I love how golf of all things has become such an untapped potential for creative projects. Golf Story, Everybody’s Golf VR, WHAT THE GOLF? and Golf Peaks, all of these are strange takes on this sport thanks to their unique styles and mechanics. Golf Zero fits right in by being a golf game that mixes in platforming. Developed by Colin Lane and Brad Erkkila, this title was originally released on phone devices for free. However, I decided to go with the version on the Switch, since I would rather give the developers a couple of bucks in order to show my support than watch ads, and I have never been fond of using simulated buttons on a phone for gaming. With that said, let’s see if this is as fun as it sounds.
Super Golf Boy!
The game is broken up into 80 levels, each being a side-scrolling platforming stage where the goal is to get one ball into the hole. As the yellow creature, you have three balls at disposal and can at any time decide to shoot each of them in any angle. When you aim your shot, the game will go into slow motion for a couple of seconds in order to help your accuracy, which is nice since the platforming can be very fast-paced. Fail to get any of the balls in the hole or die from hazards, and the game will restart the level.
Golf Zero is quite creative with its setup, as the stages are basically obstacle courses that test your platforming skills, before you can take shots at the hole. The yellow creature can jump and wall jump, with every single stage testing your skills in precision jumping and how well you are at using the abilities you have. Admittedly, the difficulty is all over the place with some levels being easily beatable within seconds and some taking about half a minute by being much more demanding. The lack of progressively increase in challenge is a noticeable issue, but never enough to make this game unengaging. In fact, this title is overall engaging.
Every stage presents diverse ideas to take into consideration, such as rivals to race against, buttons to hit the balls with for opening doors, wagons to travel on, and more, giving you a lot of neat concepts for making the best shots. To be honest, this game is rather a platformer with elements of golf in it than a mix of those two genres, but there are plenty of smart nods to the sport. Some examples are having only three shots to go by, hitting birds with the balls or getting a hole in one. I also love that the balls still keep rolling after your death, so as long as you get one ball in the hole, you beat the stage.
This title incorporates precision platforming and harmful elements that will all result in an instant death, but never in an unfair manner. Every stage is short for easy retries, all of them focus on creative level designs, and have obstacles like birds or spikes being placed only to test your reaction time and skills. Nothing will provide an unfair death through RNG or cheap gimmicks. With 80 stages being diverse in designs and setups, Golf Zero is truly an exciting golfing experience that can easily give you the “just one more try” mentality. This is further enhanced by the game’s short length and a handy retry button at disposal. Even if the difficulty is all over the place, it is hard to not smile while going through all of the courses.
Gameplay Score: 8/10
Green and clean
This is surely the part that got the least amount of attention. The presentation is simple and reminiscent of a free DOS game, with nice use of pixels. All of the stages are green areas that contain spikes, blades, birds, and minor decorative objects like trees. However, while it is quite easy on the eyes, there is nothing creative about the sceneries. This is a golf game about a yellow indescribable creature, so why not have more levels than just springtime at day and night? Going a bit further with creative setups like snowy fields, deserts or carnivals, could have added to make this title more memorable.
Sadly, that is not the case and the game can be visually plain because of this. Although, the catchy music playing in every stage helps to make the shots exciting. Despite that there are only two tracks being played throughout, they work great thanks to to the melodies containing varied notes and structure, making them pleasant and never repetitive. There are not many sound effects to speak of, but hitting the golf ball and landing it inside the hole always present satisfying sounds.
Presentation Score: 4/10
Balloons go pop!
Every stage has a gold medal to achieve by doing specific elements, such as beating a level within a certain amount of time, hitting a balloon or getting a hole in one. All are nice additions to make the game more challenging, and easy to go for due to how short the stages are. The latter makes also speedrunning fun to try out, especially since each level comes with a timer. It can be truly addictive to see how fast you can beat a level or even the entire game.
Speaking of, there are also the speedrun levels. These consist of six stages that are made out of layouts from the main game in order to create longer courses. These are a strange form of extra content, but tackling extended levels and be even more inclined at doing them faster is still entertaining. However, even when we have rival matches, there is a strange lack of any multiplayer included. It really seems like there should have been a competitive aspect in this title, and while I do not mind the lack of a leaderboard, the lack of anything locally is strange.
Extra Score: 7.5/10
I would highly recommend Golf Zero if you are into creative and tough platformers, especially since there is a solid amount of content included here for good replay value. It is hard to say it cannot become visually dull, and could clearly use some more variety to make itself into a memorable experience in this regard. Still, this title is worth your time if you want an imaginative and light golf game on the go.