is important is that whoever was responsible for the quote had obviously never played Golf Club: Wasteland from developer Demagog Studio and publisher Untold Tales.

Yes, this is golf, but with a very unique twist. First, the story. Oh yeah, there’s a story for a golf game:

“The rich fled to Mars but venture back to a desolate Earth for a round of golf. Each hole in the wasteland offers its own little story and possible puzzle to sink the perfect shot. Play through destroyed brutalist monuments, crumbling shopping malls, and abandoned museums as neon signs and poignant graffiti take swings at current events, Silicon Valley culture and humanity.”

So yeah, Earth has been abandoned with humans now living on Mars. Over the years, Earth has become derelict and the planet has been turned into a golf course for the super-rich to play on. You play as Charley, a keen and lone golfer who travels to Earth for a round of golf. The ‘courses’ in the game play more like crazy golf than real golf… well I think ‘effing crazy golf would be much more apt. The basics of golf still apply here, in that you have to put the ball in the hole on par or under. But those pars really can range from a ‘normal’ par 3 to a WTF par 20. 

GOLD CLUB WASTELAND SCREEN 1

The courses here take place in and around the ruins of Earth. There really is a wide variety of holes (thirty-five) to play on too that will keep you more than busy. Courses include abandoned supermarkets, offices, hospitals and more. All while very familiar and famous landmarks in the background give away exactly where you are in the world. Yet, Earth has drastically changed since it was abandoned and you’ll see plenty of sights that will be very new to your eyes… like cows with glowing purple udders. The controls here are very simple, you aim your shot and whack the ball with the press of a button… that’s it. 

But it’s not just about putting a ball into a hole over dozens of very crazy courses, there’s a story going on too. I’m not going to spoil the story here but there are two ways that you unravel what has been going on. First, if you get the ball in the hole on or under par, you’re given a little diary entry to read. Secondly, there’s a radio station being broadcast from Mars that fills you in on the backstory too. Oh, I almost forgot that you unlock a comic to read when you finish the game too. All of these things add up to reveal a story that holds a few little secrets.

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The courses get increasingly more elaborate as you go from an easy par 3s to rather insane par 20s. Obstacles that hinder your route become more complex and the courses turn into a real test of patience. This is crazy golf with a huge emphasis on the crazy bit. Control-wise, you use the left stick to aim and adjust your power, then hit the ball at the tap of a button. There’s no club selection or anything like that. Just like real crazy golf, it strips the sport down to its bare basics as you try to put the ball in the hole. Hit the ball in a water hazard or similar and it’ll just appear back at your feet, ready for you to try the shot again. This is simple and very straightforward golfing.  

As fun and simple as Golf Club: Wasteland is, I felt it had a few niggles. There is no way to fine-tune your aim and having to use the stick to aim and select your power at the same time means a lot of jittering about. This leads to some imprecise shots in a game where precision is key. The courses soon become a constant trial and error thing as opposed to the use of actual skill. Some of the shots you need to make will have you needing the landing the ball on very small ledges with precise chip shots and so on, this is why the one stick to aim and select power control becomes annoying.

GOLD CLUB WASTELAND SCREEN 3

Some of the longer courses just become tiresome more than fun to play as that trial and error gameplay begins to grate. You can restart any course you like, but to that, you need to pause the game. When you pause, the game does this little animation and scrolls upwards and as you will need to restart courses a lot, it just gets on your nerves having to go through the same little animation over and over and over. I mean, the game only uses one stick and one button to aim and shoot, I’m pretty sure the devs could’ve included a quick-restart button. The UI is the absolute bare minimum and I think it could do with just a bit more detail, like numbers that appear for your shot angle and power. The par of the holes does not appear on the screen either, you have to pause the game (and go through that animation over and over and over).

GOLD CLUB WASTELAND SCREEN 4

So time for my final judgement and for that, I need to look at how much Golf Club: Wasteland is being sold for. Around £7:19-£8:39 (very strange pricing) is the answer to that, depending on the format. That is a low price, no doubt about it. The story is great and probably the best part of the game. The golfing though… it just gets too annoying, to be honest. The concept of a really crazy, crazy golf game is brilliant but the niggles I mentioned are hard to ignore. If the aiming and power were controlled separately, if there were digits that indicated your shot angle and power, that would make the game so much more playable and far less trial and error. Still, for the price, you can’t really grumble. There’s a lot of golfing action here, even if some of the longer courses can get boring. I can’t outright recommend this one, but I’m not going to damn the game either. It just needs some tweaks and this could be a fantastic fantastical golf game. 

