Last week, Golf Club: Wasteland snuck out and it was hard not to be struck by it. Its aesthetics are eye-catching and sophisticated and its plot is rather bizarre.
In the crumbling bones of Earth's civilisation, those lucky (and rich) few who managed to move to Mars occasionally travel back for a game of golf. This protagonist isn't like the others who abandoned Earth so easily, however, and uses golf as an excuse to return home one last time.
It ticks a lot of boxes and we know the golf genre is a popular one on mobile, but what will our App Army think of it? Let's take a look.
Andrés Youlton (iPhone 6)
This game is very well done and serves as subtle critic to contamination and global warming. It's a beautiful game in every aspect. The graphics are simple, but the way they're made gives the game a fitting atmosphere. Also, the sound is really well done. I don't know why, but it really took my attention. Every sound is exactly how it should be, every step, every time the ball hits the different surfaces.
The other thing that I really liked is the radio that is always playing, mixing stories from the public and music with a nostalgic touch. On the gameplay side, I've experienced no bugs so far (I have completed 23 of the 30 levels). I really liked how you can use almost every surface of the levels to your advantage. However, I feel like golfing takes backseat to the actual narrative of the game.
Almost everything is good, but I have found a few problems. As I live in a spanish-speaking country, the game is in that languaje as default, and I have found a LOT of little grammar mistakes (losultraricos, déjame contare mi historia, verda).
As for recommendations, I think that it would be great if there was a shot counter and the par in every level.Abhimanyu Saxena (iPhone 8 Plus)
First things first, I didn't have any expectations. The trailer looked good and promised something new, and it kind of did that too. I don't play golf or casual games much - I think the last one that I played was Lichtspeer - but what amazed me was the story, the setting, the music, and the overall feel to the game. It looked like an apocalypse had struck and the setting helped create that atmosphere.
The game is just another mini golf game in a unique setting, which is no crime. I played many levels and it worked smoothly and it gets tough ahead as the levels become quite challenging. The sound is surely a plus point and when the ball touches different surfaces, the sound is different too which is a brilliant detail. It's a nice, casual sports game and you can easily pass your time playing this. Go for it if you're a golf fan.Matt Renfer (iPhone 6S)
Golf Club: Wasteland is essentially a game of mini-golf set in a post apocalyptic wasteland. Thankfully, this doesn't mean zombies (for once), but more like total ecological devastation.
Graphics and Art: Though not mind blowing in any way, the game runs smoothly and clearly on my iPhone 6S. The art style is minimalist, resisting the temptation to cover everything in blood, scorch marks, and ooze. The whole scheme, especially the backgrounds, does a wonderful job of conveying the desolation of this world. Occasionally, you'll see an animal or survivor amongst the debris, but the minimalist style remains the same, only showing how lonely all life is now.
Gameplay: You play as an interplanetary pilot from Mars in an isolation suit with a Jetpack. The game starts simple, but the difficulty of each hole increases quickly thereafter. Golfers who reach certain 'pars' are rewarded with snippets of the pilot's journal which serve to flesh out the story. Navigating back to previous holes is easy if you need to shave a few swings off your score.
While the controls are easy and the challenges fun, gameplay is not the strong point of this title. If you have played any type of mini-golf game on practically any system, then you've played this game. There are a few imaginative holes, but nothing amazing.
Sound: This is where this game really shines. The environmental sounds, especially the sound of your ball hitting various surfaces, are fantastic. Such small details really add to the ambiance of the game. However, the real reason that the sound is so important for this game is the 'music'. The pilot is tuned into a nostalgic Mars radio station that plays songs and narrations recorded by humanity's wealthy survivors living on Mars now that Earth is uninhabitable. I don't want to give away too much, but it's clear that a huge amount of effort went into this and it really is to the game's credit.
This game has wonderful ambiance and mediocre gameplay - there's really no other way to put it. The gameplay is completely fine, just not super inspired. The art, and especially the sound, paint a vivid picture of this new existence for humanity.Paul Manchester (iPhone SE)
The first time I launched the game I was instantly won over by the great presentation, from the beautiful artwork and animation to the quality of the accompanying soundtrack. The game, whilst not groundbreaking in terms of gameplay, seemed pleasant enough.
