Game: Golf Zero
Genre: Platformer, Sports, Arcade
System: Nintendo Switch (also on PS4, Xbox One and Mobile)
Developer|Publisher: Colin Lane & Brad Erkkila | Ratalaika Games
Age Rating: EU 3+ | US E
Price: UK £4.99 | EU € 4,99 | US $4.99
Release Date: September 11th, 2020
Review code provided with many thanks to Ratalaika Games
When I was younger and considerably more attractive I used to work on a golf course. My main job was to wake up ridiculously early in the morning and rake bunkers. Make sure they are all nice and smooth so that rich club members could later shout at me when their balls would inevitably fall into them. We all had to start somewhere but I kinda look back on the experience fondly. My boss was a nice guy and I got a lot of fresh air, exercise, as well as money to help pay for my education. So it might surprise you to hear I’m not a golfer at all despite my years working on a actual golf course. Even when moving into video games my main experience with the sport was via the golf game on Wii sports and the golf mini game on Super Monkey Ball both of which were brilliant.
For today’s review though we have something quite different. Golf Zero is a game that combines hardcore platforming with golf. Forget everything you know about golf because this ones interesting.
Good Ol Bill
Golf Zero has you play as yellow blob person who I’ll just name Bill. Bill is out for a round of golf which spans 80 holes. Certainly more than your standard 18 you might be used to. This is no typical boring golf course though. This is a 2D platformer where you can jump around a level in order to set yourself up to shoot a ball into the hole in a single hit. You don’t even need to stand still to hit the ball. On many occasions you will be leaping in the air, then hitting balls whilst praying it finds it’s way into the hole. You will need to avoid spikes, giant boulders as well as enemies which can be defeated by jumping on them. Touching any hazard just once will see poor Bill perish leaving only his little red hat behind.
It’s not all bad though, on each level you’re given three balls to attempt to sink a hole in one. If you shoot a ball and then Bill falls into a hazard, so long as the ball is in motion and reaches the hole you will complete the level. There were many occasions where I hit the ball towards the hole mid jump and have Bill fall to his death. Only to be on the edge of my seat watching the golf ball slowly and hopefully roll into the hole.
Jump, Golf, Die, Repeat
Expect to die over and over again with some levels leaning a little close to that overly frustrating mark than others. Sometimes when you’ve died multiple times on a buzz saw while shooting a golf ball mid air you just need to walk away and think about happier places or Otters. (Otters are always good, sadly not featured in this game.) Sometimes there’s a few seconds of delay before you restart a level particularly if Bill falls down a pit. Yet when he dies in spikes the load to restart is almost instant.
Getting the ball in the hole will simply net you as silver medal but if you pop a balloon and complete other mini objectives you gain a gold medal adding a little incentive to replay levels again.
Controls With Niggles
The controls seemed a little odd to begin with. The game sets you up with a basic tutorial, the usual platforming controls you would expect like jumping and sliding down walls. When you’re ready to hit a golf ball the game slows right down allowing you to angle a shot and then hit your balls. The power of your shot is already pre-determined. You simply need to angle, shoot and hope for the best. To begin with, this felt really slow and awkward. This slow down only lasts 3 seconds so you need to work relatively quickly. Moving the angle meter with the analogue nub just didn’t feel right. I was however able to look past this clunky feeling because the gameplay was incredibly fun, very much thanks to the added golf mechanic. Without it Golf Zero is another tough platformer.
Simple Pixel Graphics
The graphics are simple pixel sprites with mostly green and blue backgrounds. It’s friendly and welcoming for all audiences but doesn’t particularly push the boat out. Although in this game you do sometimes push a mine cart around so maybe that would be appropriate. Whilst you enjoy all this golf action there is a simple happy soundtrack in the background. But nothing particularly memorable.
A Hole in One
Golf Zero was a nice little surprise. Brutal hard platforming with an enjoyable golf twist that was great fun to enjoy in short gaming bursts. If you’re not a fan of platformers the golf is probably not enough to win you over.
A few niggles with the controls hold it back from true greatness but if the developers decide to make a follow-up I would be up for another round of golf with them.
Final Verdict: I like it a lot!
I named the protagonist Bill for my boss at the golf course I used to work at. He was a decent man who cared deeply for his employees. Work can be incredibly stressful in life and having a good boss who has your back is essential for commitment to the role and well being. Bill was one of the good ones and I’m grateful for the opportunity he gave me. He retired years ago and I have sadly lost touch with him. But I hope where ever he is, he is happy.