Golf is defined as a sport in which a small ball is whacked into a hole in the ground by using a club. So in that sense, Golf Zero is a golf game, but nothing like The Golf Club or PGA Tour 2K21; it’s not even very similar to the zany Golf With Your Friends, aside from being as far away from the simulation aspect as possible. In fact, Golf Zero on Xbox One is more akin to a platformer first and foremost, but could it be considered as a STROKE of genius from developers Colin Lane Games AB? Or will you be better off PUTTING the idea of a purchase to the wayside?
The main concept of Golf Zero is a simple one: use an unnamed character, that looks something like a sponge with legs, to shoot the ball in the hole to succeed in each level. The hole itself isn’t necessarily easy to access though, so you’re going to need to manoeuvre the sponge (let’s call it Bob from now on) into a better position for swinging the club. As such, Bob will have to run and jump – even wall-jump – to traverse various 2D platforming layouts. It’s nothing we haven’t seen transpire before to be fair. Chances are however, that still won’t lead to an easy tap-in, and instead mastering the unorthodox shooting technique is essential as you smack your balls about in midair.
And that’s where the quirkiness comes into play. With only three balls in your arsenal for each attempt at completing a level, shots are often taken while in the middle of a jump or after launching from a bouncy pad. Simply pressing the shoot button will dramatically initiate a slow-down effect – think Max Payne and bullet time – enabling the opportunity to use a radial aiming system to unleash a ball towards its final destination. Given that this limited window is a few seconds long, there’s a bit of a rush which adds to the excitement.
It’s actually quite funny to watch poor Bob transition back to real-time as he falls to his death at the same time you’re celebrating putting the ball in. After all, that’s the crucial objective and enough to move on for the most part; unless you want a shiny gold medal for your efforts. Although there are 80 levels within the Normal mode, they’re short and sweet affairs, so adding in a couple of optional side-tasks ensures a layer of replayability. This includes popping balloons and only using a single ball, while much later on there’s even a red-coloured rival to contend with in a race to fill that hole first.
Naturally, the level layouts are straightforward to begin with and get more complex through progression. If every one simply consisted of a wall to scale or some grass-covered ledges to navigate, that’d get old real quick. Fortunately there are cleverly placed saw blades, spikes and swinging axes to avoid, as well as the looming fear of taking a dip in water. Slimy looking enemies can also prove to be a deadly pest – as well as a help, due to the ability to bounce off their heads. A personal highlight of the dangers present is when you are being chased by a giant boulder en route to the flag because it really takes the pace up a notch.
The swift nature, those added obstacles and trickier layouts make sure the boredom is kept at bay. That should bring fun for a couple of hours, maybe a tad more if the medals are of interest. Outside of the Normal game mode, the only other offering is Speed Run and it’s quite disappointing. There are literally five previously seen levels to tackle in total, with the idea to finish each promptly. The whole thing just feels pointlessly tacked on though and it’s not something worth bothering with.
Visually, the developers of Golf Zero have gone down the pixel art style, which is nice enough but doesn’t half make for bland environments. The two main environments, Grass Islands and Sunset Hills, are so samey throughout the 40 levels belonging to each. A little more variety in the back-drops is what’s required to offset the blandness and possibly a few different audio tracks to lessen any potential irritation.
It’s hard to be too critical of Golf Zero on Xbox One however, because at just under a fiver, there’s a really fun platformer here with responsive controls and a neat fusion with golf that’s fresh. The gradual increase in difficulty provides a good challenge and the short levels mean that failing isn’t bothersome in the slightest. On the flipside, you’ll be finished in a couple of hours, the settings are rather plain, and Speed Run mode might as well not be there.
For a quick fix of enjoyment though, Golf Zero is par for the course and is pretty good value for money.