However, after the first half an hour things started to really frustrate me. The controls are awful - having to weigh up seeing enough of the screen to aim a shot alongside having the room to put enough power on. Coupled with the inconsistency of selecting your golfer this can get pretty tiring.
Then there is the bleak, minimalist setting which may suit the game, but ultimately lead to boredom far too quickly. I think this was mostly due to bad/uninspired level design. Want to play golf in a grim, lifeless wasteland? Go to Rotherham Pitch 'n' Putt, but avoid this one.Ed Davis (iPhone 7)
It's a slightly different take on the usual golf games. I don't think I've ever played golf in a wasteland before, but have been hooked by its intense graphics and unusual backing track. The game does a good job of drawing you in instantly, but it's quickly let down by the fiddly controls.
Unless you start by dragging your finger from the top of the screen, you can quickly find yourself running out of screen to gain more power on the ball. They're not the worst controls, but do take a lot of getting used to. Overall, I feel it's quite an interesting take on the typical golf game and worth a try but don't expect an easy ride with the controls.Dries Pretorius (iPad Air)
Ah, golf games, they're like the vegan alternative to the nasty and dirty Scorched Earth and its many spiritual successors. But, the vegan option doesn't have to be bland - there's Battle Golf with its frantic ball volleys and same device player on player violence, and Super Stickman Golf with its challenging and creative level design.
In this setting Golf Club: Wasteland's gameplay feels uninspired, its controls are sluggish, the levels are relatively static, and its shooting power can feel quite limp. The game is evidently not an arcade title like the aforementioned spruced-up vegan options, rather it is meant to be a meditative experience and it is an enjoyable one at that.
The radio presentation alternates between really enjoyable music, local talent from the game's country of origin, and "Callers" telling their stories. My only gripe with the radio writing is that the satire it presents isn't all that nuanced. The stories often feel more like self aware expositions of the post-apocalyptic setting than ironic characters from a post-apocalyptic reality expressing their subjective perspectives.
In conclusion, the game is a mixed bag. If you enjoy exciting arcade golfers then you will find GC: Wasteland a bit bleak. If you enjoy post-apocalyptic narrative, why not spoil it with a game of golf? Especially in what is possibly the closest game than any other on mobile to capture the absurdity of playing golf by yourself.Rebecca Parsons (iPad Pro)
I really wanted to like this game, but it's not for me. I like the aesthetics and the music/radio is interesting. I like playing golf games, but this feels too simplified, and yet too difficult at the same time.
The 'side-on platformer' look just doesn't suit a golfing game in my opinion, and when playing I find myself thinking how much better it would have been as a platformer or an adventure. Ireally wanted to know the story behind the backgrounds.
The game controls, sounds, and performs very well on the iPad Pro, first gen, and if you're a fan of this type of thing then go for it. It's just not for me.Mark Abukoff (iPhone 7)
I actually like golfing games. I like the slow, precise play, and this is a really gorgeous title with lots of interesting background scenery and interesting obstacles. But, wow, the frustration wall seemed to come up really early for me. Maybe it's my lack of skill, but about six or seven holes in I spent far too long trying to hit the ball up to an upper level only to lose what progress I'd made.
After that, the difficulty and frustration dropped off a bit, but still can be rather frustrating and with no great reward. So, this is a really gorgeous game that has lots of work for little payoff. I found the controls, while simple, to be imprecise and possibly part of the problem.Steve Clarke
This one's strangely reminiscent of Getting Over It. The learning curve isn't quite as vertical and the addition of levels mean you'll never make one mistake and find yourself back at the start, but the similarities are there.
I especially liked the satire of current events found in the backdrop of some of the wonderfully rendered levels and the pitch perfect sound effects throughout. The groan when you narrowly miss a hole being a particular favourite.
There are a few little bugbears with the gameplay, however. Selecting your shot's strength feels imprecise at times - the arrow changing colour to denote power would have been a nice touch. There are also times when it's difficult to either select the golfer or aim and power your shot correctly because of the zoom.
