Switch version tested
Review code provided
Bravo Golf Zero
Ever wonder what would happen if you mixed the timeless classic fun of platforming with a dash of puzzling then blended it together with Golf? No? well to be fair neither did I, but my curiosity and fondness for all things golf-related won out. Luckily, Colin and Brad thought it was a good idea and then those cheeky devils at Ratalaika Games thought it was an even better idea and decided to publish it. The world of Golf has not seen a player with such reckless determination and daring to sink his balls by any means necessary since 2009! So if you wanna be like Tiger Woods, filling all the divots in the neighbourhood, sit back as we take a look at Golf Zero on Nintendo Switch.
Chances are most of you are familiar with Ratalaika Games, who have become infamous for publishing a wide selection of pick up and play titles to keep us entertained in short bursts at wallet-friendly prices and Golf Zero is one such. You must complete a serious of courses based around increasingly inventive and challenging levels that give off flavours of Angry Birds, Super Mario, Super Meat Boy (yes that was a thing) and even some Sonic the Hedgehog. The goal is simple, get your ball in the hole, you have three balls on each level that can be shot with a touch of finesse or fired in quick succession while hoping for the best which is frankly how I managed to complete most levels.
Hole in One
Things started off nice and steady with a basic tutorial, move left to right, jump with B, shoot with Y or A and if you fail, just press X to start again. When taking a shot you are given a three-second countdown timer which will slow down time, think Neo but on the golf course. To aim, you are given a handy arrow helping to plan your desired trajectory which you move with the left analogue stick. You can shoot three balls but you only need one to go in for the level to be beaten, the main caveat here is that the levels are never quite that straight forward, they are made up of an increasingly inventive labyrinth of layouts, obstacles and hazards to test your reflexes and reactions.
After the basic tutorial and a few “welcome” levels, things soon heat up as the game introduces the more hectic platforming concept of navigating tight ledges, spikes and water hazards which spell instant death. If that wasn’t enough you will soon be bouncing on spring pads and avoiding enemies while trying to activate switches and let off shots in midair. Golf Zero provides a genuine challenge that becomes frantic but remains fun throughout over eighty levels and I can admit my early experience started off with a few frowns wondering how long I would want to play something like this as it’s not usually my cup of tea but the challenge and quick-fire gameplay did win me over for the most part.
The Nineteenth Hole
Completing each level is a challenge in itself that will reward you with a shiny silver ranking but hardcore completionists will obviously want to go for top marks and earn a gold ranking. To do this you must pop a red balloon that features in every level, these are not always in the most convenient places so getting inventive with your platforming while managing your ball count to allow for a balloon pop, any switches that may need hitting while saving at least one shot for the all-important tin cup. During the later stages, this really becomes a science of frantic reactions and forward-thinking but like all games of a similar nature, even though you may fail over and over again, each attempt will bring you closer to victory and you will naturally perfect your method until that juicy taste of victory is yours.
Outside of the core experience, you can also challenge yourself to speed run mode to complete stages in the best time possible though there are no online leaderboards for levels, they remain as local scores only. The later stages offer an AI opponent to compete against with the requirement being to complete the level before they do. This add’s a nice bit of variety to the experience that will appeal to those with a really competitive nature.
Golf Zero ran very smooth throughout my playtime with it, the gameplay is frantic but the controls are responsive and simple to master. The 2D pixel art is colourful, clear and crisp making each level a joy to look at while playing in handheld, I never played this title docked but I can’t imagine it looking bad when blown up on the big screen. The one thing that grated on me a bit was the sound design, don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting a Hanz Zimmer special but the retro-themed jingle got irritating within about two minutes so the volume was turned down for the rest of my game time.
I have played my fair share of Ratalaika Games and I think it’s fair to say the quality varies somewhat, thankfully Golf Zero was a winner with it’s challenging gameplay and fun blend of retro vibes and inspirations. Though after a run-through of all the levels I personally have no desire to return to the game, some of you may feel different and strive to get the gold ranking on each level meaning the playtime will vary greatly between players. Golf Zero is a cheap, cheerful, well-conceived experience and one that will be ideal for short bursts of play.
Platform: PC, Xbox, Nintendo, PlayStation
Release Date: 11/09/2020
No. of Players: 1
Category: Arcade, Platformer, Sport
Developer: Colin Lane & Brad Erkkila
Publisher: Ratalaika Games
Download link: US eShop / UK eShop