If the world were to become a wasteland, chances are your main priorities will be obtaining food, water, shelter, and perhaps an abandoned Game Boy to pass the time (because you know those puppies can last for decades). It’s unlikely that playing golf would be at the top of your bucket list at that point, so it’s a good thing that Golf Club: Wasteland effectively lets you experience this in the comfort of your own pre-apocalypse home.
Within the world of Golf Club Wasteland, Earth’s richest inhabitants have fled to Mars to start anew. Lone golfer Charley heads back to Earth for one last round of golf, taking place across a wide variety of ‘courses’ featuring abandoned buildings, broken down vehicles, overgrown forests, and other unsafe environments. The game contains a total of 35 levels, all of which has its own set number of strokes required to sink the ball (or ‘par’). This can range from a nice realistic par 3 all the way up to par 20, something you definitely won't find at your local links.
The gameplay itself is relatively minimalistic, with a barebones UI leaving your attention on the environment around you undisturbed. You move the left analogue stick to set your direction and power level, tap ‘A’ to carry out your shot, and that’s it. Charley will automatically move to wherever you hit the ball in order to carry out the next shot, and if you’re unfortunate enough to whack it into a body of water (or, of course, have your ball stolen by squirrels), it will simply reappear right at your feet so you can try again.
There are three modes available, and your preference will depend on what kind of difficulty you’re looking for. Story Mode lets you complete each course in as many strokes as you like, with no penalties for fluffing your shots or going over par. Challenge Mode displays the number of strokes required to complete the course, and if you fail to accomplish this, the ball will self-destruct, requiring you to start the level from scratch. Completing Challenge Mode will then unlock Iron Mode, where no mistakes are allowed and you’ll need to complete your shots with pinpoint precision.
On its own, the gameplay for Golf Club Wasteland can feel a tad repetitive, particularly on courses that require 10 or more shots to complete. It’s good, then, that the experience is wonderfully bolstered by a surprisingly deep narrative. The story is told via diary entries, background radio chatter, and an additional graphic novel that comes with the game. How much of the story you decide to invest in is up to you; you can avoid it entirely if you wish, but we certainly feel the added context makes the gameplay a bit more meaningful.
We have to give a shout out to the aforementioned radio feature, too. Playing as you move through the courses (with handy subtitles included), it provides a bit of background to the situation Earth’s inhabitants now find themselves in, alongside a plethora of catchy tunes to make navigating the wasteland feel a tad less lonely. Some of the songs are pretty weird, and remind us of Lynchian creations such as Twin Peaks.
To add a slight downer on proceedings, neon signs adorning crumbling buildings and barren hills in the background rubbed us the wrong way. To be clear, Golf Club Wasteland isn’t a game for children thanks to the colourful language featured on the radio, but a few of the neon signs were just needlessly childish, if not entirely inappropriate. These featured seemingly random words plucked from the urban dictionary which completely pulled us out of an otherwise pretty engaging and deep narrative. Not enough to totally spoil our pleasant little post-apocalyptic walk, but enough to be irritating.