October 4, 2022

Golf is a sport that has been around for over 700 years. Golf videogames have been around almost as long… well, not 700 years of course. However, golf games HAVE been around basically ever since videogames existed and the controls of golf games (Wii Sports excepted) haven’t really changed much over that time.

There have been dozens of golf games released over the years from the plainly titled and very basic ‘Golf‘ on the NES to the annual EA event of the Tiger Woods/PGA Tour series, pushing the limits of what a realistic golf game can look like. Particularly for a small indie developer, it is impossible to come up against the might of EA from a graphical perspective, so to make yourself stand out in the crowd these days you need to do things a bit differently.

That is where today’s Developer – Chuhai Labs – comes in. Were they able to hit a hole in one? Or do they need to take a mulligan and try again? Find out in our Cursed to Golf review.

Plot

Cursed to Golf is a game that lives and dies by its plot. You might be confused by that statement, but what I actually mean is the main character is on hole 18 about to win a tournament when his golf club is struck by lightning!

Our hero is then sent to Golf Purgatory where the only way to return to the real world is to…play more golf of course. The mysterious ‘Greenskeeper‘ controls an ever-changing course that must be completed to earn a pathway back to the world of the living.

Remember kids, when the storm’s out, don’t swing your club about.

This isn’t a deep plot, but the life and death stakes for our little golfer provide enough motivation to keep going when all else feels lost. Don’t worry, there are some characters who provide assistance on your quest – like the huge Scotsman. There are some other NPCs scattered through Golf Purgatory that were sent there before you who might help you on your journey – if you can convince them to do so.

Here in Golf Purgatory, we’re all part of the Club. Literally.

Gameplay

If you are coming into this game blind – it isn’t what you think. Cursed to Golf is not a pure golf/sport game. It is in fact a 2D roguelike puzzle game played with the mechanics of a golf game. Your standard golf swing mechanics are here – first pick your club (the choice here is easy as you are restricted to only Driver, Iron and Wedge), press the button once to start the power gauge moving up and down, press again to select your power and move to your angle selection, press the button again to hit your shot and with the ball in mid-air you have one last chance to interact by adding forward spin or back spin.

Got any sour cream? Because I’ve got some sick Wedges.

Still confused as to why this is a roguelike puzzle game? Well, this isn’t your standard 18 hole course. Yes, you will need to complete a full course worth of 18 holes in order to escape purgatory, but there are actually dozens and dozens of different holes in total that are shuffled and appear at random on any particular playthrough. The pathway between the holes themselves also has alternate pathways that may provide different bonuses along the way. There are distinct ‘biomes’ that you need to work through each with their own boss at the end.

Just tap it in. Just tap it in. Give it a little tappy. Tap Tap Taparoo

These aren’t your normal looking golf holes either. Rather than having a ‘par’ score you need to meet over a hole or the course you are instead provided with a number of strokes at the start of each individual hole – if you fail to finish the hole in that many strokes then you lose. This can be brutal at time particularly if you JUST miss! At least you can’t die again…

The stakes are as high as a golfer’s shorts.

The majority of the holes are much more ‘vertical’ than you might think. Every hole has multiple pathways or ‘solutions’ and some holes even have multiple pins that you can aim for to finish the level.

Which way are you going to go?

As you might expect, there are the typical golf hazards of sand and water traps… but those are boring. Cursed to Golf introduces things you would (hopefully) never seen on a real course – graveyards and living vines might subtract from your stroke total, but TNT blocks may be hiding shortcuts you can use to your advantage.

T N T. It’s DY-NO-MITE!

There are also gold and silver statues that you can break along the way that add four and two additional strokes respectively to your total. These are often essential to hit on your way through the mazelike holes if you wish to succeed.

Finally, the element that really pushes the puzzle aspect of the game is known as ‘Ace Cards‘. You can pick these up along your travels and use these to provide a variety of effects that range from minor (+1 stroke on your current hole) to major (U-turn your ball in mid air or turn it into an actual rocket to blast massive distances). A well laid plan at the beginning of each hole and smart use of your Ace Cards can take you a long way.

These Ace Cards are fore the best.

The roguelike aspect means that if you fail to finish a hole within the allowable number of strokes – you fail and are sent right back to the beginning of the game. Any money or cards you have saved up are lost (unless you save excess cards in your folder for use in the future) so don’t be afraid to use multiple cards on a single hole if needed to ensure you don’t fail.

Talk about stopping the ball on a dime.

The roguelike formula works well here as a full successful playthrough can be quick (2-3 hours at most), but you will fail (many times) before you are successful. There is a good amount of replayability here, though it will probably be the time that you encounter multiple holes you have beaten before that allows you to save enough Ace Cards early on to beat those later (and much harder) levels.

Presentation

Cursed to Golf has everything I like to see from an indie game. The pixel art is cute, animations can be absolutely hilarious and main character designs are just charming to behold.

I like big putts and I cannot lie.

Sound and music are more than serviceable as well. These weren’t a highlight of the game for me, but certainly nothing here to detract from the overall experience.

Conclusion

You are probably asking at this stage ‘To tee or not to tee?‘ – that is the question that likely brought you to this review after all.

Not all golf games are created eagle. They can be a bit hit or miss, particularly if they stick to the tried and overused formula we have seen for literally decades. Thankfully, Chuhai Labs have done something completely different here and made a short yet extremely enjoyable puzzle game. Yes, it can be frustrating at times if your button presses are just slightly off – but if that does happen you only have yourself to blame.

Why you don’t you just go HOME? That’s your HOME! Are you too good for your HOME? ANSWER ME!

Cursed to Golf is a short but tee-riffic puzzle game masquerading in the plaid kilt of a golf game. If you are asking fore a friend, you can tell them that this game is my cup of tee. Give this game a try and you’ll find it isn’t just a chip off the old block.

So, why should you play it?

  • Combining timing, skill and puzzle solving ticks all your boxes
  • You enjoy coming up with multiple solutions to the same complex puzzles
  • Clever spin on the golfing game genre

But, why shouldn’t you play it?

  • Puzzle games bore you and you need a little more action
  • Golf is your favourite sport and only a simulation will be acceptable for you

A review code on Nintendo Switch was provided for the purpose of this review. Enjoyed our Cursed to Golf review? Check out more of our indie game reviews here!

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