Game: “Cursed to Golf”
When it comes to the real-life sport – I hate golf. In fact, playing golf is my idea of hell. But offer me a golf videogame like Putt & Putter, Kirby’s Dream Course or Mario Golf and all that changes – I’m all-in. Where real golf is stiff and uninviting, videogame golf tends to be wacky and full of zany physics and rules changes that make it infinitely more appealing. And merging the idea of golfing-hell and crazy rules, the folks at Kyoto-based developer Chuhai Labs recently released Cursed to Golf, an intriguing blend of roguelike and golf sim, where you have to escape the afterlife using a nought but a putter.
At A Glance
|Positives||+ Ingenious mix of roguelike & sports gameplay|
+ Catchy soundtrack and SNES-inspired visuals
+ Fun characters and inspired boss levels
|Negatives||– Difficulty could be frustrating|
– Hazards can be trial and error
– No multiplayer
|Price (When Reviewed)||£16.99|
|Our Playtime||8 hours|
|Available On||PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC|
The premise behind Cursed to Golf is terribly fun. On the cusp of securing a major tournament win, our protagonist is struck by lightning and tumbles down into Golf Purgatory, where he is forced to play unsuccessful rounds of golf for all eternity. (See, I told you that golf was hell…) Upon reaching the afterlife he’s welcomed by the other spiritual inhabitants of purgatory, who tell him that the only way back to the overworld is to to drive, chip and putt his way through 18 holes which no-one has ever managed before. That’s all thanks to the dastardly Greenskeeper, who builds all of the hellish holes and moves them around between rounds to keep the players guessing.
Eager to welcome you to the Golf Purgatory is the Scotsman, a be-kilted apparition who runs the aptly named Eterni-Tee golf store, placed before the tee-off at Hole 1. Playing golf in purgatory is a little different than up above, and the Scotsman kindly shows ‘wee one’ (as he affectionately names you) the ropes, taking you through your clubs, the courses, rules and everything else. It’s a thorough tutorial but one that’s made fun through its delivery, and teaches you everything you need to know about the game.
The first, and most eyebrow-raising thing you’ll notice about the game is the perspective – where most golf games use an isometric or 3D view to show you the layout of the course, Cursed to Golf throws sand in the face of tradition and uses a two-dimensional side view instead. This perspective gives the game a more platform-centric look, and surviving the courses is as much about deftly navigating up and down ledges as it is whacking your ball the length of the fairway. The courses are littered with a myriad of hazards too, from the traditional water traps, rough ground and bunkers to spike walls, trampolines and even cursed grave sites that make reaching the end incredibly tricky.
Selecting your shot power is done in pretty traditional fashion for a golf game; a bar moves up and down and you have to push a button to stop the metre at the right point – once you’ve done this you then have to do the same for direction, as the angle sweeps rhythmically up and down. What makes it more tricky is that the view ahead is pretty limited, and while you can scope out the course and the upcoming hazards before taking your shot, for longer attempts you’re asked to work a little from memory. It’s difficult, for sure, but I have to say that I liked it – there’s an element of judgement that comes into play that’s similar to real golf, only without the argyle-tedium of it all.
Unlike standard golf though, where you have an infinite number of attempts to reach the hole, Cursed to Golf grants you a limited number of shots – fail to get there in time and you’ll be dragged through a portal to begin your journey from Eterni-Tee again, in true roguelike fashion.
Since it would be impossible to get to the end of some of the huge courses in just a few shots, you can thankfully add more shots to your allowance by smashing your ball through statues that litter the course. You also have Ace Cards to help you make it to the hole; one-use items that have a huge variety of effects, whether it’s allowing you a practice shot that doesn’t count against your total, letting you change the direction of the ball mid-flight, or detonating pesky TNT boxes to open up a shortcut. You can even save unwanted Ace Cards in a binder to use on a later run – it’s a really handy feature that encourages you to spend your gold and rewards your persistence after a failed round.
