NEED TO KNOW
What is it? A funny and surprising golf puzzle game where golf often isn't golf.
Expect to pay: $20
Reviewed on: Intel i5-6600K, GTX 980, 8 GB RAM
Link: Official site
There's a lot of golf in What the Golf? Like, tons. You never stop golfing. You golf at one hole, and then you golf at the next hole, and to get from that one hole to that next hole you golf your way there. Even when you're done with What the Golf? the golf doesn't stop. Want to read the credits? You have to golf your way through them.
At the same time, there is very little golf in What the Golf? because What the Golf?'s golf is almost always something other than golf. Sometimes it's soccer or bowling, sometimes it's a first-person shooter or an interplanetary physics simulation, sometimes it's snowboarding or a driving game, and sometimes it's a cowboy spitting into a bucket while electric fans try to blow his loogie off course.
It's also lovely and funny, has a delightful soundtrack, is full of secrets and references, and is occasionally quite challenging. It's a journey through a strange and surprising world where everything is golf even when it isn't. And when you finish What the Golf? you don't so much feel as if you've won at golf as you have defeated Golf itself.
What the Golf? has one simple system you learn immediately: Pull back, aim, and release. This same control scheme is used in every level of the game, and for moving around the map between holes and levels—though when golf turns into bowling, cycling, archery, soccer, or any of the other things it routinely turns into, finishing the level is rarely as clear cut as simply pulling back and releasing. Sometimes there are explosive barrels. Sometimes kids kick your ball away. Sometimes the pole you're aiming for flees. There are, quite often, cats. Sometimes you're a cat! (Other times you're a crab, or a moon lander.)
It's a hilarious and surprising game. Every time something funny happened I recorded it, and now I probably have about forty-five damn minutes of footage that I'm not going to put in gif form (with the exception of the handful you see here) because the surprises are much better if you discover them yourself. Sometimes what you think you're going to be sending across the "golf" "course" isn't what actually moves when you release your mouse button. Sometimes there's a silly pun that fills the screen when you've finished a level. I laughed a lot while playing.
Each level also has different ranks. Hit the flag with the golf ball (or whatever it is you're flinging across the level at any given moment, which can be a ball, a club, a hat, a house, a bomb, a bicycle, a horse, yourself, or a dozen other things) and you can optionally try a more difficult challenge, usually to complete the level in a certain amount of moves or within a time limit.
There's also a final challenge for each hole that awards you a crown, which is often a twist on the level itself or a completely different activity, and it usually isn't more difficult than anything that's come before. Complete each level on all three ranks and you'll unlock a nice little trophy, like a chicken or a spaceship or, oddly enough, a trophy.
In addition to the ever changing not-quite-golf levels, there's a bunch of other video games delightfully incorporated into What the Golf?, including Portal, Guitar Hero, Metal Gear Solid (yes, there is stealth golfing), Flappy Bird, and plenty more. Golf is a game, but now all games are golf, too.
The only issue I had with What the Golf? is on certain frantic, reflex-based levels which are a bit more awkward to control with a mouse than I imagine they'd be on a touch-screen. Steering a speeding car down a narrow patch filled with explosives isn't the easiest thing to manage with a mouse, and as for a banjo I had to bounce over an Old West-style town (I can't explain it further than that), I still have no idea how I was meant to properly control it. I succeeded by accident on that level.
What the Golf? has been in development for a while—I feel like I've tried it at several indie game events over the past few years—but now that it's out I'm delighted to see its a fun, funny, extremely inventive puzzle game and a pleasure to play from the first hole-in-one to the final cat-in-seven.