Game Review: Merek’s Market

Have you ever wanted to run and work in your very own medieval crafting store? A place where you can supply local villagers with various wares, daring knights with ceramic pots and so on? Well, now you can thanks to developer and publisher Big Village Games Limited and their new game, Merek’s Market.

“We’ve all been that adventurer throwing down bags of gold to buy swords and shields, but what about the poor souls rushing around behind the shop counter? Strange customers? Yes. Over the top crafting challenges? You bet. A shop cat? Absolutely! Take ownership of Merek’s Market as you haggle, barter and craft your way through a comical single player campaign or team up with friends to supply the whole town.”

You play as the titular Merek and have to please the customers that enter your shop by crafting the items that they request. The customers come in, tell you what they want and you go off and craft it for them. Example: someone comes in and asks for a chair. You grab a piece of wood and a cowhide and make a chair on the crafting table, to then deliver it to the awaiting customer before they leave. Different resources make different items and combining not just individual resources, but also fully made items can make new and different wares for your customers before time runs out and they leave.

MEREKS MARKET SCREEN 2

Forgotten what resources make what items? Don’t worry as there’s a handy ‘recipe book’ that keeps all of your items and just how to make them. But you will waste valuable time stopping to read up on what items needed what resources. Need to make a staff? Just take a piece of wood to your workstation and away you go. But other items will need other and more resources. As you progress through the game, more recipes and resources become available to make more elaborate items. Every tenth level sees you having to take part in a ‘boss build’. These are massively large items that require much more work, all while you still try to manage the normal running of your shop at the same time. When you do finish one of these boss builds, your shop is upgraded. More workstations, more resources and so on. This really is basically Team 17’s Overcooked, but set in a medieval shop.

Occasionally, a customer will come in and instead of having to build an item for them, they will want one of your already made items, This begins a little mini-game where you haggle with the customer for the best price. Demand too high a price for your wares and the customer will get upset and even leave. Give a too low price and the customer will leave very happy, but you’ll be out of pocket. There’s also a 4-player couch co-op mode for some multiplayer mayhem where you all have to work together to keep the local villagers happy.

MEREKS MARKET SCREEN 1

I have to be honest and finish the review by saying how I don’t much like these types of games. I tried to get into the aforementioned Overcooked, but it just didn’t do anything for me. I’m much of a fan of being rushed to play games, so titles that use time constraints as a gameplay mechanic are just an instant turn off for me. Still, I always try to be objective when I do my reviews and I always look at the cost of the game too. Merek’s Market is being sold for around £15 and despite this really not being my bag at all, I do think that’s a very fair price for what you get.

MEREKS MARKET SCREEN 3

If you do enjoy these time and resource management, run around a shop-type games, you might really enjoy this one. There’s a good amount of content here, plenty of items to craft for your customers. The haggling mini-game helps to breaks up the continual crafting and the ‘boss builds’ can actually be quite entertaining and amusing. Speaking of which, Merek’s Market had a fantastic sense of humour and I admit to getting a few laughs out of it several times. It may not be my type of game, but it is a solid game nevertheless and worth a play if you’re into the likes of Overcooked.

Game Review: Crown Trick

I do love a good roguelike/lite game and it’s a sub-genre that is massively popular in the indie game scene right now. I’ve actually lost count of how many I have played and reviewed this year already and yet, I still have a major weakness for the sub-genre. Here’s another one too, Crown Trick from developer NExT Studios and publisher Team 17.  

The first thing that struck me about Crown Trick was its bold and vibrant art style. The opening animation really was a joy to watch and one that perfectly sets up the rich and beautiful world the game takes place in. A lot of the charm and personality of the intro finds its way into the game itself too. But I don’t want to bore you with the animation and graphics of the game, I need to look at how it plays.

As already mentioned, Crown Trick is a roguelite game, a sub-genre born from 1980’s Rogue. A very quick history lesson for you here. Rogue was a (what we now call) dungeon crawler where the main gameplay mechanic was that you die (a lot) but when you restart, the dungeon is randomly generated, so you get to experience a new game every time. Rogue was also turn-based and in that regard, Crown Trick is a wonderful homage to those roots. Yup, Crown Trick uses the old turn-based mechanic here too. Thinking about it, Crown Trick is probably the most Rogue-like roguelite that I have played in a long while. 

