With a name like Party Golf it’s clear you won’t be getting a serious golf game in the same vein as the PGA Tour series from EA Sports. Gamers who’ve experienced the joys of Super Stickman Golf on mobile devices will have a good idea of what to expect here. For everyone else, prepare for a frantic 2D mutiplayer game that’s (very) loosely based on the noble sport of golf.
The aim of the game is as you’d expect to hit a ball into a designated hole, highlighted by a flag. But that’s where the similarities to golf end. There aren’t technically any golf clubs, as you simply use the left analogue stick to control the direction and strength of your shot before a single-button press sends your ball flying towards it’s destination. And sometimes you’re not even playing with balls – you could find yourself trying to knock a cube instead, or even a piece of fruit. Even more importantly, your opponents are all simultaneously trying to do the same rather than taking turns as you’d find in real golf, which leads to some truly chaotic scenes.
Party Golf as you’d expect then is all about multiplayer, as four players all aim to be the fastest to sink their ball into the hole in each of the rapid-fire rounds. You can set other winning conditions such as shortest route to the hole, or the more standard criteria of least amount of shots. However that’s going against the intended spirit of the game which calls for fast and frenetic play, often knocking into your opponents deliberately or ultilising the occasional power-up. In terms of local multiplayer games it’s one of the best you’ll find on the current generation of consoles, but the single-player experience obviously suffers as playing against the AI opponents doesn’t provide the same satisfaction.
The other key point to mention is the endless amount of customisation available. Gravity, obstacles, game types, power-ups are among the many factors you can mess around with – or you can just select from the numerous pre-set modes. These are also additional game types to choose from such as Sumo (no hole to aim for, just attack the other players), playing in darkness or Rat-King (where you stick to your opponents and have to work together). With all these options available there’s a risk of slowing the game down, but fortunately developer Giant Margarita have ensured it’s always easy to quickly jump into a game and rounds only last a minute or two before smoothly progressing onto the next challenge.
With all this on-screen insanity the visuals are sensibly kept relatively plain so it’s easy to see what’s going on. And there’s something faintly soothing about the sharply defined landscapes and muted backgrounds, with some occasional flourishes such as with the fireworks that accompany the winning shot of each hole. The music is also fairly low-key but still reasonably low-key, while there’s a satisfying ‘thwack’ sound effect that emanates from your dual shock with each shot played.
There are a few negatives to consider however. The randomly generated levels do ensure you’ll never see the same landscape twice, but does mean you occasionally encounter a level that’s virtually impossible – or in some cases just no fun. Of course it is always possible to skip forward to a new level so it’s not a huge problem, but worth mentioning.
Another factor that will be important to a lot of players is that there’s no online multiplayer. That’s a huge drawback in today’s gaming market, and I can almost understand it as Party Golf is clearly focused on providing a great local multiplayer experience, where seeing your opponents reactions is all part of the enjoyment. Still, it would have been worth including it as an option. On the flipside however, if you have four controllers available this is a fantastic experience with either friends or family. You can even have up to eight simultaneous players with the ‘shared controller’ option, which I haven’t seen the days of Micro Machines V3 on the PS1. Spectators can also contribute by changing game conditions through the modern miracle of Twitch, although I haven’t had a chance to test it myself.
With at least three friends to play locally against Party Golf is one of the best multiplayer games going. Rounds are fast and gloriously fun with little practice required, making it perfect for people to watch or players to drop in or out. However the simple gameplay does mean there’s not a great deal of depth, and even with all the customisation it’s not well suited for long gaming sessions. But for an hour or two at a time it’s a fantastic experience, it’s just a shame that there’s no online multiplayer or incentives for single-players.
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