There has been a long history of golf in gaming, even going back to the NES you'll find Mario swinging a 5 iron around. Since then as games and physics engines have been getting better and better golf in gaming has diverged. You'll see titles releasing like Everybody's Golf aiming to give players a deep experience, and then there are games like What The Golf? that laugh in the face of simulation.
What the Golf? takes one hole before it begins to change your mind on what a golf game can be. The first hole is hitting your ball into the flag at the end of the hole, on the second hole, it's instead your golfer that goes flying. Unlike a normal golf game that gives players sets of 9 or 18 holes each hole in What the Golf? is its own separate level with three stages within.
Taking the challenge to the next level in What the Golf?
The first stage of a level introduces the player to a new concept, the second level gives players the goal of meeting a par score, the final stage then introduces a further complication to the mechanic. An example of this early in the game is a super bouncy ball. A single hit of the ball will ricochet it off the environment and you can only hope it hits the flag. Stage Two gives you a par of 1 so you need to make sure you get it first try. This can be pretty difficult when the ball's trajectory can be all over the place. The final stage adds three blue balls that all respond to your single input. Now you've got to get the red ball to hit the flag before any of the blue balls do.
Some other examples of strange scenarios are a vase instead of a ball that you need to avoid obstacles. A level entitled "Moving Day" that has you golf a couch and lamp into a truck before you golf the house itself across the world. There is even a stage where instead of aiming for the flag it's your goal to knock over the three cats that are sitting on the course. Don't expect that the only strange thing in the level will be the ball either. Some levels alter the way the flag interacts with the player. One level has a flag that will move location by sliding, hopping, or going underground. You're never truly ready for what will be next until you see it which keeps the game fresh and fun.
This game will leave you saying WHAT THE GOLF?
This process of learning a mechanic, practicing it, and then adding a further complication is the definition of good game development. All of this happens fast and in bite-sized chunks leading the player without needing to tell them what to do. The second and third stage of a level isn't required for progression but allows for greater difficulty. If you do get all three stages you get a neat crown next to the level and can earn collectibles. Each level is one hole making it a great game to pick up and put down in short bursts. This is a benefit of it being available on iOS devices, but on a PC or TV, it might not do enough to draw in a player.
What the Golf? uses the click and sliding power bar style of golf control, instead of the three-click system a lot of games use. Each place you hold/tap on the screen will launch the ball in the opposite direction. How far away your tap is will also propel the ball further though there is a cap to this. If you're looking for more precision, required for any of the par courses, then when you hold time will slow down. There's no need to wait for the ball to stop before you can hit it again. Even if the ball is still sailing across the course you can precisely add momentum and reangle your shot. This system is nice and simple for touch screens and mouse pointers alike, anyone could pick up this game an immediately understand how to play.
Traverse the overworld in What the Golf?
Between levels, you're in an overworld traveling from hole to hole. There will be sections gated off that need you to clear holes to progress further. This is where you'll also find the locked doors that need you to earn the crown in each level. The overworld is simple enough to navigate and pleasing to the eyes.
What the Golf? is a fun game, easy to pick up and put down lending itself very nicely to a mobile playstyle. Each level adds more and more ridiculous elements that draw the player to want to continue. On top of the normal holes, players can go back and expand upon mechanics adding a layer of depth and continued play. While sitting at a computer screen to play this might not be the optimal setting, it's perfect for quick play sessions on mobile between daily tasks.
TechRaptor covered What the Golf? on PC via Epic Game Store with a code provided by the developer. This title is also available through Apple Arcade.