CROWN TRICK SCREEN 1

You play as Elle who finds herself trapped in a dream/nightmare. Early in the game, Elle finds a talking crown (stay with me) and this crown becomes her guide and helper. Right from the off, you are thrown into the action, exploring the dungeon-like dream you find yourself in and killing enemies and finding loot. At first, this all seems very button-mashy and rather shallow. However, there’s much more going on than just wandering around a dungeon and smacking enemies in the face.

Just going back to the whole turn-based thing for a second. Every step you make, the enemies move. This leads to some rather interesting strategy opportunities as you can lead enemies into traps and lure them to their doom. You could just pick up the controller and run around like a fool, bashing the attack button until the bad guys are dead. Yet, this would be a terrible idea for two reasons. First, you’ll end up dying a lot more than necessary. Second, you’re really going to miss out on a lot of the intricacies that Crown Trick’s gameplay has to offer. Everything is played on a grid, so you can move one square at a time. As it’s turn-based, you can really stop and think about your next move before you make it. It almost becomes a game of chess between you and whatever the dungeon has to throw at you, the game feels very tactical over action-based gameplay.

MAIN HUB

Like any roguelite game, you will die, die, die and die again. Upon your many deaths, you will be transported to the ‘Hall of Reincarnation’. This is your main hub and as you further explore the dungeon, you’ll find and recruit NPCs. These NPCs really work as upgrade shops for you various skills and items. As you kill enemies, you’ll earn Soul Shards, which act as your main currency in the game to unlock and buy upgrades. Kill more enemies, get more Soul Shards, die, upgrade, get further in the game, earn more Soul Shards, die, upgrade and repeat. 

Weapons and items come in a wide range of varieties too. Do you go for a long-range gun weapon to kill bad guys from a distance? If so, you need to remember that they need reloading and that’ll take up one of your precious turns. Or do you go for a melee weapon, you’ll have to get in closer to the enemy and risk taking a hit or seven. I think what separates Crown Trick from a lot of other roguelites is that element of strategy and thought. You enter a room and instead of just rushing in, you try to read the room, look at what enemies are about and keeping in mind what you have learned from previous runs, you try to anticipate their moves. This is where the whole turn-based gameplay really comes into strength. You seriously do need to just slow things down and make a plan of attack before you do actually attack. 

CROWN TRICK SCREEN 2

I have to admit that at first, Crown Trick really rubbed me up the wrong way. It all felt rather cumbersome and stiff to play, I was dying a lot more than I usually would with a roguelite. But that was all my own fault because I was playing it like your average dungeon crawler, like Diablo or something similar. I’d just rush in and start attacking enemies without even thinking… and that was the main issue, I wasn’t thinking. Once I slowed myself down and played the game correctly, once I got to grasps with the turn-based gameplay and more strategic elements that Crown Trick has to offer, everything just fell into place and clicked with me. Suddenly, I found myself really enjoying the game more and more.

Playing the Xbox version (it is available on Game Pass), I learned to really love and appreciate Crown Trick once I understood how to play it. This is not a game you put on for a quick blast, to kill half an hour. This is a game you really do need to invest some time and effort into. A game that is far more rewarding the more you stop and think. Most definitely a recommendation from me and as I said, it is on Game Pass for Xbox owners, so you can try it out for ‘free’ (so to speak). For everyone else, you’re looking at spending around £16 and at that price, you get plenty of game for your money. A real gem of a roguelite and one that is deeply rewarding… if you play it correctly. 

Game Review: Lake

Some games are easy to categorise and put into a specific genre. Beat ’em up, shoot ’em up, adventure game, FPS, etc. Some are not, just like Lake from developer Gamious. Honestly, I really don’t know how to define this game at all. It’s an adventure game… I guess, kind of. But not really at the same time. Here, take a look at the trailer, then I’ll do my best to explain what it’s all about.

So, the game is set in 1986 and you play as Meredith Weiss. Meredith takes a break from her job in the big city at a software company to return to her small hometown of Providence Oaks, where she works as a mail carrier… and that’s about it. You deliver mail. During your mail delivering duties, you’ll meet friends old and new, have conversations to then unwind after work. There’s no right or wrong way to play Lake at all, you just play it. And it’s a ‘strange’ experience too, not a bad strange at all, but more of an interesting and intriguing strange.

