After spending multiple hours on a dark and gritty first-person shooter, there may be no better way to wind down than sinking a couple holes in WHAT THE GOLF?. Take your clubs, bowling ball, toaster, horse – you name it – and aim for the green in a game that aims to rethink the way that you view golf; and after another few hours spent with this little gem, you may find yourself also asking ‘WHAT THE GOLF?’.
As WHAT THE GOLF? originally released on PC and iOS back in 2019, porting the game to Nintendo Switch had to be done with traditional controllers in mind. For the most part, Triband managed to make this happen, however I found that the finer touches didn’t translate well. With traditional controls, the idea is to use the left analogue stick to point your aim in a 360° trajectory, press/hold down the A button to build up your power and release to propel it forward. This works for what is required, but the touchscreen controls allows the player to fine-tune their power by pulling back and forth, giving them more control over their swing. I primarily played with the controls as that’s just the way I am, but I certainly found myself forced a few times to switch to touchscreen, which was frustrating when I was playing in docked mode.
Each micro level can be finished within a matter of seconds, making WHAT THE GOLF? perfect for the Switch’s pickup and play style. When progressing through the minimum in order to progress, you are able to hit the ball (or object) as many times as you like, just as long as you don’t fall off or get hit by a specific hazard. However, you can replay these levels with two additional challenges (which can vary): there is Par (which adopts a more traditional golf play style where you are required to get the ball to the flag within a certain amount of hits), ‘Crown’ (which are all about having you complete a specific task) and other random challenges of the like. These additional challenges come as optional, providing more gameplay and replayability to the player without forcing it upon them and tediously and artificially lengthening out the game’s runtime. WHAT THE GOLF? Can be finished within three hours by completing the bare minimum, but the game is so wonderful and charming that you won’t want to stop at just that.
New to the game with the Nintendo Switch version comes a Party Mode. Unfortunately, the word “Party” is a bit of a stretch as it can only be played with two players. This does, however, work incredibly well with the idea of passing a Joy-Con to a friend and setting the Switch up in tabletop mode. With the game’s simplistic controls, WHAT THE GOLF? can easily be played with a single Joy-Con and the Party Mode, whilst not as elaborate as I would’ve liked, seems to not just be tacked on. The multiplayer modes take place in random courses, with the idea of needing to reach the flag before your opponent. With each victory, you get a point to your name and when you reach the end of the party board, you’ll compete in a colosseum where each point is a life. It seems to have had a lot of thought put into it, but I couldn’t help but yearn for a more established Party Mode, with the option to play with up to four players and an interactive game board, such as you’d expect from a Mario Party title… sequel idea, Triband – just saying.
The attention to detail with the game’s HD Rumble effects are impeccable, making the game feel so much more responsive when playing with the Joy-Cons or a Pro Controller. There aren’t many games that use the HD Rumble effect to make a sound come from the controller, yet WHAT THE GOLF? does this with both subtlety and poise. I haven’t been this impressed with an indie game utilising HD Rumble since Golf Story… maybe it’s a golf thing.
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Speaking of Switch features, a lot of the implemented gyroscopic controls came across as somewhat redundant, simply allowing the player to adjust the view ever so slightly. However, there was one series of levels that I was particularly impressed with, which were the levels played from a first-person’s perspective from the eyes of the golf ball itself. Whilst it may provide a little bit of motion sickness for those prone to that, the levels adopted the game’s zany and unpredictable nature, giving the player delightful surprises with each course. This feature can be switched off to simply use the right analogue stick, but I would loved the option to have both going at one, using the right stick to make big camera shifts and the gyro controls to refine your shot, just like in many first-person shooters on Nintendo Switch.
World / Level Design
Each micro level is designed to be just that: micro. Some are very straightforward, often just needing to hit an object towards the flag and yet others are a lot more elaborate. The level design in WHAT THE GOLF? is arguably the greatest aspect of this game, with each one surprising you in so many weird and wonderful ways. The levels will continue to surprise you when you come across some fantastic video game references, with some themed around Nintendo classics, such as Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros, as well as critically-acclaimed indie games like SUPERHOT.
For those who like a good overworld, WHAT THE GOLF? has one to be excited about. From my brief experience with the iOS version, most of the overworld was in portrait mode, but this translates well to a 16:9 aspect ratio. Your accomplishments in each segment goes towards unlocking the next area and 100%ing them goes towards neat little ornament trophies that are… neat?
When I was approximately two hours into WHAT THE GOLF?, I found myself saying, “I wish this had a plot”. There are remnants of some form of narrative with the evil computer face standing between you and the next areas but aside from that and some oddly placed beats at the end, there isn’t much to sink your teeth into.
However with all this being said, WHAT THE GOLF? doesn’t particularly need narrative progression as its wacky personality often speaks volumes by itself. Whether it was the seemingly random situations each time I entered a level, the puns at the end of them, the references aplenty or the little one-liners along the way, WHAT THE GOLF? was endearing every step of the way.
Graphics / Art Direction
WHAT THE GOLF?‘s graphical style fits well with its zany, nonsensical motif. The game goes for a simply grey backdrop, allowing the player to focus more on its wacky points of focus. You’ll see everyday (and sometimes not-so everyday) objects being used in the wackiest of ways that will undoubtedly place a massive smile on your face. The simplistic approach either works or it doesn’t and in this example, it absolutely does.
Music / Sound Design
The soundtrack opts to not take centre stage, rather it adds to the eccentric personality that WHAT THE GOLF? continues to deliver. Most of the music consists of a handful of vocalists projecting quirky melodies in all sorts of strange harmonies.
Final Score: 90%
WHAT THE GOLF? is, without a doubt, one of the most clever video games I have ever played throughout my 26 years alive. Its zany, nonsensical wackiness and random humour is outstanding, having me laugh and smile each and every second. The only disappointment that I found was the controller limitations but at the end of the day, I will forever look back on WHAT THE GOLF? with nothing but a wide smile across my face.
Thank you for checking out our WHAT THE GOLF? switch review, thank you to Triband for the review code and thank you to our $5 and up Patreon Backers for their ongoing support:
- Andrew Caluzzi (Inca Studios / Camped Out!)
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