Golfing and video games go hand-in-hand. Ever since the inception of the home console, golf games have adorned our collections. The NES golfing classic (and beautifully titled) Golf was released in 1984 and enjoyed by millions. Since its release, the likes of Tiger Woods PGA games, Mario Golf games, and Everybody's Golf have risen to critical acclaim.
In the past few years, however, golf has been in a strange spot in the gaming world. Following the multiple scandals surrounding golfing legend Tiger Woods, EA dropped the Tiger Woods PGA series. This means high budget, more serious golf games were no longer on store shelves. Mario Golf: Super Rush, the most recent iteration of the well-renowned series, was astoundingly mediocre, being too much golf for Nintendo fans and too much Nintendo for golf fans. That leaves excellent games like 2019’s What The Golf? to pick up the slack, but What the Golf? released three years ago, with little in the way of ground-breaking golf games being seen since.
In steps in Chuhai Labs' new indie titled Cursed to Golf, slated for release on August 18th, 2022. I was fortunate enough to receive an early access code from the wonderful people at Thunderful Publishing. After spending a few hours with the game, I have to say that this very well may be the next big arcade golf title.
Cursed to Golf is a side-scrolling pixelated, rogue like golf game. While these themes immediately conflict on the surface, they come together to make an endearing and worthwhile experience.
The game starts with the player character (an adorable pixel sprite with purple hair and a red visor) as they’re about to win a golf championship. This serves as a light tutorial to get you used to the controls, as the narrator describes the player character as a “golfing god.” Just as the last swing is to be taken, cementing the player character as a true golfing legend, a storm rolls in. Lightning suddenly strikes the golf club mid-swing. This strikes the player character and tears open the ground they’re standing on. They tumble down to the abyss below, awoken by a large, jolly spirit with a long red beard and a kilt known as 'The Scotsman.' The Scotsman informs the player character that they’re dead and cursed to live in Golf Purgatory forever… unless they’re able to complete all 18 holes set up within the purgatory to achieve Ascension.
Therein lies your goal as the player: survive 18 holes in a row. In the likely event that you do not survive, you are sent back to the Eterni-tee — The Scotsman’s hilarious pun-based golf store — to start the process over again.
They give the player a par 5 to complete each hole, meaning that you have a limit of 5 swings before you fail the course and do not survive the hole. Five measly swings set up an incredibly hard task, as there are several obstacles and traps to stop the player from achieving their goal.
You have the standard golfing fair; sand bunkers, water hazards, and rough terrain mucking up your chances of scoring under 5 par. There are also a plethora of paranormal (and downright ridiculous) obstacles to contend against. TNT blocks, gravity defying fans, skeletons from beyond the grave, and something as banal as physics, all prevent you from surviving the courses and achieving Ascension. On top of this, some courses have an added layer of difficulty in the way of ‘curses.’ Curses add an extra mechanic that you have to contend with for a few strokes, the severity and longevity of which depending on the curse. My favorite is the upside down curse, where the entire course flips on its head and you have to compensate for the difference in physics, making it exceedingly difficult to not miss a shot. After all, did you think it was going to be easy golfing your way back into the land of the living?
Thankfully, there’s plenty of helping hands to get you through each course.
First, there are golden and silver statues littered throughout each level. If you’re able to hit these statues while you play, they’ll give you more chances on your par — silver statues give you two more strokes, gold gives you four. These can easily determine whether you succeed in each course.
Far more helpful are the Ace cards given to you throughout your playtime. These cards are really one of the most interesting aspects of Cursed to Golf, and their usefulness cannot be overstated. Ace cards are essentially temporary power-ups that can give you a little more control over your game. Some cards are as simple as adding a few more strokes to your par or allow you to have a practice shot with no penalty, which is utilitarian and obviously useful. Others can turn your ball into a rocket that you can control, can allow you to drop your ball directly to the ground in the middle of an arc, or stop your ball from bouncing. It’s impressive how much variety the inclusion of these cards adds, and how much they can come into play depending on what obstacle you’re facing.
These cards, along with the fact that you can control the ball’s spin as it lands and choose which direction it bounces in, create a much more dynamic experience than expected when initially playing Cursed to Golf. What looks like a simple, adorable, pixelated golf game is actually much more complex than initially meets the eye. It’s tense knowing you’re down to your last stroke and one slight mistake or mishap in your timing means that the last 6 holes were for nothing, sending you unceremoniously back to Eterni-tee.
The excellent presentation Cursed helps tremendously. The pixel art is beautifully rendered, with smooth animation and memorable character designs. Courses change every time you fail, meaning you never get the same experience twice and you never feel comfortable in each course. Multiple biomes diversify the game features and courses, with each of them culminating in a head-to-head competition with a boss. To top it off is the catchy soundtrack in the background. The music is some of the greatest tunes put out for an indie game in years. The Eterni-tee theme is one of the best gaming earworms I’ve ever heard and has lived in my head for days.
Overall, Cursed to Golf is shaping up as one of the most addicting golf games to release in quite a while. The art style, music, interesting and addicting gameplay mechanics, and overall whacky premise remind me why indie gaming is so great. While it may not be the most detailed and mechanically deep golfing game around, whether you’re a fan of golf, I promise you’ll have a great time playing Cursed to Golf.
It’s releasing for the Nintendo Switch, and despite being graciously given a Steam review code, I’m going to purchase it again for the Switch. This game is perfect for the handheld hybrid. It’s an excellent little indie gem, and I can’t wait to play more of it!
Cursed to Golf is releasing August 18th, 2022 on the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Xbox Series X/S, and the PlayStation 5.
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