This week sees the release of not one, but two golfing games on the Switch and both delivering a very different take on the sport itself. While WHAT THE GOLF? feels more like the combination of puzzles, WarioWare-style humour and only a small sprinkling of actual golf, Golf With Your Friends is instead a straight-up miniature golf game albeit one that’s a little crazier than your local down the seaside. As much as I enjoyed WHAT THE GOLF? it definitely raised my hunger for a more traditional golfing experience. Could Golf With Your Friends fill that void?
Golf With Your Friends – as the name suggests – is a golf game you can play with your friends (or even online strangers if you so choose). It’s incredibly simple in premise and controls making this easy for anyone to jump in. Where this game has the edge over other miniature golf games out there on Switch right now is that it not only includes an online option for up to twelve players, it also has everyone taking their shots at the same time. So, no longer are you left checking your phone and patiently waiting for your next turn, watching every other player making the same shot over and over. It should come as little surprise, but thanks to this, the game has a good pace to it with little downtime and the added enjoyment of watching the balls of other players bounce around or firing off the course entirely in real-time. Overall, it feels a little more hectic and livelier.
So far, I’ve yet to find myself in an online game with a full twelve players (my maximum has been eight) but even in a lesser-sized group, I’ve had a fun time. I do wish finding a game was a little easier overall though, certain points in the day often yielding no rooms to join and even peak times forcing me to wait around for several minutes until a few others started to hop into in mine. Granted, it’s still early days (the game has only been out a few days at the time of writing this review) so the player base could and probably will grow. For now, though, be prepared to have to wait else risk hitting the greens on your own. The game is at its best of course, when playing with people you know although I’d highly recommend getting everyone on a voice or video call whilst you do. Putting your ball and then getting to watch as a friend struggles is ever so satisfying, even more so when you can trash talk them in the process.
If you yearn for the turn-based action of local multiplayer then Golf With Your Friends has you covered too. Just like online, up to twelve can get involved though of course the bigger the group, the longer the game will last with everyone now taking turns as opposed to all swinging simultaneously. Even with just two of us playing, we spent just under an hour getting through one course. Local play is still a pretty fun option albeit a far slower-paced way of experiencing the game. A split-screen option could have offered a nice alternative from online whilst at the same time keeping the simultaneous play.
Golf With Your Friends packs in eleven 18-hole courses (with what looks to be another space hinting at a twelfth based on Team17 brand The Escapists coming down the road). Compared with other mini-golf games it’s a rather healthy number especially considering each takes you to a very different environment with their own unique obstacles. While early courses like Forest and Oasis will seem pretty straightforward featuring lumps, bumps and the occasional half pipe, you’ll soon find yourself in later courses having to roll around candy pipes, skip along the skeleton of a long-deceased dinosaur and even avoid the swinging tentacles of a Kraken. The difficulty just like the locations you’ll travel is all over the place – one moment as simple as a quick two putts, the next hole leaving you at the mercy of the sometimes-unpredictable physics of the game and the next a labyrinthian route threatening your low score.
Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the eleven courses, you’ll then want to experiment with the game’s customisation options, these just as silly as the courses you’ll putt your way around and some even going to make completing holes near impossible. Whether it’s turning on collision or the Mario Kart-style items, altering the shape of the ball itself, the bounciness of the floor, the gravity or even changing the hole into a basketball hoop or a hockey goal, the combinations you’re able to create will ensure even levels you know back to front will play very differently. Take the Forest course, for example, one of the more manageable to get close to par but another beast altogether when you’re having to play as a cone or a cube rather than a normal ball.
As far as I can tell, Golf With Your Friends doesn’t keep track of your best performances, in fact, it doesn’t keep track of much at all. It’s a shame especially since golf is all about scores and being able to see what your best efforts are for each course or even hole would have added another competitive layer to the game. Sometimes golf is about besting yourself, not just others. Unlocking cosmetics like hats and trails for your golf ball is a decent reward allowing you to show off your best combos to others online.
Visually, Golf With Your Friends isn’t anything special. In fact, it’s far from special. While it’s bright colour palette and varied range of locales certainly give off an okay first impression, it can’t make up for the game’s generic visual style and lacking detail – going so far as to look downright ugly in some areas. Worse still is seeing background objects pop in and out of view thanks to a surprisingly short draw distance. The Oasis course, for example, has you eventually make your way through a giant temple, an event made far less impactful when you notice the back wall is too far away for the game to draw in. Easily the weakest area of Golf With Your Friends.
As much fun as I’ve had with the game, that time hasn’t been without its fair share of buggy moments. I’ve already discussed the visual anomalies that commonly crop up but this lack of polish goes beyond just how things look. I’ve had the power meter stop responding to any of my inputs essentially forcing me to retire the hole and take a 14-stroke penalty. The game has on numerous occasions respawned me back where I started despite the ball remaining in bounds. I’ve also spent too much time waiting and watching as my ball crawls to an eventual stop down the tiniest of inclines, a problem especially if you have a timer on.
Even viewing other players taking shots in an online match can see their ball stuttering along, moving irregularly or just doing weird things as opposed to the action being smooth and accurate. This may not sound like a big deal since the game runs fine online when taking your shots, but for a game so focused on being enjoyed with friends, I want to also be able to watch them clearly without the erratic and laggy ball behaviour. It’s a real dampener and a problem I hope is fixed in a future update.
Put simply, this game is rather rough around the edges leaving you with confused looks and varying levels of frustration. Despite this though, I had a great time playing, where even a funky bit of unexplainable physics would still at the very least produce a slight smile. Golf With Your Friends is a goofy game that excels when you’re not taking things super seriously so a few questionable moments here and there won’t extinguish that.
Golf With Your Friends is a simple, silly take on miniature golf that’s at its best when online with a group of players you know. It’s not pretty and it’s not always perfect but at the end of the day, I’ve had more fun with this game than most other golfers out on Switch right now. Not quite a hole in one but certainly a birdie effort.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Team17