The main gameplay has you driving around Providence Oaks in your delivery van and handing out letters and parcels to the various residents. At the start of every day, you are given a list of the residents who’ll be needing their post. There’s a handy list with the addresses of everyone you need to make a delivery to. Thankfully, you don’t need to memorise the names of people or their addresses. In fact, you don’t even need the list itself as everything is displayed on the in-game map. Bring up the map, place a waypoint to your next delivery location and away you go. Technically you don’t even need to drive yourself either. The game features both a fast travel system to key locations and even an auto-drive option. So you can just pick a house, let the auto-drive do its thing, then just sit back and relax.

LAKE SCREEN 1

The driving of the postal truck in the game is really basic too. There’s the usual accelerate and reverse, of course. You can’t even crash so to speak. You can bump into roadside obstacles and even other vehicles driving around town, but those crashes don’t really affect you other than make you stop. There’s no GTA style road rage here. Anyway, get to your delivery location and you’ll either have to post some mail into the roadside mailboxes, which is done with a simple press of a button. Or, in the case of delivering a parcel, you’ll have to go to the back of your truck, open it and grab the correct parcel for the address you are at. Again, this is simple as each parcel is individually addressed and the address that you are at is displayed in the bottom corner of the screen. Everything about this game is foolproof and devilishly simple too.

As you deliver to the residents of Providence Oaks, you’ll get to know them more and more. Conversations will reveal more about everyone you meet, as well as fill in Meredith’s (your) backstory. The main story is (as already covered) you getting away from your high-paid software company job to work as a mail-person. You are taking the place of your father who has gone to Florida for a break himself with your mother. Anyway, after you finish a day of delivering the post, you get to unwind at home. You’ll also get various phone calls from both your parents letting you know how they are getting on as well as your boss from work asking for favours. After which, it is back to delivering post. You’ll also do side-quests around town such as helping the local cat-lady get one of her cats well after falling ill or even helping out the owner of the local VHS store to drum up some business.

LAKE SCREEN 3

The later side-quest even opens up relationship options in the game that I’ll not spoil here. The VHS shop is also a bit of a hoot to visit anyway. It’s full of parody VHS tapes for you to spot and have a laugh with. At first, I thought the parody films were to get around possible tricky copyright issues. However, the side-quest for the VHS shop has you delivering videotapes of real (non-parody) films to residents. Other side-quests open up all sorts of other issues for you to deal with as the game progresses.

After a little contemplation, I think I have the perfect genre the game fits into. Lake is a cosy ’em up. Everything is just so pleasant, nice, relaxing and, well… cosy. There is no action to speak of, no running around killing enemies, no experience points and levelling up or worrying about your character build. You just drive around, deliver mail and talk to people. It’s all very twee, serene, wholesome and relaxing. You can even go to the local diner and play an arcade game if you like.

LAKE SCREEN 2

I did come across a few negatives in terms of the low budget of the game. I found more than a few graphical issues. Shadows glitching as I was driving around, some very obvious pop-up graphics, questionable character animations. There was even a time when I was using the auto-drive option and my van got stuck in the road. However, I’m not going to sit here and rip this game apart for minor niggles. This is a low budget indie game and you just can’t expect perfection. Hell, a lot of AAA, big-budget titles have similar and even worse issues than this. So I’m more than willing to overlook a few slight niggles that never really ruined the game for me. Even more so when Lake is actually a very pretty game to look at to boot.

This all brings me to my final conclusion. Lake is being sold for £16 and for me, that is just feels a shade too much for what you get. Don’t get me wrong, I really loved my time delivering mail in the small town of Providence Oaks. I loved meeting all the people. I loved the slow pace and freedom the game has with no right or wrong way to play. Lake really chilled me out, to be honest. However, the interactions just feel too restrictive and pedestrian, conversations you have never feel like they’ll have any real impact for the most part (save a couple of instances at the end). Lake is a wonderful concept, it’s just a tad too linear and the choices you have never do really feel like choices in the grand scheme or that they will affect the story… aside from the very end. Still, I think that’s kind of the point.

