Golf Story for the Nintendo Switch by Sidebar Games is a digital golfing experience for people like me—and maybe people like you, too.
You know what I mean, right? Our experience with golf is mainly limited to Putt-Putt courses decorated with scummy water traps, tiny windmills, and dinosaur statues peppered with dozens of dings in their ceramic hides. My experience with "real" golf is limited to the one time I played a course in North Carolina and was followed from hole-to-hole by a sick opossum. I also had to use a set of right-handed golf clubs even though I play many sports, golf included, with my left hand.
In other words, when it comes to golf, I'm a mess. I'm a disgrace. There is nothing about my skillset, dexterity, or even my heritage that grants me any right to be in the rough or on the green. It's no wonder Golf Story and I are getting along like bosom buddies.
See, Golf Story is also a mess and a disgrace, but it works hard to present itself as such. It's an RPG based around the sport of golfing, and I use the terms "RPG," "sport," and "golfing" very loosely. You play as a young lad who wants to do his father proud and pick up golfing again after abandoning the pastime for ages. You start your journey at Wellworn Grove, a shabby establishment with poor courses and moles that run away with the patrons' balls (it's not as dirty as it sounds).
You show promise as a champion golfer, but Wellworn Groves' greasy owner seems determined to keep you down. You're allowed to gradually prove yourself by travelling to—and spying on—other country clubs, but it's clearly all for the owner's benefit. As with all great RPG stories, there's a mystery you need to get to the bottom of.
There's a great deal of golfing to be done in Golf Story, but none of it is straightforward. For one thing, the clubs you visit are all off-the-wall. The second club you golf at, for example, is a pre-historic landscape featuring lots of scruffy grass, bubbling tar pits instead of water traps, and giant fish that leap up and grab your ball if it flies over their territory. Playing golf in Golf Story really is like taking on a hazardous Putt-Putt course—though you can also play actual miniature golf if you satisfy the requirements for accessing the Mini Golf Club. Otherwise the hired muscle guarding the building will tell you to "back away slowly."
Though Golf Story hasn't snapped me up as completely as Stardew Valley did last year, its appeal is undeniable. Golf Story's sense of humor is as dry and sharp as aged cheddar, and it has a fascinating "play anywhere" mechanic that makes it feel more RPG-like than the Camelot-developed Mario Golf games that clearly inspired it. There are a surprising number of sidequests to complete in the game (which award experience and money), plus standard RPG tasks like hitting switches are all done via well-directed ball-whacking (again: Not as dirty as it sounds). You even find rainbow-hued holes that are hard to sink your ball into, but reward you well if you manage to do so.
If you don't know a driver from a putter, fear not: Golf Story automatically picks the right club for the right situation, and you can flip between your tools by pressing up or down. You can also press "Y" to enter "Precision Mode," which gives you more control over where the ball will (hopefully) land. Then you determine the power behind your shot and let fly.
If you're wondering why the world is currently in love with Golf Story, there's your answer. It's funny, it's cute, it's fun to play, and it's crazier than a sick opossum dragging its own golf balls through the thorny rough.
(That is meant to be as dirty as it sounds.)
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