Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Golf With Your Friends (NSW, PS4, XB1) Review

FOOOOOORE! It's time to "putt" my effort into another new review on SuperPhillip Central, and it's for a new release today--the immensely creative Golf With Your Friends. This isn't your daddy's typical game of miniature golf, for that you can be certain. Perhaps that isn't the best thing, as you can judge from my review. Golf With Your Friends launches today on Nintendo Switch (which is the platform this review is based on), PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

"Putt" your putting skills (and your patience) to the test.

Mini golf seems like such a simple form of golf to put to video game form, but we've seen plenty of times where something gets lost in the transition between reality and fantasy. Some mini golf games like Infinite Mini-Golf, for instance, make the leap from real-life mini golf to its video game interpretation well enough with a solid execution. Then, there are games like Golf With Your Friends. While Golf With Your Friends shows a delightful abundance of creativity within its game modes and course designs, the actual execution is something that the developers might have wished to take a mulligan on.

Golf With Your Friends allows you to fully customize your round of putt-putt to your liking, allowing you to save a template for future rounds on the miniature links. You can select your course, the round type, and also tinker and fiddle with options like the timer, stroke penalties, and so much more. There's a bevy of things to mess around with to attempt to make rounds enjoyable enough to keep you and your friends coming back for more. This continues with all of the unlockable content within the game, such as cute hats for your golf balls to wear and colorful trails that appear behind your putted balls.

Ah, the classic windmill miniature golf hole... A mini golf game gets puts into
gaming jail if it doesn't have one of these included in it.
But, then you begin playing rounds on courses and frustration and tedium set in. Courses themselves are colorful and intricately designed, but even on the first course, a so-called beginner forest course, the par requirements are absolutely ridiculous. These are holes where one honest mistake will send you not only bogeying or worse quite easily but also cursing the mini golf gods due to how many ample opportunities there are to go out of bounds. Holes feature unique gimmicks, but so many of these are more obnoxious in practice and execution than actually enjoyable.

This isn't even talking about times where I'd land outside of a hole's boundaries, yet the game would still consider my lie playable, making it impossible to continue the hole without a huge stroke penalty or completely needing to forfeit the hole. This happened more than once, and more than once is more than what is acceptable to me. One time I got caught inside a bundle of logs on the last hole of the forest course, ruining what was: A) an attempt for an under-par round, and B) a good time that I was previously having. Unfortunate.

With ample opportunities to fall out of bounds, courses can be quite frustrating at times!
Holes, too, especially when you get to courses like the Haunted theme, just become way too extravagant and long for their own good. These are holes that Par 5's should have been made Par 10's at the minimum, because again, one mistake and you might as well write off the hole completely. You might say, "Phil, there are no such things as Par 5 holes in miniature golf." My reply would be, "There are also no gigantic holes with ghosts parading around or getting your ball glitched in the geometry in miniature golf either." This is after all putt-putt in a fantastical setting, so the traditional rules can very much be flexible.

The creativity on display in the course design is incredible,
but to play on some of these courses isn't so wonderful.
Worse for Golf With Your Friends is that the physics are sloppy and inconsistent at times, something I've noticed that wasn't in the original PC release when the game initially launched in Early Access on Steam. I've had my ball bounce oddly and in inaccurate ways, and have it bank off walls and slopes in manners that made me go, "What the heck!" at what I was seeing.

Golf With Your Friends has online play for up to 12 players (but I was only able to try it out with two other players at once online, so I can only imagine how chaotic it is with more players) that occurs in real time. All players putt and play at the same time, and in Party Mode, they can use special power-ups that can help themselves or hinder other players, such as leaving behind a trail of honey to slow their competitor's ball's roll--literally! Hopefully there's an active online community for Golf With Your Friends, as I can imagine the insanity of rounds (both intentional and unintentional) to be more fun with a larger amount of players.

Meanwhile, with local play, that's a bit messier. When I played locally with a friend, my turn was over before my ball could even get to a standstill sometimes (usually when it would continuously get hit around by on-course hazards like pendulums or whatnot), so when it was finally my turn again to putt, I would pray to those aforementioned mini golf gods that my ball was at a playable place.

Aside from "traditional" mini golf and the item-filled Party Mode, Golf With Your Friends supports other golfing modes including the "fun concept, not so fun in execution" basketball-like Dunk mode, where after you putt the ball, you can hit a button to make it jump, allowing you access to new shortcuts and an attempt to swish your golf ball into the hoop. In the personally more entertaining Hockey mode, your ball is replaced with a disc-shaped puck, slipping and sliding around with the objective to make it past automated goalies and into a wide net. I had the most fun with Hockey, but that also might have had to do with the course my friend and I played our round on.

Speaking of courses in general, there are about a dozen different themed courses to play on, taking place in a multitude of locales, such as desert oases, gravity-defying space stations, and pirate ships. Again, the creativity in the hole and course designs is ever apparent, but also again, the holes are over-designed with too many annoying gimmicks and such a small window of success that it will make competitive players rue the day they ever placed their golf balls on these courses' greens.

"Feed me, Seymour! Feed me!"
Fortunately, setting up shots and putting is a breeze in Golf With Your Friends, so at least this part of the game is super satisfying. You aim the ball with the right analog stick while setting up the power of your shot by pushing forward and backward on the left stick. With the leftmost face button you can enter a free camera mode, where you are able to move the camera around to get a quick overview of the hole. I say "quick" because this free camera mode is timed. You only get a brisk 15 seconds total of free camera mode time to work with, and on some later courses, it can be a challenge to even find the darn flag with how complicated and convoluted holes become. Additionally, free camera mode isn't perfect because the camera can get caught on hole geometry, costing you precious seconds of time with the mode. Frustrating, indeed.

It looks like a calm course, but when you get multiple players putting at once
with power-ups on, a calm course becomes crazy and chaotic in a hurry!
And, really, that's what word Golf With Your Friends can be summed up with: "frustrating". Whether it's the overly lengthy and overly designed holes that test your patience with the "everything and the kitchen sink" approach they have, to the often unpredictable physics and bugs rampant within the game. The concept of Golf With Your Friends is an immensely creative one, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired. With more players putting at once, I can see the uncontrolled chaos of the game being more tolerable--after all it is Golf With Your Friends (plural) and not Golf With Your Friend (singular), but no amount of customization, cheery skins, hats, and trails for one's golf balls, or whimsical course designs will suddenly make a game fun if the base foundation is one that is shoddy. Unfortunately, Golf With Your Friends' round of golf is one that is disappointingly over par.

[SPC Says: D+]

Team17 provided a code for the purpose of this review.

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