Usually if a game has a series of glitches, questionable AI and unfinishable levels, it will receive all the criticism it deserves, but sometimes a game is so fun that stuff just doesn’t matter.
That’s Party Golf.
Party Golf is a game by Australian indie developers Giant Margarita, originally funded on Kickstarter. I played it at Pax Aus and was lucky enough to get a copy for this review.
To describe this game is a little tricky. It’s golf without the golf, worms without the weapons or the worms. Basically you and your friends try to be the first person to get your ball in the hole. It’s fast-paced, energetic and colourful.
After a slight learning curve (usually developing a bit of finesse) you find yourself quickly getting a hang of the intuitive controls. Unless you’re using a mouse. Don’t do that – use a controller. This game is absolutely designed to be enjoyed with two or more players, so it lends itself to controllers anyway.
There are a few issues with the gameplay, unfortunately. Firstly, the AI can be unbelievably stupid. Whether it’s flinging themselves into a corner 300 times or launching into space when they’re a small jump away from the hole, some of the computer’s actions are highly questionable. Of course, this is no problem if you are playing without the AI and just with your friends.
Then there are a couple of prominent level-related issues and glitches. First is the fact that occasionally, in 8-ball matches, you find yourself controlling two of them. Secondly, as the levels are procedurally generated, some of them are literally unfinishable. An obstacle that can’t be jumped over, or a hole in the corner of the map that cannot be passed. Sometimes a level just boils down to flinging yourself as close to the hole as possible when the clock runs down.
But this is an Indie game. These sort of things are expected. The testament to Party Golf is how these issues don’t really matter at all.
Single player is boring. Do not play this game by yourself, because it is not designed for that.
But playing with friends, it becomes one of the best, most chaotic party games you can play, for one simple reason; it’s fun. It is so much fun. Even if a level is broken it can be skipped, even if the AI is broken at times, it’s funny.
Each round is incredibly short, ranging from 10 seconds, to 1 minute usually. You get points based on where you placed, which tally on a leaderboard. The first to 500 points wins. This leads to a lot of shouting.
But the real value in this little party game, is its almost endless array of game modes. Sure, the vanilla mode is about being the fastest to the hole, but the sumo mode is about being the last giant, bouncy ball left on the map. There are dozens and dozens of game modes, forcing you to deal with darkness, water, or changing your size, shape and bounciness. There are powers allowing you to jetpack around, or stick to the ceiling. There are game modes that reward you for bouncing the highest, or scoring with the fewest shots. There is so much variety it is almost impossible to get bored. And that’s before you realize that you can customize to your heart’s content.
It’s the perfect game to break up a big FIFA session, or to whip out at a party and get more casual gamers involved. It will start a bit slow, with people getting used to the controls and maybe complaining when they don’t win, but then you start to branch out, play a few more levels, and all of a sudden it’s 2AM and your neighbor is banging on your door for you to shut up. It’s that sort of game.
I’m not saying you will get 50 hours of gameplay from Party Golf. I’m not saying it’s a technical marvel. But it is the perfect title for a change of pace, and it is very addictive and competitive. But most importantly it nails the most crucial aspect of being a game; it is so much fun.
And fun is all that really matters.