Technically, Golf Story is about golf. Not so much golf itself, but the people that play, and the silly things you do while golfing.
Released this week by SideBar Games, Golf Story starts out simple enough. You’re a little kid, going to the local course with your dad. He teaches you the basics of putting, strokeplay, and then hypes up your final putt in front of a crowd.
The crowd being a flock of geese.
I’ve played the first several hours so far, and the tone is consistently offbeat, funny, and exactly what everyone would have wanted from a golf game in 2017.
The game gives you two options for playing: a quick play mode, which is basically a round on any of the game’s quirky 8 courses, and the story mode. The singleplayer is basically 2017’s version of Mario Golf, without Mario smashing golf balls into Yoshi’s face.
While you occasionally do regular rounds of golf, most of the time you’ll be wandering around courses solving problems. Some of include learning how to throw a frisbee, so you can chase a group of kids off the course intent on praising the sport that is “disc golf”. Or digging chunks out of the course with a sand wedge to find a treasured idol. Or hitting tracker balls at moles, only to discover that they’ve been recruited in a plot to recruit an undead army.
Guess how you beat the undead? By hitting golf balls at them, of course.
That’s pretty much the tone of the game throughout. Golf Story is basically a golf-lite game. The courses offer some challenge, in the sense that you’ll be hitting balls onto islands, around people, and into places that make you question how the course was built in the first place.
Golf-wise, it’s a fairly simple game mechanically. After choosing your preferred target, you press A to select your power, and A again for accuracy. The Y button toggles “precision mode” so you can fine-tune your targeting, while the X button gives you finer control of draw/fade/backspin/topspin.
Your player gets five XP points to invest every time you level up, which goes into one of five attributes: power, accuracy, spin, purity and ability. Purity affects how much draw or fade you have on your shot, so it’s not a stat you want to max out. Increasing your power, meanwhile, reduces all your other stats, so you have to balance your need for distance versus the ability to connect accurately.
The one kicker with the mechanics is that reading the green needs more guesswork than I’d like. You’re only given a small icon showing the green’s slope, rather than a contour grid or anything that would make putting difficult. But Golf Story is a game that has fun with golf, rather than being a game for people who find golf fun.
Golf Story is charming. It’s silly. It’s an RPG that uses golf as a mechanic as a vehicle for quips and jokes, rather than a golf game with RPG elements. It’s a game about trying to prove your worth to your coach and their students, rather than racking up scores on a scorecard. It’s modern Mario Golf, and everything I’d hoped it would be.