I still really enjoyed playing Golf Club: Wasteland despite a the few small frustrations. If you're tempted you should definitely grab it.Lalol Hernández Gómez (iPhone 7)
Golf games work surprisingly well with touch controls. With examples on the App Store like the Super Stickman Golf series, Golf Zero, Desert Golfing, and even some AR golf games, where will Golf Club: Wasteland stand out?
In it is a super relaxing game where you can use the scenery to your advantage. For example, sometimes you'll discover a pipe on your way and if you scroll the screen, you could find its ending and use it to shorten your amount of shots.
A radio which always plays and changing scenery also help to establish the atmosphere of the game. This is not a competitive game, but rather one that tells a story, teaches a lesson, has a nice time, and wants you to admire its aesthetics.Oksana Ryan (iPad Pro)
This game left me disappointed. The graphics are dystopian, as you’d expect, and the gameplay has an array of obstacles such as vehicles, buildings, ponds, and pipes to traverse. It seemed to have everything going for it.
BUT, the controls can be hit and miss. Sometimes I found myself tapping the golfer several times before he was in the swing position, and then taking the swing was difficult because if I wanted a long shot my finger went off the screen and I ended up short of the shot I actually needed.
The music is supplied by a radio station from Mars playing in the background. It's a mixture of music and people talking about their life experiences. This can be quite maudlin and does contain swearing, which surprised me a little. This should be a great game but, like many of the shots I took, it fell short.Oke Scheel (iPad Pro)
Golf Club Wasteland's biggest strength is the art design. Ranging from the gloomy graphics, which get even more atmospheric due to the high amount of 'film grain', to the background audio which is a moody radio program. It contains music on one hand and spoken language on the other.
As a lover of radio stations in GTA, it really appealed to me to get an insight into the game world through these means. The general sound design is well done too. Hitting the ball is satisfying since there are different sounds when the ball lands on different surfaces. Its animation serve its purpose - I especially liked the animation of the player walking somehow.
The actual gameplay is quite decent as well. I would describe it more like a 'golf puzzler' rather than your usual golfing game, because some later levels require you to figure out from where you can take a successful shot.
I also had absolutely no problem with the controls since you can simply touch and hold anywhere on the screen. The issue that you run out of screen space if you start to low is a common problem with golf games and didn't hamper with the fun I had.
The absolute worst thing, which probably influences other parts of the game, is the translation. In my native language, German, it is barely playable. The names of the levels are incomprehensible, sometimes words are missing, and the short descriptions make absolutely no sense at all. Paired with the pseudo-important story, I was often left with "what are they trying to say?" in my mind.
I get it is a dystopian world destroyed by humans and hints like "f*** Zuck" in levels are not really subtle. But, those bits of story you unlock make absolutely no sense to me. It's also a pity that you have to listen to some radio segments twice, or even more often, if you do not play through the game in one sitting. Also, an option to enable a display of taken shots and par would be nice. It should be optional though, because it would hinder the aesthetics when playing it for the first time.
Regarding gameplay, sometimes it can get frustrating to hit a small platform, but in all fairness that is something most golfing games struggle with. However, the problem gets elevated here because it's not always clear where an object begins and ends since the graphic and perspective are not always what they seem to be. That is especially true in one of the earlier levels in which you have to play up a hill which kind-of has 'stairs' you have to hit, but those stairs are hard to recognise.
I am a sucker for golf games and due to unique art design the game has a uncommon take on the genre. I like the puzzle like approach to the game, but would highly recommend to "skip" the story and not think about anything written in game.Quincy Jones (iPhone 8 Plus)
I loved the look of the game and the music as well, but I wasn't impressed with the controls and that began to take all the joy out of the experience. I'm not sure if it would be better on a larger screen.
Aiming is a pain and after constantly missing supposedly easy shots I was done. I did enjoy the background radio a lot though.What is the App Army?
The App Army is Pocket Gamer's very own community of mobile game experts. Each week, we provide them with a bunch of free codes and early access to the hottest upcoming games so they can provide their thoughts in features like this.To join, simply follow this link to the page on Facebook and request access. We'll get you in right away!