In the – hopefully – very distant future, humanity has destroyed planet Earth, and we are forced to ship off to nearby Mars to colonise. This is the story that opens up Golf Club: Wasteland, a narrative adventure mixed with a 2D golf game. Some say that golf ruins a good walk, but how does it manage in a post-apocalyptic playground?
Earth is still open, but now only for the ultra-rich who treat it as their own unique getaway to play golf on. You play as someone visiting these ruins and “hitting the links” across 35 holes through a world that is both familiar and unusual. You may recognise various world landmarks throughout your journey, but the surrounding areas will be less familiar. This is now a world inhabited by new fauna, cows with fluorescent udders and other strange new beings.
The world is presented with a hue of pastel blue colours, with neon signs on buildings in the distance showing up as bright pink. You will golf through abandoned supermarkets, apartment blocks, offices and more; these locations are all instantly recognisable thanks to objects littered about that are associated with said locations. And if you spot a pipe somewhere, send the ball down it; these are usually very useful shortcuts.
Golf Club: Wasteland has a unique way of telling its story, by doing so in numerous different ways. Each level has a short sentence before you start detailing some info, there are diary entries to unlock along with an accompanying comic to read through after completing the game, and there is also Radio Nostalgia from Mars; the radio station that plays during your round of golf.
Radio Nostalgia from Mars is a mix of songs inspired by the mass migration to Mars and accounts from many of the people who now live there. They are reminiscent, hopeful, anxious; everything you would expect. These short vignettes are exceptionally well-written and narrated – so well that you really believe they could have been beamed down from Mars.
The featured songs can also be downloaded after you complete the story; a QR code can be found on the last page of the comic that allows you to download the soundtrack.
These different ways of telling the overall narrative for Golf Club: Wasteland make it a story that will stick with you long after you finish your round. It goes way beyond simply being a sport for the ultra-rich, but that is all the plot you should know before jumping into the game. The less you know to begin with, the more you will get out of Golf Club: Wasteland.
Unsurprisingly though, there are moments of real poignancy and more than a little bit of food for thought. There is also a bit of humour there too with plenty of pop culture references, and more than a hint of satire. The songs and the overarching story does explore some mature themes that are perhaps a bit too advanced for younger gamers.
If this story intrigues you but the prospect of golf doesn’t, then you will be pleased to hear that there are three different modes to play, that are basically three difficulty levels. Story mode isn’t concerned with how many shots it takes you to complete a hole, but Challenge mode will at least insist you complete a level below par before allowing you to continue. Iron mode is the ultimate challenge though, and you will need to be near perfect to complete this mode.
And there is a fair amount of difficulty to Golf Club: Wasteland, though this is in part to some fiddly controls. Despite only using the left thumbstick and the A button to power your shots, it is very frustrating. The left stick controls power and trajectory, but by default the sensitivity is a bit too low. To get the most enjoyment out of the game, it is best to spend a bit of time finding the sweet spot on the sensitivity slider.
In terms of actual difficulty, things start off easily enough as you get to grips with the wasteland, but quickly ratchet up in the middle section with some fiendish levels. The trickiest levels are those that just have platforms for you to land the ball on; miss it either side and you will have to retake your shot as your ball falls into a variety of unplayable zones.
But then a series of levels are set underground in a mine humorously dotted with Bitcoins, all as the game reverts to a much easier difficulty too. Rather than have a gradual difficulty curve, there are peaks and troughs in Golf Club: Wasteland.
Fans of golf games are unlikely to be blown away by the golf side of Golf Club: Wasteland on Xbox but they should enjoy the story on offer. Likewise, narrative fans will hugely enjoy the tale that unfolds, but won’t necessarily find anything to tempt them to try other golf games. How the story unfolds and how it is told requires you to piece it together, but the mature themes and ideas will make a lasting impression on anyone that completes it.
Join the ultra-rich on a trip to Mars in Golf Club: Wasteland for Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S