Golf games tend to come in a variety of flavours. You’ve got the realistic sim games such as PGA Tour 2K21, the more arcade focused romps like Mario Golf: Super Rush, and abstract, minimal titles like Golf Club: Wasteland. A Little Golf Journey sits in the latter camp, showcasing short, breezy levels with an accompanying selection of relaxing music. It’s a game that knows what it wants to be, but is admittedly in constant danger of repetition thanks to a distinct lack of variety in the levels themselves.
Like a lot of the more minimal golf games on the market, A Little Golf Journey doesn’t feature any actual players, nor any supporting crowds; it’s just you and the ball. Each level is set out as a kind of diorama, and you start out surveying the area by navigating your camera around, plotting out the best possible route towards the hole. Once you’re done, you can then set up your shot.
Aiming and setting your power level is nice and simple. You just move the analogue stick in the direction you want to go, with a supporting arrow showing you exactly where the ball is likely to hit the ground. You can hold down ‘ZR’ to add a bit of extra power to your shot, though this will come with an increased chance of the ball swerving into the rough or a bunker. Conversely, holding down ‘ZL’ lets you focus your shot and ensure you hit the ball in exactly the desired direction.
Progression in the game feels very ‘2010 mobile game’, with each level dishing out a number of stars based on your performance. Sink the ball in as few shots as you can (you know how golf works, right?) and chances are you’ll bag 3 or 4 stars; the more shots you take to find your goal, the more the stars will start to drop off. You move from stage to stage in a linear fashion, but eventually the game will require you to own a certain number of stars before it will let you access the next set of stages. All standard stuff.
With this in mind, replaying the levels is key to progression. The first time we hit a barrier in the hub world, we found we were just 2 stars short of gaining access to the next area. The game doesn’t straight-up tell you about the star requirement but once we were aware, progression became a lot easier.
That’s not to say the game is entirely easy, however. Sinking a hole-in-one often feels like an impossibility, as your shot simply won’t reach the green in the vast majority of stages. This would be fine, except earning the maximum number of stars possible often requires you to complete the stage in just one or two shots at the most, so it feels like the game is often just setting you up for failure.
Replaying the levels only serves to exacerbate a nagging feeling that A Little Golf Journey is simply too repetitive. When you move from one set of levels to the next, the visual design changes, with some courses looking genuinely beautiful. This doesn’t change the fact, however, that the terrain simply lacks variety throughout. The game clearly strives to provide a relaxing experience, but in doing so, it struggles to give much incentive to keep playing.