I realize that it’s not yet October, so perhaps jumping on this particular game is a little less than timely. However, the title captured my attention, mostly because I could honestly believe that Hell would be a game of golf that never ended. Growing up, my father was a huge fan of the sport, and though he tried to get both myself and my brother to join him on the fairway, it really only stuck with one of us. I have to say, however, if real golf had been half as entertaining as golfing while fighting ghosts, I might have made his investment in golf lessons worthwhile.
In Cursed to Golf, your character is a competitive golfer who perishes in a freak accident just before he could sink that last hole (is that a golf term? I have no idea) and win the tournament. He falls through Golf Purgatory, and in order to return not only to the land of the living but also to the moment of his victory that death so cruelly snatched from his grasp, he must complete 18 holes on this monstrous, a term I mean literally, golf course. If you fail at any one of these holes, the Groundskeeper, the demonic presence overseeing this insanity, takes you back to start all the way at the first tee.
If you think the premise is absurd, then we’re definitely on the same page. However, Cursed to Golf takes that absurdity and leans into it hard enough that the game somehow comes out as being adorable rather than insane. The deliberately old-school graphics and cute designs only add to that experience. The dialogue is genuinely funny, for the most part, though it does trend toward the pun-laden.
However, that’s where the whimsy ends, and the most brutal game I’ve ever played begins. I vaguely recall that golf has “par,” which is the number of strokes a hole is expected to take. Your goal as a player is to sink the ball in the hole in fewer strokes than par. If you go over, you “bogey” the hole and incur a penalty. I’ll admit that the last time I held any form of golf club, it was a miniature course located inside an old hotel, so don’t take my word as gospel on that. In any case, in Cursed to Golf, you don’t get the chance to bogey anything because you get exactly five shots. If you don’t finish the hole in those five shots, you die. Again. And again. And again. Each time you die, the Groundskeeper changes the course, which is where Cursed to Golf’s roguelike elements come into play.
Real golf, no matter the scale, also involves navigating around hazards, but while hazards on a physical course extend to water elements, sand traps, and in one notable experience, an alligator, in Cursed to Golf, you’re dealing with zombies or explosions because why not. In Golfing Purgatory, there’s no rule about not harassing golfers taking their shots.
Let’s talk actual gameplay. You can select one of three clubs for taking your shot: a driver, a wedge, and an iron, depending on whether you’re dealing with distance, need to go around corners, or are just giving the ball a good whack. Once you’ve chosen, you have a swing meter that governs how hard you hit the ball, and yes, that matters. Cursed to Golf has completely solid physics, so the game requires you to gauge the necessary strength of your swing as well as the angle at which you need to hit the ball. The game also allows you to put spin on your ball, based on an arcing dotted line. Where you stop the ball in that arc then dictates how much and in what direction you put that spin on the ball. I never quite managed that in real life, and I have to confess, I didn’t on the Switch either.
The game also introduces ace cards that ostensibly help you. The most important of these grants you extra strokes to get through that hole, but another will allow you to split your ball into three. You then pick which of the three lies is the best for taking your next shot. Another ace card stops time and forces your ball to fall straight down, which is incredibly useful when you realize that you’ve mucked up your angles. That card represents the only redo option in the game because Cursed to Golf is utterly merciless in punishing poor play. Moreover, you might not even realize that your decision isn’t the right one at the time. You only find out later, once you’re stuck in a space with no good angles.
If you’re a glutton for a challenge and love roguelikes, none of these mechanics or lack thereof will bother you. However, for a more casual player, here’s where Cursed to Golf breaks down and shifts from being Purgatory to becoming Hell. You have to clear all 18 holes in a single play-through in order to finish the game, and when every single mistake takes you back to square one, the game quickly becomes an exercise in frustration. While I understand the reason the developers made this choice, it did not make for a great evening on the Switch for me.
Cursed to Golf is a title that makes the most of its ridiculous premise while splicing together elements from platformers, roguelikes, and golf games in order to Frankenstein its way onto your Switch. Despite adorable graphics and point perfect writing, the game quickly becomes an exercise in futility for any but the most dedicated roguelike fans. If you’re looking for an utterly unforgiving golf game and thrive on that kind of challenge, please go buy Cursed to Golf right now. Everyone else, you might want to think long and hard about what you want out of a golf title and how you want to play.
Still, this title is pretty cute. Cursed to Golf retails for $19.99 on the Nintendo Store.
Stray Thoughts From Behind the Keyboard
- There are bosses, theoretically. One of them is a Scotsman, which vaguely reminds me of a Ducktales episode.
- The shop is named the Eterni-Tee. Y’all, that’s adorable.
- The game apparently earned the moniker “The Dark Souls of Golf,” and nothing could be more accurate.