Played on Xbox Series X
Imagine a world where the greed of giant multinational companies and corrupt governments has destroyed all of the fragile ecosystems required to support life. A very rich section of the population has managed to escape the situation that they have played a large part in creating to set up a home on the already dead planet known as Mars, while all of the normal people have been left to die in what has become a contaminated wasteland. There is now no better way for these survivors to while away their endless hours of leisure than returning to a ruined Earth and playing golf on a grand scale in the ruins of once-great cities.
This could never happen in reality though, right? Let’s put that question to the back of our minds and delve into the XboxEra review of Golf Club: Wasteland.
From publisher Untold tales and Demagog Studios, this is described as Urban Wasteland Adventure Golf and takes the form of a 2D side-scrolling puzzle game. You are playing a final few rounds as the pilot who helped the ultra-rich to escape but is now living with a vast sense of grief for his friends and family that were left behind. Moving through thirty-five different levels you traverse the major cities of the world solving puzzles to allow you to complete each hole with only one trusty golf club and a pretty simple control set consisting of the angle you want the ball to travel and the power level of your shot. Anyone expecting an experience along the lines of The Golf Club 2019 or PGA Tour 2K21 with its realistic depictions of the game will be hilariously disappointed with the club selection and range of shots at your disposal here but this is not that type of game.
The control system works well and offered me reasonably delicate control over the arrow and therefore the direction and power that I wanted to use. If you try to use too much power for a shot, the direction arrow you are presented with swings wildly from side to side and if you take the shot while this is happening the ball can literally go anywhere but generally seems to end up behind you. The Thumbstick direction seemed to be kind of backward to how I expected it to be but actually makes sense as you move the stick in the opposite direction to where you want the ball to go just like a real golf swing. I soon got used to this although it seemed a bit awkward to start with. After each shot is taken you automatically jetpack to the ball’s landing position, which could be due to the future indifference of the rich to actually walking anywhere.
When presented with a new hole you have the option of zooming in or out to get a better view of your surroundings or moving the camera further off-screen to try and spot a potential cheat shot that although generally rather tricky to pull off may get you to the putting stage of the level a lot faster than following the more obvious route available to you. You can waste many shots attempting to chip the ball into a vertical pipe for example but there is a real sense of accomplishment when you manage to pull it off. I undermined this feeling several times during my playthrough by then missing the hole and dropping the ball into a worse position than I had when I started the level.
Big red buttons can be struck with the ball to change the direction of machinery or open shutters that are impeding your progress and there are other hazards such as automatic doors that you need to time your shots to get through or puddles of chemical waste that must be avoided to prevent dissolving your golf ball. Stairs can be a somewhat challenging proposition at various times while lifts and escalators are available to use in some of the levels once you have spotted them as they can be hidden offscreen when you tee off. Finally opening a shutter door by hitting a red button feels like a great achievement until you fluke the same thing with the next shot as I did and immediately close it again.
After the assigned number of shots has been surpassed the game recognizes that the player is struggling and the option to move on is made available. This is a nice touch that prevents frustration from building up into a rage quit situation. For me, the level involving balconies had to be bypassed on my first round due to its difficulty spike but on my second trip around the course I managed to complete it. It is acceptable to go over par on a hole but if you have too many shots your scorecard ends up with a Did Not Finish designation on it which is fair enough.
There are three game modes on offer. Story Mode allows players to explore the course without pressure and have as many shots as they need to complete a round. After each hole, you are presented with a few lines of text about the fate of the planet. If you manage to complete a hole to par or under a certain number of shots you are given snippets of information about the situation you find yourself in via diary entries. After completing the thirty-five holes you are rewarded with a rather neat graphic novel telling the story of the Pilot and playing through the course for a second time rewards you with the perspective of an observer left on Earth who has been following your activities during the game.
In Challenge Mode you cannot progress unless you complete each hole on or below Par with the ball exploding every time you exceed the number of strokes permitted and in Iron Mode which is unlocked only upon completion of challenge mode you cannot make any mistakes whatsoever. It would take me many hours of play and more patience than I actually have to complete challenge mode so I doubt I will ever get to experience Iron Mode.
The art style is striking so the game is a pleasure to look at but the real ace in the hole here is the Original Soundtrack. Taking the form of the radio show ‘Radio Nostalgia from Mars’ this is made up of new world survival announcements, spoken word passages from people that left earth behind, and an eclectic mix of musical styles that add a great sense of atmosphere to the gameplay. This is a real work of art in itself with the Russian, Arabian, and Warszawa by David Bowie influenced pieces of music really standing out as something special. The game as a whole is really lifted by the effort that has been put into the OST by Shane Berry and Igor Simic.
The puzzle and platforming elements are nicely designed along with the various contaminated animals that exist as hazards on some levels such as the rats with fluorescent pink eyes and the Cows with fluorescent pink udders. The game physics work pretty well and there are many nice touches such as the moments of inactivity when the pilot stretches or dances in an empty nightclub. World locations such as the Atomium in Brussels or the TV Tower in Berlin signpost where you are in the world and various pieces of graffiti exist within the levels to pass comment on the situation that we on earth are now finding ourselves in, indicating that this may be our future if things do not change and we carry on this consumerist path.
In terms of accessibility, there is not really much that can be changed within the settings to aid gamers with disabilities, and rather surprisingly the final message at the end of the game is displayed in white lettering on top of the creator credits which are also in white making them very hard to read even for players with no sight impairments.
In conclusion, Golf Club: Wasteland is visually arresting with a simple control style that suits it very well. The game is challenging and has some difficulty spikes, but you can avoid unnecessary frustration. The soundtrack is amazing and there are lots of nice touches that give the game a far deeper meaning if you choose to read the signs. This is a round of Golf that will be hard to forget.
Golf Club: Wasteland$9.99 US
- An immersive original soundtrack..
- Interesting Hole designs.
- Different modes are included.
- You have the ability to move past a difficult hole.
- There are some difficulty spikes.
- Putting can be hit and miss at times.
- The story is only fully unlocked by hitting certain par targets.