22 June 2024

Golf. Yes Golf, it was never a sport that fascinated me. But what if this concept was mixed with aspects of roguelike and in a way platforming? It sounds risky, but it is in fact something that Cursed to Golf manages to present in a very positive way. When you think of Golf, the first adjectives that usually come to mind are relaxing or even therapeutic… Something that doesn’t happen at all in this title. In fact, think of anything but relaxation. In the midst of labyrinths of platforms, fans, sand and even TNT’s, there is room for a whole range of unexpected dangers that make even the greatest professional in this sport lose a few hairs.

This title puts the player in the position of a professional golf player, who is on the way to winning a tournament that is widely recognized worldwide. At the last shot, a huge storm overshadows the area and a lightning strikes our little champion, in a scene that seems to be taken from the old movie ” Caddyshack “. In this way, the little golfer’s soul is sent to a kind of purgatory. The objective is to come back to life again, but for that, you will have to complete 18 holes in a somewhat spooky environment.

All the mechanics are presented by the friendly Scotsman, the ghost of a Scottish golfer who finds himself in the same situation as our character. Already resigned that he will never get out of this situation, he becomes a kind of Master Roshi from DragonBall, from purgatory, where his goal is to help those who literally fall there. There isn’t much more to explore regarding the story, as all the benefit you can get will be from your gameplay. The magic of Cursed to Golf comes from the small moments when you discover the perfect way to get to the hole in mechanically interesting ways.

The gameplay is presented in a simple and intuitive way. It is necessary to choose the type of club, of the three clubs available, choose the angle and the force that you want to apply in the next shot. It may seem simple at first, but there is a somewhat steep learning curve, as the levels are not completely linear. There are occasions where it is necessary to use different mechanics to reach a point higher than the player, this is because the action does not only unfold in the side scroller sense, as it is also possible to move horizontally. It’s interesting to note that in a way, it also unfolds as a platformer, where instead of jumping with the character itself, you’ll have to hit the ball to make it reach the desired platform. The accuracy of the shot is very important.

The very construction of the levels makes things more interesting, presenting different ways to cause problems for the player. Sand and water are present, but they are joined by elements such as graves with zombie hands, where if the ball lands there, the shot is lost and it returns to the same place before the shot, spikes, fans, and even boxes of TNT. Most of the time, TNT boxes hide behind them detours or shorter paths that help the player to get to the hole in fewer strokes. In most cases, success depends on choosing the correct route that you might think it’s possible to overcome. But the actual act of overcoming in a positive way is another story. That’s the premise of a Roguelike, right?

It is important to pay special attention to the number of strokes you can make. The player is given a limited number of strokes, which can be increased by using cards. However, if you run out of strokes, the player will return to the starting point, not from the level he is on, but from the Run, right at the beginning of the first hole. Of course, you can try as many times as you want and possibly with new knowledge acquired from previous Runs, but you will never stop feeling that pressure of needing to reach the hole still with shots to be made.

As for the cards, this is also where the Roguelike premise comes in. During the levels, it is possible, in the path choice menu, to pass through houses with gold boxes, or even through houses where Booster packs can be found. In this way, it is possible to buy cards, with the money previously saved, or to open these Booster packs. Cards function as perks, such as having +2 strokes, or as active skills, which help the player overcome dangers. Techniques such as making the ball heavy by pressing the button, separating the ball into three different balls with the possible choice of the one you want at the end, are just some of the examples. If by chance the player goes back to the beginning by missing the hole, the cards are removed from his inventory.

Things get a little repetitive as there isn’t a huge variety of skills, or a natural progression or upgrades to them. Yes, there is, the demotivating feeling after a few hours of effort applied to try to reach a point so advanced and run out of shots… Yes, it hurts a lot. It kinda becomes a personal battle against the former self, in order to beat the level that previously couldn’t be achieved. It wasn’t addictive in my case, but it will certainly find that niche of people.

Cursed to Golf is an interesting golf title. It creatively mixes elements from different genres, features eye-catching pixel art graphics, and has a synth-heavy soundtrack with a Halloween breeze that helps keep things lively. But watch your ears, the first sound when you press “Play” is huge. I wouldn’t say it’s just a title for fans of the sport, I’m not, and I managed to take advantage of the fun of venturing into this purgatory.

Looking for a good challenge? Will you have what it takes to unleash the professional golf player in you?

[This review is based on a retail build of the game for Steam and Nintendo Switch provided by Thunderful Publishing]