The obstacles in the game can be problematic in more ways than one though, as annoyingly, there’s nowhere that explains them to you or lets you test out their effects until you’re in the heat of battle. This can feel a little unfair, especially when you finally make it to a new area and have to navigate around a difficult course in the dark, unsure of the mechanics of the hazards ahead. Good examples of this are the pipes and teleporters strewn throughout the first area; you can see the entrances and exits well enough, but the game doesn’t tell you which ones link together, making it a total risk to whack your ball into them, as it could be spit out in a number of different places – not all of which are beneficial. In a game that’s already pretty punishing, making your player gamble on their effects, or use their valuable cards to test them out, feels unnecessarily mean, especially when getting it wrong can result in having to replay a bunch of levels, some of which can be 20+ shots long and pretty time-consuming.
Finish a hole with shots to spare and you’ll be rewarded with gold to spend on Ace Cards at Eterni-Tee, and you can hop in your buggy and move on to the next hole. You’re even given a choice of route to take; the easier ones reward you with some basic rewards in between holes, but the best loot is stashed on the harder routes, where where you might have to complete a couple of holes in a row before replenishing your Ace Cards, and even take on Cursed Holes from time to time. The Cursed Holes are fun but challenging, as they introduce a specific rule to the course every few shots, like extra bouncy balls, or that you can only hit your next shot to the left! They add another wrinkle of variety that adds to the fun, though I personally opted to stay away from them, as I found the standard holes difficult enough!
The race-to-the-hole-style boss levels are another wonderful example of the amalgamation between golf game and roguelike, and the longer I played, the more I couldn’t believe that no-one had done it before. Each boss has a different ability that gives them an edge over ‘wee one’ too, so you’ll have to choose your shots wisely and make sure not to screw up. To help even the odds, there are additional statues for you to aim for, and smashing these will freeze your opponent for a turn and allow you to try and pull ahead. The bosses are really tough, but if you succeed in besting them you’ll be granted with a restart beacon that keeps you from having to restart all the way back at the beginning if you lose, offering a meaningful reward for your efforts.
All of the action plays out amidst colourful pixel art backgrounds that are jam-packed with characterful sprites and fun environmental details. There’s a real SNES quality to the visuals and I mean that in the best possible sense; they’re wonderfully crafted and have bags of flair, but aren’t so uber-polished that they lose their style. The soundtrack too is incredibly catchy, and I find myself absently humming the Scotsman’s theme for a full day after each playthrough.
Cursed to Golf is incredibly fun, with easy controls and sturdy mechanics that feel incredibly reliable. I am… not very good at Cursed to Golf, to say the least, but that’s just testament to how enjoyable the gameplay is – even when I was sucking pretty hard, I was still having a good time and kept coming back for more, though the length of some courses did mean I wanted a break every few levels. Less patient players might struggle to get the most out of the game though, because Cursed to Golf is genuinely difficult. Like many roguelikes, things change from going swimmingly one minute to the game over screen the next, and it only takes a couple of poor decisions in a row to bring your round down like a house of cards.
After getting to grips with the mechanics and playing a couple of boss battles, I was pretty amazed that Chuhai Labs hasn’t included a multiplayer mode which would be incredibly fun in either couch play or online. Sure, it would undo the roguelike mechanics and turn it into a straight-ish golf sim, but with the shot counter mechanics, Ace Cards and all the wacky hazards, I could see Cursed to Golf being a huge hit with groups of friends. I’d love to see it added in a later update.
Merging a roguelike and a golf sim should not be nearly as fun as Cursed to Golf undoubtedly is. The retro-inspired visuals and bouncy soundtrack belie a truly stout challenge that takes a lot of practice to overcome. You’ll rue every poor shot choice and curse every mistimed button press, but battling through the trials of Golf Purgatory is an incredible gameplay experience that will have coming back for more time and time again. The only real thing missing is a multiplayer mode, but even without it, Chuhai Labs has undoubtedly hit a hole-in-one.
In the interest of full disclosure, VGamingNews was provided with a copy of the game in order to conduct this review.