Golf Club: Wasteland Review

Every so often I like to review relaxing, chill-looking games. We try our best to review games in a timely manner here at the Tavern. Some of the larger, more difficult games can seem a little daunting knowing you’ll have to put in dozens of hours to complete the game or at the very least make it to a point where you feel comfortable reviewing the game. When I first saw Golf Club: Wasteland, developed by Demagog Studio, I imagined it being an easy hole-in-one. I pictured a laid-back afternoon of golf, taking place on the abandoned, catastrophe-riddled Earth the game uses as its setting. 

For the most part, I was correct – despite the wasteland setting the game has a wonderful, slightly vaporwave aesthetic, with neon lights and the occasional large Grecco-Roman statue. A peaceful feeling permeates much of the game. You play as the last man on Earth, Charley. Before the catastrophe struck a portion of the population fled to Mars. Feeling guilty about not helping more people, Charley decides to return to Earth with the help of the Golf Club: Wasteland – a combination travel agency golf club. Usually, this club is a form of entertainment reserved for the ultra-rich inhabitants of Mars. They pay vast amounts of money to fly back to Earth and play golf in the urban wasteland ruins of their former home.

I used to have a thing for 2D golf games, I enjoyed playing games like Desert Golf and the Super Stickman Golf series on my phone. Touchscreen controls pair well with golf games. I can’t recall ever playing a 2D golf game with a controller before giving Golf Club: Wasteland a go. This is where the game begins to falter. The left joystick controls both your aim and your power, and a press of the A button initiates the swing. Tying both of those factors to a small joystick makes regulating the power of your shots very difficult. Full power shots are no problem, but anything below that is extremely inconsistent. It would be nice if they added the play anywhere feature to this game so it could be played on a Windows PC with a mouse. Alternatively, it is also coming to Steam and Switch so I assume you could use a mouse or touch screen (respectively) with those versions.

You can hit the ball in a 180-degree field, and that’s about it on that side of the golf mechanics. On one hand, it’s nice not having to worry about anything else, but on the other, it could have been interesting to have some extra elements. The game takes place in the future so it wouldn’t be that far-fetched to have different types of golf balls with special abilities/uses or balls with different properties. The game does an adequate job simulating different surfaces and the ball-bouncing physics of those surfaces. The only complaint I have is that a lot of the hard-looking surfaces don’t allow your ball to bounce or roll as far as you’d expect. There are metal platforms that have a lot of bounce, but that’s more of a hindrance since in most of the areas where they appear you have to chip your shot onto a smallish-sized platform and hope it doesn’t bounce off. My favorite surface is the compacted trash cubes – they absorb the force of the ball, making it much less likely to bounce off into the sea of trash (one of the many environmental hazards).

The art design and overall aesthetic was the other big draw for me in this game. Overall there is a lot of greys along with soft blues and purples, as well as a bunch of neon lights and signs – if you owned a neon sign store in this version of our universe, it’s safe to say you were able to afford and snag one of the limited tickets off the decaying earth. Despite the limited color palette, there is a nice variety in the levels throughout the game. Starting in the outskirts and working your way in, you end up making stops all over the city. There’s a level in an abandoned organic grocery store, and another in a nightclub where no one switched off the music. A few levels are more vertical with one requiring you to work your way up apartment building balconies, and another in a factory setting where you have to chip shot your way up some perilous platforms.

The game falls one hole short of a full thirty-six holes. I think the game might have been more interesting if it was broken up into two eighteen-hole courses. They could have designed each course with more distinct design elements instead of just mashing them all together in a massive double-sized course. I think they could have really taken the game up a notch if they made a short course on Mars, especially since that is where the headquarters of Golf Club: Wasteland is located. It would make sense for them to have a golf course there as well. Playing some holes with a different gravity level would’ve been fun. Another fun golfing element that I feel could have added more to the gameplay would have been some sort of driving range, which could also double as a practice area.

In my day-to-day life, I am by no means a perfectionist; however, when it comes to video games I am the complete opposite. I like to get high scores and do as well as possible. The game starts out with some basic stages but quickly ramps up the complexity with a boat-load of platforms all over the place and plenty of other obstacles. There are also a few irradiated animals that will snatch up your ball if it gets anywhere near them. Many holes contain multiple paths to approach the hole, and a few have shortcuts if you are able to find them. To help you plot your path you can use the right joystick to freely scan the environment. I really liked that aspect of the game, but overall the poor shot controls caused me a lot of frustration as I played, and I felt the need to restart many levels because I thought I could do better. 

Golf Club: Wasteland has three difficulty options. The first one, Story mode, lets you experience all thirty-five holes without any penalty for performing poorly and is a great way to experience the story and explore each area. The second option, Challenge mode, requires you to complete each hole at par or below. This isn’t as bad as it sounds as you just start from the beginning of that hole if you go over par, and you can restart the hole from the pause menu at any point. The par scores are also pretty forgiving; the earlier holes are in the traditional range between three and six, but soon you’ll reach the longer more complex levels where the par could be fifteen or higher. The third difficulty option is Ironman mode, which requires you to complete a Challenge mode playthrough to access. In this mode, you cannot restart a hole, and if you mess up you get sent back to the first hole (which is brutal). Landing in any environmental hazard counts as messing up. Unfortunately, there is an achievement for completing Iron mode, and I don’t see many people unlocking it.   

The sound design adds a great deal to the ambiance and is the main delivery method of the story. Throughout the game, there is an almost constant broadcast of Radio Nostalgia from Mars –  though sometimes when you are underground you lose reception. The station rotates back and forth from music to voice recordings. The music really stood out and fit the overall aesthetic perfectly. It’s just the thing you want to listen to when you’re knocking balls around a wasteland. I found it hard to pay attention to the voice recording; while the voice acting is well done, I was just way too focused on the golf portion of the game.

Conclusion

Golf Club: Wasteland is slightly more hit than miss. The overall package contains an enjoyable experience. The music matches wonderfully and exploring the decayed wasteland landscape is a fun experience, but the method by which you do the exploring, i.e. the golfing, leaves a lot to be desired and can be more than frustrating using a controller. The game is priced fairly, $10 USD, for what’s there, so if you want to take a swing I’d say go for it. 

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This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.
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Good
  • 35 levels/holes with a decent amount of variety
  • art style and sound design mesh together perfectly
  • 3 difficulty settings, Story mode and Challenge mode are both enjoyable
Bad
  • Aiming and power mechanics are basic and function poorly with a controller
  • Could have used an additional location/course
  • Some levels get a little too complex
  • Iron Mode is brutally tough, pure evil.
7.1
Good
Gameplay - 5.7
Graphics - 8.8
Audio - 8.2
Longevity - 5.6
Written by
I started my gaming odyssey playing 8-bit console and arcade games. My first Xbox was the 360 and I immediately fell in love with achievement hunting and the overall ecosystem. That love was cemented with my purchase of an Xbox One. I play a bit of everything, but I usually end up playing fast paced games that remind me of my days spent in dark, smoky arcades spending quarter after quarter, telling myself "one more try!". Gamertag: Morbid237.

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