LAKE SCREEN 4

Lake is a fantastically relaxing and tranquil game, a delightful change of pace if you ever feel like just unwinding and chilling out. It just needed a bit more meat on the bones. More interactions (like the arcade game), more depth, more… just more. Why can’t I pet the cats? Maybe do a spot of fishing? I still do recommend the game, very much so. But I need to just make people aware that Lake is very restrictive and you never really feel as free as I think the game wants you to feel. The gameplay is very light but it was the story and characters that kept me going until the end. I just had to see what was going to happen. Then, as I watched the end credits to the game (after about seven hours of playtime), I have to admit to having a warm and fuzzy feeling though. It really is a cosy ’em up and I do hope to see more from the devs in the future.

Game Review: Cotton Reboot

Time for a game review, but not from me. Instead, guest reviewer for my blog, Dave Corn, picks up his Switch to play some Cotton Reboot from developer Rocket-Engine Co. This is a remake of the classic Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams, a side-scrolling ‘cute ’em up’ from 1991. This new version has updated graphics and a few other bells and whistles, but is it any good? Well, that’s what Dave is here to answer.

I think that labelling this title as a ‘cute ’em up’ does Cotton Reboot an injustice. When I say cute ’em up, what’s the first game that comes to mind? For me, it is Fantasy Zone on the Sega Master System/Mega Drive. Its bright colour pallet, chirpy music and generally not as violent as such a shoot em up can be. Titled as a reboot of the original Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams, Cotton Reboot is less a reboot and much more like a remake. The Switch release also includes the 2019 re-release of the Sharp x68000 arcade port of the original, so you can make quick comparisons between the two if you like.

Cotton Reboot falls into a sub-genre also known as a witch ’em ups. In places, Cotton is much closer to a bullet-hell type shooter and feels incredibly well placed with Deathsmiles, another witch ’em up verging on a bullet-hell shooter. Cotton won’t take you very long to play through either. From start to finish, it clocks in at around thirty to forty minutes. However, game length is not the point of these games, it’s all about the high score, lives/continue usage and getting trying for that great score in less time.

COTTON REBOOT SCREEN 1

I think that speedrunners will adore this game. Seven stages with two to three bosses per level and each with their own mechanics and patterns to master. Whether it be your usual shot, bombs and magic, learning the correct tactics for each stage would knock plenty of time and deaths down as you try to perfect your run.

The storyline for Cotton Reboot is really weak but 90% of the people playing an arcade shooter like this, they’re not investing in these games for their stories. It’s all about fast and frantic shooting action from start to finish. The inclusion of the original game is a nice touch. If you haven’t played Cotton before, then Reboot is a vastly improved version, so the original will feel more than a tad empty now. There have been other Cotton games released between the original back in 1991 and Cotton Reboot now. The last game before this reboot was released on the Neo Geo Pocket following other titles on the Saturn, PS1 and several other consoles.

COTTON REBOOT SCREEN 2

Cotton Reboot really boils down to being a really great arcade game. Definitely something for people who’ll want to try and finish it with one coin (being able to complete an arcade machine using only a single credit, no continues) to really sink their teeth into. Side-scrolling shooter fans will love this game but with a price point of around £30 (physical), which works out to a pound a minute of gameplay for a single playthrough. To me, that seems a bit harsh on fans. The time I spent playing this game was fun but at its price point, it seems to be forcing titles into rarity. A limited batch of physical releases means this fan favourite title will become more expensive and increasingly harder to find than the Super Mario Bros. 35th Anniversary game, a prime example of creating a faux rarity in modern gaming.

If you have played the original and you are a fan, then this title is for you. But, if you are looking for a new bullet-hell come side-scrolling shooter, then there are cheaper and longer games on Nintendo’s virtual store that offer far better value for money. To finish, this shooting, magic throwing ‘cute em up’ does exactly what it says on the tin but without an audience reminiscing over the original, that too high price point doesn’t seem justified. Don’t get me wrong, this is most definitely a great game, but I suggest waiting to see if you can grab it in some sale or on offer. At full cost, you may feel a bit ripped off with what you are getting for your hard-earned coin.

COTTON REBOOT SCREEN 3

Overall…
Gameplay 7/10. Fun but too short.
Price 5/10. Too high but hardcore fans may appreciate this at full price.
Presentation 8/10. A nicely wrapped reboot.remake with several great mixes of art styles.


A big thank you to Dave Corn for doing this review for me. Perhaps they’ll be more reviews from Dave in the future? You can find Dave and me over at Lockdown Gaming on Facebook. Come join us for some top gaming and general entertainment chat, why not?