If you like golf, this game probably isn’t for you. But if you like wackiness, you just might be up for the zaniest game I’ve played in a long time. What the Golf? is a physics-based game where you use golf mechanics to propel various objects -living or not- towards golf flags.
About me and my play style: I have albinism. My visual acuity fluctuates between 20/100 and 20/500 depending on if I’m wearing contacts and how tired I am. I have color vision, but no depth perception. I also deal with eye strain if I have to focus too precisely for too long.
I am reviewing the Nintendo Switch version of the game, but it’s also available on Mac, PC, and iOS.
Visual Characteristics 6.5/10
(Contrast, Lighting, Tracking, Clutter)
What the Golf? is done in a cel-shading style that is nice and easy on the eyes. If you get fatigue from looking at bright colors, this will be a nice change of pace. It would have been nice to be able to adjust the level of contrast because I definitely would have liked more contrast with the colors being as toned down as they are. The lighting is more than adequate. I never had any issue with objects becoming too muddled.
Tracking items visually on screen can be a challenge, especially in busier levels because the game can be extremely cluttered. The clutter is a large issue. If your golf ball (or other object in place of a ball) falls off the stage, it appears at the beginning of the stage almost immediately, but you will still likely struggle to find your ball when you’re in the middle of stages. I’d have liked to see an option to highlight the ball or change its color. That would have solved most of the problems I had.
To play the game, you point the left stick in the direction you want to putt, and that brings up a white arrow outline. Then, you hold down the A button to charge the shot. The color of the arrow can be a problem when the object behind it is white. You only have one attempt at charging the shot the correct amount, which I will address more later, but I would have liked to see options to cancel a shot.
Accessibility Features 4/10
The accessibility features within the menu are relatively sparse, as a single menu that allows you to control music and special effects volumes are the only offerings. Options to highlight the ball and the hole/flag, as well as options to make the directional indicator a brighter color or make it automatically contrast with the background would be excellent additions. In single-player mode, the screen could be zoomed in more for my tastes. Much of the screen is blank space because some of the levels are in portrait orientation, even though we all have landscape screens, while the two-player levels tend to be more horizontal.
I’d have also liked to see options to customize the haptic feedback in What the Golf? I like a lot of haptic feedback, and I wanted more. I think the amount they gave is good for an average player, but if you aren’t a fan of your controller vibrating every other second, this game may be problematic.
One great feature is that you can replay the tutorial at any time. It’s available in the menu as “Show to a Friend.”
Assist Modes 2/10
There aren’t any assist functions, but I’ll be nice and call the shot indicator an assist function. The shot indicator starts out yellow, then as it fills more, it becomes orange and then red. This actually helps you find your ball, but of course, then you’re locked into a fully charged shot. It’s also very nice that if you mess up, your ball immediately respawns at the beginning. There’s no load screen to sit through every time you mess up.
Some things I would have liked in an assist mode would be options to put up bumpers to keep the ball from falling off the stage, indicators to tell me which direction the flag was in, auto aiming, and auto charging for shots. It also would be nice to have an optional indicator that would show exactly how far the ball would go and its trajectory. The trajectory lines are included in some levels, so I don’t think it would be terribly hard to make it an option in all levels.
Non Visual Cues 7/10
What the Golf? has cute sound effects that are beneficial for helping you figure out what is happening on the screen, but they don’t help you before you make your shot. There is also haptic feedback that is helpful in interpreting what is onscreen, but again, it doesn’t help until after your shot is made.
Decent Fonts 8/10
The font is excellent. Most of the menu and in-game fonts are high-contrast yellow with a great navy shadow around the letters. However, the text that pops up in the overworld is relatively small. Options to make this increase would be nice.
Necessity of Text 9/10
(The higher the rating, the less necessary the text is)
If What the Golf? excels in anything, it’s that it requires very little reading, aside from navigating the menu. The rest of the game is playable without reading. The text in the overworld isn’t necessary, at least it must not be because I still haven’t figured out what it says. The game makes excellent use of symbols to make navigation easier. It might have been nice to see the menu text also have symbols to make it that much clearer.
Handheld Play 10/10
What the Golf? Does something that is really amazing for its handheld play mode: The text boxes scale in size. When playing in docked mode, the text boxes in the overworld are small. Conversely, when in handheld mode, they become larger to account for the smaller screen. I’m giving this category a 10/10 because THAT’S SUCH A GOOD IDEA.
I wish I could keep that same larger text size in docked mode… but I digress.
Given the clutter and lack of zoom features, handheld mode can be a pain for the rest of the game, but that’s just a fact of life with handheld mode.
Level of Precision Required 8/10
I would have liked to see some options to make the precision a little easier, but overall, it’s still a very forgiving game. You can have infinite attempts in single-player mode. And given that you’re usually playing with an object larger than a ball, it’s already more forgiving. Multiplayer is focused more on the zaniness of the game and less on the precision, so it’s not too detrimental to be at a disadvantage. You can still definitely have fun.
Controls and Depth Perception 8/10
The controls in What the Golf? are very easy to master, though they do require the simultaneous use of the stick and button. It would have been nice to have an option to give the inputs consecutively instead of simultaneously. Playing with my non-gamer girlfriend, I realized that it wasn’t as intuitive as I thought to give the inputs simultaneously. The depth perception is made much easier by the fixed perspective view. Some levels are seen more or less top-down. Others are more like a side-scroller. In either case, you’re able to navigate a 3D environment with 2D mechanics.
Part of the charm of What the Golf? is the constant “Wait… is that a [insert random object here] that I’m playing golf with???”
It makes for a great game that is constantly fresh, but it’s not the best for accessibility because you never know what to expect. The balls don’t all behave the same. Some are sticky, some break, some are bouncy… I don’t want to give away all of the fun, but you get the idea. If you pick up the game, you should be aware that the mechanics will change on you in pretty much every level.
Recommendation for visual skills needed for enjoyment
I’m going to guess you’d need somewhere in the 20/200-20/400 range to play in handheld mode. In docked mode, you would probably be fine with 20/800, especially if you have a friend. Note that the multiplayer is done on the same screen, so you don’t need to worry about a tiny splitscreen.
Overall, I recommend this game for those who are looking for a good laugh. It’s especially good for people who struggle when colors are too bright because it is still colorful, but it’s not so hard on the eyes. I also recommend it to anyone who wants to see some great innovation in designing for handheld mode.
Review copy provided by developer
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