Golf With Your Friends
Developer: Blacklight Interactive
Publisher: Team17 Digital Ltd
Genre: Sports, Party, Crazy Golf
Platform: PC / Steam
Age Rating: PEGI 7
Release Date: 19/05/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
Seaside family holidays are never quite complete with a game of crazy golf. You know the sort of place; run down, knackered putters, broken mechanics, different price on the door to the one advertised. Always a blast though. Always unnecessarily competitive and always provoking unnecessary emotions. Well, Golf With Your Friends basically does that, but with no one in charge to watch what you’re doing.
Golf With Your Frenemies
Golf With Your Friends has a surprisingly long history. Starting in early access way back in 2016, Australian developer Blacklight Interactive got gradually more ambitious with features and scope. Fast-forward to May 2020, and you’re looking a full-fat party golf game backed by industry veterans Team17.
Sporting full controller support, GWYF reduces controls to their core. The left stick determines power, the right stick used to aim, and ‘A’ button is used to take the shot. That’s it. And, if you so desire, the game can be controlled entirely with a mouse.
The beauty of Golf with Your Friends lies in the ease of use, general accessibility and a level playing field for younger gamers. Indeed, playing a few rounds with the family was bliss but that stand-out moment came playing a few rounds one-on-one with my seven-year-old daughter.
Fairway to Play
I didn’t have to go easy. I lost. Is she just great at the game? Perhaps. Maybe I suck. I don’t know, but what I do know is it was really cool to be able to keep the game’s competitive spirit alive without having to think about putting the brakes on. The laughter was endless, the frustrated growling, contagious. Every second was a blast.
Dragging the skill ceiling down to the ground largely comes down to a choice; one to effectively remove the usual core mechanic of a golf video game: the timing. Where a standard game would use a meter, a moving line to match your backswing, and a window of opportunity for a clean shot, Golf With Your Friends decides to throw it all out of bounds and instead lets you decide every surrounding parameter. Hell, even the avatar golfers don’t turn up.
The challenge isn’t completely removed, even when you’ve got the knack of it. A few hours in and you’ll have a solid knowledge of how much power to use for most situations. Learning a course inside-out is a sure-fire way to get that once elusive Eagle every time, however, when the challenge inevitably runs dry, and you’ve had your fun, it’s time to crank up the crazy with the customisation options and the fully-featured level editor.
Having a Ball
With no random element to the physics in a standard game, even with the genre-staple timing mechanic missing, Golf With Your Friends can be as competitive as you desire. Turning the difficulty balance on its head just requires a touch of tinkering.
Nothing about the game is serious, but that didn’t stop the devs from going balls-to-the-wall bonkers. Almost everything is customisable. While you don’t choose the type of club for example (I mean this is crazy golf after all), and there’s no avatar customisation because, well, you’re the ball, you can adjust a plethora of options including toggling power-ups on/off, turning the gravity close to zero and making the ground bouncy. Hell, you can turn the ball into a puck and the hole into a goal. If you land on a preferred customised game (golf basketball using eggs anyone?), GWYF includes a handy function that allows you to save your own mode.
The level editor works intuitively for anyone used to working in a 3D-space, though lacks any tutorials for newcomers. With a generously sized space to work with, course can be designed to fit any taste without arbitrary limits, especially given the low demand on hardware. Owners of modest machines will need restraint at some point, but experimenting is simple enough with drop-in testing available at any point.
As much the elements appear to be handmade on inspection, the game proper still holds that DIY pre-bought assets feel to it, with low detail throughout and timid effects. Playing through, you can almost see the sliders from the editing process. It’s clean but raw, rudimentary and easily identified as weakest element of the game. The music, at best, is family-friendly background fair-weather noise to remove silence, the typically uninspiring quality of a party game soundtrack.
Team17 Stole my Par-Tee Pun and all I have is this Lousy Sub-header
Courses are grouped by themes, with my daughter’s personal favourite being the candy lane with its gingerbread structures and mounds of ice-cream, and although there’s a strong emphasis on visual variety, what ensues is utter chaos.
Many courses feel hastily snapped together, owing to the busy-for-the-sake-of-being-busy environments and outlandish placement of hazards which plague each 18-hole game. Now, while a focused single-player game would suffer immensely from this type of design, Golf with Your Friends often benefits heavily. Each blind or badly calculated shot you make ensures hilarity for your opponent, who will then likely go on learning nothing from their rival’s previous mishap. That good-natured mockery we all love as part of a decent local multiplayer experience is leveraged perfectly with the simplicity, pace and moment-to-moment zany gameplay that accompanies the wild courses.
So, even if a level can feel like the brainchild of a Super Mario Maker troll, the game’s titular key hook will usually overcome the shortcomings if that’s not enough you can enable the free cam and have a quick flyover before you begin.
Turning to online then, you might struggle to capture the same level of mischief and foul-play open to a local match but to make up for this, Golf With Your Friends supports up to 12 players simultaneously. To shorten wait times, the ‘hot seat’ style of taking turns is dropped in favour of a free-for-all, with spectator mode for those who finish early. Combine this with some more zany game modes, and you’ve got a perfect storm of party sports with endless replayability. Games are relatively easy to find or host, with testing done around two weeks after release, which is a good sign.
In conclusion then, if you want a round of golf with your friends, don’t bother. If you want a fun party game filled with customisable insanity that somewhat resembles golf, well this is a slam dunk. Screw the golf.