Sunday, October 22, 2017

Review: Party Golf


We’re less than a year into the lifespan of the Switch and the local multiplayer options for it are already pretty diverse. Simply adding Party Golf to that pile and saying it has added diversity, however, wouldn’t tell the whole truth. Given the sheer volume of game modes that are baked in and the ways that you can choose to customize your gameplay experience further, Party Golf drops a sort of megaton bomb of ways you can enjoy local multiplayer with up to 7 of your friends (provided you have enough JoyCon to go around). The main question is whether the core mechanics and presentation will work for the people you’re looking to play with.

In terms of presentation there’s no getting around the fact that it is a relatively bare bones affair, though that’s not to say it doesn’t exude a very specific sense of visual style. The pastel colors and simple geometry it uses mix nicely with the dynamically-generated landscapes you’ll be playing in. The ground will slope irregularly, have bumps and ditches in it, and hills will even have outcroppings that will force you to back yourself up at times. I’d just consider it a small aesthetic price to pay for never being quite sure what layout you and your friends will be facing next.

The real name of the game here is diversity, and the game offers so many modes in theory if you took the time you should be able to find a few that everyone can agree is fun. While the standard mode works well with everyone just trying to get to the hole the quickest, using the analog stick to both aim and indicate force and then tapping their “A” button, it is the really crazy variants that help the game shine the brightest. For strategy, Use The Force isn’t a big change, only adding the ability to employ a force field to push your enemies away with limited uses, but strategically if you can deny your closest competitor the hole it can make things a bit more thrilling. For the skilled, you have Flap where you can essentially make your ball hop again mid-air, making for a competitive race to the hole. For the crazy, Ant Ball is pretty well just insanity, with everyone’s ball made super-small and the hole is surrounded by indestructible mines that you’ll need to slip through. One that I’ve seen mentioned often is called Rat King, and it presents quite a number of weird strategic and spoiler opportunities which I find fascinating. If you hit any of your opponents you will stick them, forcing cooperation from that point to get to the hole. If you’re looking to sink the leader people may be able to team up and completely ruin their chances with this… or of course it can just make for chaotic fun.


Going over issues even with the simplicity of the experience that isn’t to say there aren’t some rough patches. Periodic inexplicable slowdowns are just part of the experience and I can’t say that I saw any particular things that seemed to trigger it so I’m not quite sure what the issue is, I’d even hit slowdowns while in the menus at times. Even as basic as all of the assets and elements used in the game are load times sometimes feel a bit on the long side, which does break up the energy in the crowd rather than being able to quickly move from mode to mode and keep everyone fully engaged. One casualty of the levels being procedurally generated is that some variants and their rule sets cause entire levels to essentially be unplayable. There is still some strategy to be had in these cases, with people at least fighting to get closest to the hole, but in some cases everyone just has to sit there for a few minutes waiting for the end of round timer to start counting down. Finally, while I love the fact that if you’re moving slowly enough you’re able to hit your ball even while going down a hill the detection for this can be spotty, particularly when you’re playing in modes that have irregular ball shapes. Your shot indicator will turn on and off a bit randomly, taking the oddball shapes into account and modifying the criteria for when you can hit may have helped manage this better.

Ultimately this is a game that lives or dies on the willingness of the people who are playing to give in to the simplicity and embrace all of the crazy modes that it offers. If you’ve got a rowdy group of people who are on board there are some great laughs to be had with Party Golf, probably even for people who don’t consider themselves very skilled at games since so many of the modes have a certain element of chaos inherent in them. If, on the other hand, your crew isn’t buying the base experience it won’t matter how many modes you bring to the table, it just isn’t going to happen. If you think you can play with the right people there’s a lot of diverse fun to be had in this package though!


Score: 8

Pros:
  • More modes and possibilities than you can shake a forest full of sticks at
  • Simple enough control that anyone could quickly learn and begin playing with
  • Relatively quick rounds allow you to keep the experience engaging and unpredictable

Cons:
  • Irregular slowdown can interfere with the fun at times
  • Random issues or inconsistencies can show their head every once in a while
  • For people who can’t get over the simplicity of the presentation and control the numerous modes won’t matter


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