The world of golf is often seen as a rather staid, closed shop, frequented by retired folk who have nothing better to do with themselves than to get up at 6am on a morning and go for a traipse around a field, attempting to hit a ball with a stick as few times as possible.
Those who know the game in more detail though will understand that whilst that can indeed by par for the course, on the whole it is a highly skilled game which requires as much mental involvement as it does physical. And it’s a great way of getting out in the open, socializing with friends and gathering up bragging rights in the process.
One thing it can’t be called though is much of a party – at least not until you’ve sunk a few at the 19th. This is where the development team at Giant Margarita come in, attempting to prove that golf can be fun by delivering Party Golf to the local multiplayer gaming scene. And you know what, for fun, enjoyment and as a game to play with friends or alone, they’ve very nearly nailed all aspects.
Running as a 2D golf title that can cater for up to eight players – yes, eight via split-controller, and yes it’s as mad as it sounds – Party Golf runs with the tagline ‘Less golf, more party’. And it is certainly an experience that plays up to those values, with Giant Margarita having created a game that comes with a huge array of customisation options to ensure that no two matches are ever likely to be the same. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a game that comes with so many amendments to the settings – and the fact that every level is procedurally generated just plays into those hands.
At its core, Party Golf is a simple golf game in which you, some mates, or the AI are left to strike your golf ball into a hole in the fastest time possible, or at least in the least number of shots. With the left stick actioning your shot arc and a simple press of the A button seeing your ball ping across the screen, you really can’t get much simpler in terms of basic controls. As default, the player who gets their ball into the hole first wins the most points, with a scaling system running down across the placings depending on time taken to pot the shot, or whoever is closest to said hole come the end of a timer, before dropping you into another level and asking for the same commitment. Those hitting a point limit first (or leading as you make it through a selection of holes), win, taking the bragging rights with them until the next time.
On the face of it, that is Party Golf in a nutshell, but then it goes and throws a few little extras into the mix. Well, a lot of extras actually. And quite big ones at that.
See, Party Golf comes with a staggering range of levels and options, each of which come with slightly altered mechanics. Some will change your small golf ball into a super sized marble, others will ditch the sphere altogether for a banana or animal shape, whilst attempting to ping some spiky stars through a minefield of, well, mines, is always a tricky ask. Further still are amendments to gravity settings, balls that stick to walls, others that bounce a mile, turbo boosts, the chance to control your ball after the shot – with a Flappy Bird style option bringing brilliant fun – and many, many, more. You can also throw in further additions to each level too, with some utilising checkpoints (ordered or not), coins to collect for extra score, and a plentiful amount of other ideas. In fact, I’m just scratching the surface with these examples as running through every one of the 300 odd options – and then combining them together – would see us sat here for weeks on end.
Further to that and there are also trials to complete which push you in to all manner of scenarios, and the opportunity to run the full custom route to create your own games however you see fit – with a warning that you should have at least got to grips with the standard options first. Wish to change a specific setting? You can do it. Fancy dropping in a new set of rules? Simples. Party Golf lets you play till your heart’s content with trillions of combinations of rules, settings, gameplay mechanics and more all amendable. Oh, and just to make things even more fun, specific settings can be set on a player by player basis too.
This all combines to ensure that Party Golf on Xbox One is right up there with the very best party titles on the market, possibly even pushing the Overcooked! games for the crown of local multiplayer champion. But if truth be told, it does come up just short of that level, mainly due to a few little niggling issues.
See, thanks to the procedural element, there are times when the starting positions of each player vary, and multiple times I’ve landed on a new hole to find that there is little way of ever getting a win, with one player pushed out to a random area that is either extremely tricky to get out of, or damn right impossible. With the fact that any ball found flying out of play respawns back at the starting spot, elements of frustration creep into Party Golf every now and then, as other players get a seemingly simple route to victory.
And while this is a party focused game that is still brilliant fun to take in alone, at times the shocking level of AI intelligence really does come to the fore, with AI opponents consistently trying to execute the same failed shot over and over again. It has to be said that for the most part they seem to be able to get along just fine, but every once in a while a fog comes over them and the AI brain totally fails.
Visually Party Golf is pretty basic, and even though bright beautiful colours frequent the stages every time a ball is hit, there is a major deal going on with some levels. You see, a number of stages seem to be afflicted with a huge black bar covering the majority of the background, hindering play massively, and removing the chance for players to see the arc of their shot and therefore forgoing any ability to work tactically. A shot in the dark is very much the case here, and while it’s manageable yet still annoying if you are playing with local friends, with everyone stuck with the same issue, playing against the AI leaves you struggling to contend.
Should these slight issues be resolved by the team at Giant Margarita then Party Golf on Xbox One would really be able to draw level in the enjoyment stakes with the likes of the bigger, brasher Overcooked! for that local multiplayer crown. And if some form of online ability could be initiated too, then well, the world really would be the oyster for this brilliant party title.
At the end of the day though, Party Golf very nearly hits multiple holes-in-one, with just a few sloppy little hooks and slices holding it back from shooting winning scores. Whether you are looking for a new party game to play with mates, or wish to experience a golfing title that is unlike any other on Xbox One, then you’ll have many a fun hour with the trillions of customisable game options that Giant Margarita have allowed.
The world of golf may usually be a staid affair – but it’s far from that with Party Golf.