It’s not often that a game can be consistently funny. Sure, plenty of them have had some excellent jokes, humorous characters and settings designed to evoke a chuckle or two but for the most part, games just battle to be funny on purpose. I’m not going to pretend to understand why that is but I imagine it’s something to do with timing.
Having a player interact with the world and its characters can really mess with the pacing of a joke and, as we all know, an excellent joke is 90% timing. It’s the same issue when a game wants a player to take it seriously but then allows them to manipulate the camera during cut-scenes because, as we all know, when a character in Half-Life 2 is giving you an important exposition dump you should be doing your best to try and drop a pot on their head. I have to wonder if the developers of What the Golf? knew how they would struggle to pull off a game that’s funny on every single level and designed around the limitations of the medium because if that is the case, it truly is remarkable what they were able to achieve.
By keeping the gameplay as simple as possible and limiting the player’s interaction to a degree that feels substantial yet minimal, What the Golf? manages to be one of the funniest and most enjoyable games I’ve played in a very long time.
Let’s talk about this simplistic mechanics because on a basic level, What the Golf? is the most basic gold game possibly ever conceived. It was originally designed to be played on a phone so having all the wild mechanics you could find in bigger gold games just wouldn’t have stuck. What The Golf? feels more like a miniature golf game than anything else, not to the title’s downfall either. You’re limited to one mode of interaction: Aim your ball and hit it. Which is perfectly fine because mechanical depth isn’t the focus of What The Golf?, using the tried and tested rule-set of golf to present players with an impressively wide selection of scenarios and levels that play with the concept beyond what you’d ever expected. The real victory of the game is how utterly ridiculous it can be, excelling at acting as both a parody of golf itself while also providing some decent challenges along the way.
Not only does What the Golf? act as a serviceable joke about the seriousness of the game on which it’s based but also sets out to parody other game genres while still implementing the ruleset it establishes on the very first swing. I don’t want to spoil anything because it really is a joy to see the extent the developers go to either pay homage or poke fun at hyper-successful games of both the past and present.
That’s really the joy of this game, revelling in the unexpected. It’s better to go into What The Golf? knowing as little as you can about the various courses because I think that’s where a lot of the humour is derived. Many will start off looking dead normal, only to be warped and twisted to an absurd level when you swing the club. Constantly playing with your expectations, there was never a moment I was bored while playing What the Golf?. Which is surprising, given how much content is actually baked into the game. For a port of what was initially a game released as part of Apple Arcade, What the Golf? has enough content to go head to head with many big AAA releases and at least ends up delivering on a package that’s actually enjoyable from end-to-end rather than feeling padded out and prolonged.
Yet while a game designed to be as minimally mechanical and maximumly humorous as possible, it’s once again impressive to find that there’s actually a decent bit of challenge for those folks that just have to be hardcore, bro. While obviously removing some of the more casual fun of just knocking a ball around a silly course, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little absorbed in completing every secondary course. They’re completely optional to progress through the main game but I do recommend going for the challenge course. There’re some real gems in there that could be overlooked.
Honestly, it’s rare for a game to intentionally make me laugh. There are titles like Goat Simulator that very obviously set out to be humorous but that comedy comes from the absurdity from a game that’s all but fundamentally broken. It can be funny, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not a scripted humour that’s drawn from writers collaborating together to build a great scenario.
What The Golf? is one of those rare games were jokes were clearly written and constructed for the game, and it shows with how consistently funny the whole thing is. Absurd, dry and ever so occasionally wonderfully dumb, What The Golf? is a fantastic game that should be played by anyone who appreciates either a good laugh or just wants some light-hearted fun to distract them from the horrors of 2020.
Last Updated: June 5, 2020