Being partial to golf games and having spent many an hour in the company of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and… err… Everybody, it wasn’t hard to consider checking out Cursed to Golf from Chuhai Labs. Offering up a different teeing off experience than most titles in the genre, this is a blend of shot perfect action and Roguelike, so you’ll never experience the same course twice. It also drops some 2D platformer, a touch of RPG and a sprinkle of card battler into its caddy to make sure you’re not really prepared for what’s in store. Layer on a story and a selectable path through the 18 holes on hand and you’d be thinking on the surface that it doesn’t seem like there’s much in the way of longevity; so can it go the distance?
Our hero is a champion golfer about to make history when he’s struck by lightning whilst sinking the final putt of a major trophy. This is a setback for any career, but he’s not going to let that stop him, so when he wakes up in Golf Purgatory he quickly finds out that with some training and practice he’ll be able to battle his way out. The thing is… there’s a Groundskeeper responsible for each of the holes, and not only do they like to make them challenging, they like to mess about with the layouts and impose strict shot counts. Even the denizens that have practiced for all time on them struggle to make it past their own particular patch of holes. It’s up to you to learn the skills necessary to navigate the labyrinthine layouts and master the special nature of the courses, and ultimately defeat the Groundskeeper to escape back to life. You’ll have guessed though that nothing is going to be simple in Cursed to Golf.
This is a golf game at its core, with a standard power/angle meter that determines how hard the ball is struck and which direction it goes in. There are 3 types of club to work with – driver, iron and wedge – and the aim is the same as it ever was with the sport: hit the ball in the hole. Where Cursed to Golf is different is in the shot count, which are effectively lives, and depleting them means round over and return to the start; and that the holes change with each round. The course is split into multiple themes, each with a boss to play and beat to progress, and you’ll find yourself continually on a cycle of shoot/lose/repeat until you get used to the types of obstacles and surfaces in each of the holes. Your biggest foe is running out of strokes, but fortunately there are multiple ways you can turn the tables and gain an advantage.
With a default 5 shots given to complete a hole, and many taking at least 3 times that, it’s imperative to snag any extra shots where you can. Littered around each level are idols that can be smashed and the count meter increased, so hunting them down is key. There are also alternate routes that may save shots, but require some expert aiming and skill to pull off, and getting the layout of the fairway and green delivers big time. Assisting our hero are Ace Cards that are bought or won that bring special single use bonuses such as changing the ball’s direction in flight, or exploding TNT crates to open a new path, and each of these can be played whenever you feel like it. It’s wise to use them sparingly though as there are points where Cursed to Golf feels like it’s laughing at you as it drags your soul back down to the beginning, and being able to pull victory from the jaws of defeat can stave off the impending doom. Extra abilities are granted by beating the bosses along the way to facing off in Hell, and at least once you’ve got past them there’s no need to beat them again.
It’s a neat premise with a lot of pieces to draw on to make an interesting game, and the Roguelike nature quickly comes to the fore after a couple of rounds. However, there are some real frustrations that prevent Cursed to Golf from walking that tightrope between challenging and punishing. For me it’s the zoom level you have to work to. As in any golf game, you can’t see where you’re going to land from the tee shot, but there’s usually a good indicator of an area and you can see hazards. Here, with the driver mainly, you’ll only be able to see about a third of the distance you’re going to hit the ball. Not ideal, especially in later levels where there are more dangers than flat bits of ground. The iron is marginally better, typically staying within the screen’s default zoom, but bouncing out of that means falling foul of whatever you can’t see. It’s easy enough to move the view around or fully zoom out, but neither of them really lend themselves to the flow of the game and you accurately placing your shots because you can’t aim or see gauges in that view. Couple this restriction with some very, very long levels and it can become a chore to play through rather than fun, even with all the Ace Card toys at your disposal.
In short, Cursed to Golf has some novel ideas and is unique, but you’ll have to be some kind of golf masochist to really go the full distance. The mechanics are sound, the levels and powers varied, and the spin usage quite good fun, it just strangely ends up sapping your motivation a bit too quickly. It’s a shame because there are some great little touches like the overall presentation, the characters you meet, using the buggy to power around the map, and the Eterni-tee shop used as the hub for cards and customisation across the full round. If you’re a fan of Roguelike’s that want precision and patience then you’re likely to find a game to love here, but if you’re more likely to snap your club and storm off the green at the slightest setback, I’d look somewhere else.
A PS5 review copy of Cursed to Golf was provided by Chuhai Labs PR team, and the game is out now on PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Switch for around £17 depending on platform.
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