In amongst pinging birds, matching blocks, and slicing fruit, iPhone gamers have been quietly growing addicted to flicking balls.
Stop sniggering in the back.
There’s something about skilfully sending a round object through the air that's compelling. I should know - I’m still hooked on Flick Kick Football.
Now Coventry’s Full Fat has picked up the ball-flicking baton from Wellington’s PikPok (that’s a long way to run), laid it on the ground, and taken a nine-iron to it.
Flick Golf! pays close attention to the basic structure set out by the Flick Kick series and applies it to the sport of silly trousers. The goal remains to get successive balls into successive target areas, taking into account distance and wind direction.
Flick Golf! is a slightly more nuanced and far more challenging beast, which proves to be something of a mixed blessing.
Hitting the golf ball is done by swiping up the screen, with the direction of the ball determined by the angle of your swipe - but that’s only half of the job done.
Once the ball is in the air you can impart spin by dragging in any direction. This can be done repeatedly until the ball lands and even, to a certain extent, while it’s bouncing to a standstill.
This completely transforms the game, since your initial swing takes on less importance provided you get the power more or less right. Rather, the real make-or-break period is on the ball’s downward arc, when its likely resting place becomes more apparent and a frantic period of screen-scrubbing ensues.
Par for the course
Indeed, this change in focus makes progress extremely challenging. Starting my first Quickshot round - where the objective is to score as many points as possible within 90 seconds - I barely made a dent in the 10,000 points required to unlock the next course.
World Tour, which gives you nine shots to amass as big a score as possible, eases you in more gently. Your progress will still be halted with a formidable-looking target score (you need to secure at least a silver award to unlock three of the four courses), but this is the best way to adjust to the game's unique setup.
It’s not just the control system that’s different, though. The scoring system makes it tough to score consistently well.
Recognising that getting a golf ball into a tiny hole from 100 yards is far more difficult than punting a rugby ball between some posts, Full Fat has placed a large target circle over each flag. This is split into four scoring-zones and the closer you get to the hole the more points you get.
Naturally, a hole-in-one is the ultimate target. Not only do you get the most points, but you also get bonus points for making the putt with spin, dropping it in off the flag or with a technically neat stroke.
Taking the rough with the fairway
The game's various embellishments have both positive and negative effects on the game as a whole. It's a whole lot more challenging than any of its rivals, and you’re kept involved throughout the entirety of the shot rather than simply firing and forgetting.
But this also means it’s a lot harder to get into. It’s not so easy to nip in for a quick bash at your friend’s high-score during an ad break (OpenFeint is supported). This isn’t helped by some annoyingly long loading times.
The additional after-touch feature, too, is a lot more involving on one hand, but serves to paper over some inadequate design elsewhere.
It’s a little too hard to judge where your ball is in relation to the target as it's coming down until the last minute. Greater visual feedback is required, and perhaps a slight shift in the camera angle to afford you a more helpful view of the ground and your ball’s shadow.
Despite the many fluctuations along the way, though, Flick Golf! reaches its goal of being another compelling addition to the ball-flicking sub-genre. While it doesn’t quite match the instant thrills of Flick Kick Football, its considerable challenge and nuanced shot system lands it safely on the same area of the green.