“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.
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.
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.
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).
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.