As someone who decidedly prefers mini golf to the real thing, I’ve always been drawn more to goofy or arcade-like golf video games than realistic simulations. And What The Golf? (Switch, PC, Apple Arcade) may just be the goofiest arcade-like golf game I’ve ever played. Which is also why it’s the most fun I’ve had on the links, virtual or otherwise, in years.
Like playing real golf with a cheater,
the objective of What The Golf? is not to get the ball in the hole, but to just get it to the flag. Except that the ball is not always a ball. Sometimes it’s a house, sometimes it’s a couch, and sometimes it’s what I think may be a dead body, albeit one where rigor mortis hasn’t set in yet because he’s still kind of floppy.
There are also times in What The Golf? when your ball bounces like it’s made of Flubber, times when it’s a bubble that you use to pick up a ball and then have to bounce past some spikes, and even one hole where…y’know, I’m not going to spoil it save to say that it makes me think the good people at Triband who made this game are cheeky and meta and not afraid to make fun of themselves.
They’re also, it seems, big gamers and fans of pop culture. Not only are there holes where the ball is Mario from Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros., but there’s another that pays homage to Angry Birds, and still others where the ball is Spider-Man.
There’s even holes in What The Golf? that mess with the holes. Er, the flags. Not only are there holes that move unexpectantly, but there’s a whole section of them set in space, where gravity is low, and the planets are really, really. small. Like Rick & Morty small.
All of which means that, like in a good puzzle game, half the fun of What The Golf? is figuring out what to do. Of course, this means you spend the other half actually doing it. Good thing, then, that regardless of how the hole works — whether it’s a 3D hole or one of the occasional 2D ones — this game has simple and intuitive controls. You never have to do computational math in your head just to figure out how to land a shot. Sure, physics are a factor, and you do have to decide how hard to hit the ball, and in what direction, but that’s really about it. There’s even times when you can hit the ball or the couch or the body that may or may not be dead whenever you want and as often as you want, even when it’s in mid-roll and falling off the side of the course.
the thing about What The Golf? that may not work for people is that there’s no one keeping score and no timer. Which, admittedly, does kill the challenge on many of the holes, save for just having to not fall off the edge. And yet, these holes still manage to be a fun in a relaxing kind of way. Y’know, kind of like walking around a large, grassy field.
However, for every un-challenging hole in What The Golf? there’s one that will force you to try, try again to get right. And not just in the way you have to when playing a game of real mini golf when the owner sinks some real money into his course.
For instance, there’s a bunch where the ball is actually a soccer ball, and you have to get it in the goal by getting past some big fans (the breezy kind, not the cheering kind) or some Peanut’s looking kids who are clearly more athletic than Charlie Brown.
Still other holes in What The Golf? mess around with the ball itself. On one, for instance, your ball is actually a vase, and not a sturdy one, either. Which is why, when it rolls into something (and it will), it breaks and you have to start over.
But whether the hole you’re playing has any challenge to it or not, the game is still just so goofy, so unrepentantly silly, and so clearly made by people who had a blast making it, that you actually won’t mind when it’s one that you just breeze past or one you have to play repeatedly until you finally figure a way to get past Charlie and his pals.
Of course, if you are someone who enjoys real golf, and realistic golf simulations, you’re not going to enjoy What The Golf? And that’s even if you play with a friend sitting next to on the couch while drinking a beer and wearing those ugly pants. Even serious mini golf heads, who only want a mini golf video game where the holes could actually be found in nature, er the real world, will not appreciate how weird and unrealistic this can get.
But for people who like it weird,
What The Golf? is engaging and enticing and even rather funny. Well, pun-ny, anyway. It’s decidedly more in the realm of Donut County than any Tiger Woods game or the game that’s replacing them, PGA Tour 2K21, and is all the better for it. Plus, you don’t have to wear those stupid pants. Which is why, if you need me, I’ll be out on the links…again.