Why is golf on my brain right now? It seems like everywhere I turn my head, a golf game is on my screen… or is it? What the Golf? is an unbelievably funny game that will entertain from start to finish with its wacky storytelling and its bonkers gameplay. But that is not why you are here, is it? You want to know if What the Golf? on the Switch is worth your time, energy, and money, right? Well, I have good news! Because I have played the game to completion (and then some!), and I have lots of thoughts on it. Here we go!
Understanding the essence of What the Golf? is not easy. It is a colorful and hysterical setting with wild characters, and it takes place on a deep-space “laboratory” that feels like it borrows a lot from games like Portal (Even paying homage to that particular game). Like Portal, the game’s environment feels like it is masking a darker reality by keeping you, a sentient golf ball, busy by performing tests that are mini-golf related by sight alone.
As you progress, you combat with friendly-looking computer screens that serve as bosses throughout the game. Like the test chambers, these mini-bosses will test your mini-golf “skills” and even throw you some curveballs (Or some dog-leg lefts).
The game’s world is genuinely senseless, but that is completely fine! Since What the Golf? does not take itself seriously, it allows you, the player, to simply enjoy the ride without needing to understand anything. But if you are interested, there is some juicy commentary here for your interpretation, but try not to think about it too much.
The game starts off quite simple. You are tasked with getting a golf ball into the hole, and that is it. Well, that was it, because after the very first hole, the formula just evolves and every rule is thrown out of the window.
This is the genius of the What the Golf? It never takes itself too seriously, and that charm allows the player to have fun and laugh while they try to shoot beer bottles at flags, avoid youth soccer (football) players en route to the goal, or guide a rocket-propelled drum barrel through a maze of cones and trees. This is the genius of the game. Its zaniness and unpredictability will keep you, the player, on your toes as you wonder what the next gimmick will be.
Luckily, What the Golf? is much more than a joke: it is a highly addictive, polished, and engaging game. The tutorial does an amazing job of setting the tone of the game and giving you one major takeaway; you cannot bet on anything except a solid sense of humor, as this is the key to the entire experience.
The game is split up into 10 areas, each with their own amount of stages and hidden areas. Each stage also contains anywhere between 1-3 courses on average, as some challenges take a bit longer than others to accomplish.
I absolutely love the pace of the game. Although it is a comedy at its core, it also has a solid action-puzzle game inside of itself, and it makes for a terrific experience from start to finish. I love the different themes for each area, as they really mixed up the gameplay with new mechanics and ideas. Some areas pay great homage to other stand-out games like Superhot, Katamari, and the aforementioned Portal, and the references made in each area will bring smiles to many gamers out there.
The controls are very simple and they are established immediately; aim, hold A to charge, and release A to fire. Although these controls are a constant, they will not always feel right, because the game does an incredible job of tricking you.
As you make your way through each stage, clearing bizarre level after bizarre level, you are met with a boss of sorts. The stage boss battles clearly took some notes from Undertale, as you are trying to attack (friend?) the heart of the robot so you can move on to the next area. These boss battles are a great change of pace and continue the trend of humor that once again is established from the very beginning. The final boss is truly hysterical and a summation of everything you are forced to learn through this wild adventure, and it is the perfect climax to the insanity that you have to face.
There is real concern that What the Golf? will eventually cease being funny or entertaining or that it will become stale after the umpteenth joke, but it constantly one-ups itself and is never, ever boring.
And just when you think you have figured the game out, it throws some more golf balls at you with extra challenges and a crowned flag mechanic. After you clear a stage, you can return to it at any time to attempt these, and they are a riot. These challenges are basically the same stage with different expectations that go above and beyond What the Golf?‘s normal absurdity.
These crowned flag challenges are necessary if you desire to 100% the game, and they are also required for opening certain doors that give you access to collectables. For the completionist out there, this game does a fantastic job of tracking your progress and helping you to accomplish your goals. There are lots of challenges to complete and lots of collectibles to obtain!
One gripe I have with the game, though, is navigating its hub. Since you play as a sentient golf ball of sorts, you use the same aiming and shooting mechanic in this area as well, and it can be quite awkward at times. I do not necessarily hate it, but it does not feel very good and I would have loved a simpler means of selecting stages, especially for replays and crowned flag challenges.
Once you clear the game, there is still plenty to do outside of the main campaign. You have things like the Daily Challenge and the Impossible Challenge to give you something to compete with others online for leaderboard dominance. There is also a cute “Show To A Friend” option on the main menu that allows you to introduce the game to others without spoiling too much.
Finally, there is Party Mode, which is an absolute blast! It basically pins two players against each other in a random assortment of What the Golf? levels. This mode has the same kind of tension and competitiveness of a Wario Ware title where levels only last a few seconds but they are intense for the entirety. The hilarity ensues as you and a friend compete for dominance. This is the perfect kind of multiplayer for this game, because it maintains the same tone of the campaign but brings a competition that is mostly absent. It is chaotic fun and a definite reason to come back to the game after clearing the campaign mode.
The audio in the game is equal parts hilarious and brilliant. I love the almost comical level of sound and silence that is used to insinuate that this is a “golf” game. The soundtrack is pure bliss and is a joy to listen to, and it brightened my every moment while playing the game.
Sound effects are also great, as the sounds of the golf ball being whacked are authentic, but so are the sounds of cars honking, soccer balls being kicked, and portals warping you from one area to another. Triband did a wonderful job giving What the Golf? a sound that is uniquely its own, and it truly pays off.
VISUALS & PERFORMANCE
The visuals are very colorful and everything pops out really well. I especially love the character models and how silly they look. It is amazing how well the team made everything in this eclectic and wild world fit together in such a way that it all feels like it belongs.
I only experienced a couple areas where I clipped through stages or items, like one time the box I was hitting towards the goal merged with another box and I had to get two boxes to the goal instead of one. It is not the worst problem, especially since stages are quick and easy to restart, but they do happen on occasion.
What the Golf? is going to set you back $19.99USD, and that might seem a bit hefty, but as you can tell by what I had to say, this game is top-quality from start to finish. The main campaign will only take you about 3 hours to clear, but there are loads of extra challenges, secrets, and achievements to go after. To 100%, you are looking at around 8 hours or more. But when you take into consideration the Party Mode and Daily Challenges, there is an infinite amount of fun to be had.
This is not your conventional golf game, and that is a good thing. What we have here is a stellar comedic action-puzzle game, and it is absolutely worth your time and money!
Story - 9/10
Gameplay - 9/10
Audio - 9/10
Visuals & Performance - 9/10
Value - 9/10
What the Golf? is the perfect blend of comedy and video game. At just about every point in the game, I was both laughing and trying to accomplish a task, and that really says something. The challenges, the bosses, the themes, and the secrets are all a blast, and the team at Triband did a phenomenal job of meshing everything together to feel like one eclectic and cohesive unit. This is one of the most entertaining games I have played this year, and I cannot recommend it enough.
- Genuinely funny
- Unique and innovative puzzles
- Great sound and visuals
- Fantastic multiplayer
- Just about everything else
- Navigating the overworld
- Occasional clipping