As a big fan of the Nintendo 64 original and Mario Power Tennis on the GameCube, it was great seeing the series getting itself back on track with the brilliantly fun Mario Tennis Aces in 2018. What it might have lacked in modes and options, it more than made up for with highly fun and intense tennis gameplay and a strong online component. Of course, where there’s tennis, golf is sure to follow so fast forward to 2021 and kindly step forward please Mario Golf: Super Rush.
Golfing games these days are a rarer find, especially outside the indie scene, so it’s great having everyone’s favourite moustached plumber back with club in hand to deliver another fun and exciting take on the sport even if a few areas manage to fade into the bunker.
Gone are the timed three-button swings of past Mario Golf titles, this now replaced with a simpler two-button method. Once you’ve set the power of your swing (measured using the swing meter to the right of the screen) you’ll then have control over your spin (forward or back using quick button presses) as well as the trajectory of your shot (using the control stick). While you may find yourself tempted to go full power with every swing, you’ll also face the risk of your shot going askew, another factor you’ll want to consider especially on some of the narrower and hazard filled holes. Also new to the series is how gradient can impact your shot (displayed with your swing meter going wonky). The larger the slope, the harsher the left or right bend might become.
What initially concerned me as a ‘dumbing down’ of the traditional control scheme, quickly faded as I began experimenting with sharp draws and super backspins whilst also contending with the varying surface lies of each shot. Motion controls are available too for all modes in the game and while it isn’t my preferred way to play (largely due to a lack of accuracy in my swing power), make for a fun and silly time when played with a group.
There are six 18-hole courses total in the game and although the first two kind of blend together with their similar green hilled surroundings the remaining four offer a decent mix of locales taking you from scorching deserts littered with Pokeys and quicksand to swampy forests prone to heavy rain and lightning storms.
Story mode once again makes a return this time seeing you take on the role of your Mii (groan) as you rise the ranks from rookie to pro whilst dealing with the likes of Wario, Waluigi and other troublesome figures along the way. Your adventure will take you to five connected locations each with its own hub area where you’re free to wander around and purchase gear, practice your shots, chat with the locals and of course participate in events. As you complete the latter, you’ll quickly level up offering you the chance to boost one of five different attributes – stamina, speed, power, spin and control.
Initially, things start off rather promising; the dialogue is cute, learning the ropes is fun and the first hub area you get to explore exciting, however much like the story in Mario Tennis Aces, the entire experience never feels like it exceeds merely okay. Events more often than not see you playing sections of courses – often repeatedly – while challenges and mini-games never stray much beyond introducing you to a new shot type. Even the boss battles (something Nintendo has been key to point out in trailers) are rather uninspired each one requiring very similar strategies to take out. That’s not to say the story mode is bad – it’s a totally fine enough time in fact – but that it feels like it never reaches its full potential. Going into the story I was expecting more variety and surprise, a chance to throw in some exciting challenges or twists but at the end of the five-ish hour run time I left feeling underwhelmed.
Solo Challenge rounds off the single-player options having you shoot for the lowest score on a course or the fastest time. It’s barebones stuff and feels like a major downgrade especially after the fantastic challenges found in Mario Golf: World Tour. There’s no sign of even a tournament mode where you can compete for different trophies. Again, another disappointing effort for the single-player.
The same can’t be said for Mario Golf: Super Rush’s other modes, each one proving an absolute delight, particularly when involving others. First up is Speed Golf, a mode that injects Mario Kart-style antics into the mix as players take control of their character between each shot dashing across the course interfering with others and managing their stamina. Accuracy and speed are the keys to victory here, a task made all the tougher thanks to the likes of Piranha Plants, Pokeys and other enemies getting in your way (along with the other players). The combination of golfing mechanics and what is essentially a foot race with full-contact rules is a brilliant mix and offers that ‘Mario’ feel I eagerly come to these games for.
Battle Golf is even more chaotic still, players racing to be the first to sink the ball in three holes across a smaller nine-hole arena filled with Thwomps, Chain Chomps, dash pads and Bob-ombs. When someone putts the ball in a hole, that hole then disappears leaving fewer left to score in. Players are free to shoot for any hole they like in any order they like so paying attention to where others are targeting first can be the difference between battling it out on a single hole and having one all to yourself. Games are short, snappy and perfect when you want to take a break from some of the other longer modes. I just wish there were more than two layouts.
Of course, you’re free to play a standard game of golf with special moves switched off too whilst players can also alter things like wind, tee location and number of holes. Multiplayer options include online (which we haven’t had a chance to test yet) as well as local play. Standard, Speed and Battle Golf can be played with two simultaneously in split-screen but require an additional Switch to extend that number to three or four while pass and play is offered for a more traditional taking turns experience. It’s a shame the game doesn’t offer four-player split-screen across all its mode especially since Speed Golf wound up being my favourite way to play.
As much fun as I had with Speed and Battle Golf (and some traditional golf too for that matter), it’s a real shame to see no modes from past Mario Golf titles make a return. The likes of Ring Shot, Coin Shoot and Club Slots were excellent fun back on both Toadstool Tour and World Tour forcing players to approach courses differently and their absence here particularly for long-term fans will be felt.
The character line-up is a decent mix of familiar and surprising faces that include the likes of Chargin’ Chuck and King Bob-omb. Each possesses their own stats as well as special shots that can impact other players nearby or even the course itself. Luigi’s Ice Flower Freeze was a favourite of mine the landing spot of the ball turned to slippery ice. With the promise of more characters post-launch, I can’t wait to see who shows up next.
Reflecting on my time with Mario Golf: Super Rush it’s hard not to draw comparisons with 2018’s Mario Tennis Aces. Just like that game, the story mode once again lacks punch leaving little (outside online) to keep lone players occupied. That being said, new modes Speed Golf and Battle Golf are fantastic additions and the mechanics at play continue the series trend of offering an accessible and highly satisfying golfing experience. Get some friends together and Mario Golf: Super Rush is a hole in one.
Version Tested: Nintendo Switch
Review copy provided by Nintendo