The Switch is slowly but surely becoming one of the best available entertainment systems for multiplayer fun. The eShop is positively bursting at the seams with great co-op adventures and games that focus on simple, pick-up-and-play action for multiple players to enjoy. Party Golf is one of the latest titles to jump on board, hoping to find its way into your living room and give you a good laugh in the process. Does it succeed? Let’s take a look.
The entire game focuses around one extremely simple concept and, as you might expect from the title, that is to get the ball into a hole. Despite the initial simplicity, though, Party Golf has actually been designed really well; it takes that very basic aspect of golf and evolves it into something slightly different. In normal gameplay, four players (human or AI) will all be competing to reach the hole first and scores are given at the end of each round (reflecting how quickly each player managed to get to the goal). If anyone doesn’t make it to the goal before the round ends, scores are then dished out based on how far away from the hole they finished.
Unlike real golf, though, everyone is in a mad rush to fire their ball across the screen at the same time; balls collide in the air, power-ups can enable you to mess with nearby players, and there is a general sense of madness in every round. The game is perfectly functional as a solo experience but, like most party games, it is definitely enjoyed best with friends. Having multiple players sit around the TV, yelling at each other for knocking their ball off the stage as they were about to execute a perfect hole-in-one, is perhaps the game’s most enjoyable aspect and that cannot be replicated when playing alone. There is a rather nice solo player mode available, though, which we’ll get to a little later on.
Before that, let’s take a look at the main, multiplayer experience. The game boasts of having “over 100” modes available to play and this is (sort of) correct. The default mode is where you’ll definitely want to begin; players compete through as many rounds as necessary (you win by leading the table with 500 or more points and then winning another round) and everything is left at its standard settings. These other modes are basically the same fundamental idea but with different varieties on a whole host of parameters. As an example, the second available mode (called ‘Fruit Salad’) gives a random ball shape and size to each player which changes each round. These can be hilarious too – at one point our team of four were flinging around rubber ducks, bananas, a sand-timer, and a ridiculously over-sized brick that caused issues for everyone.
Some of these modes are great fun – one example has you playing in the dark, forcing you to locate the hole by illuminating sections of the screen with your ball’s flight path; unfortunately, though, others aren’t quite as strong. One particular level (which is actually great when played by four human players) is let down in single player thanks to the AI not understanding the specific task. In ‘Checking In’, you must hit a number of checkpoints before trying to sink your ball; the AI don’t try to do this, though – instead just flinging themselves right at the goal. This means that you will win every single round (as long as you complete the task) which eliminates the fun of competition.
Perhaps the game’s crowing jewel, though, is its ‘Custom Game’ mode. Here, you can make your own game modes by changing all of the parameters however you see fit. The options are truly staggering – you can change how balls are sized and shaped, their spin and bounce capabilities, the shape of the terrain, the scoring system, where tee-offs and holes are located, whether you want to put water on the course or not, whether or not to include a voting system which will allow players to change parameters between each round, specific rules to shots, how the camera works, how the aiming works, environmental factors, and so on. If we kept going we’d need to start a new website called 'Party Golf Life' just to have enough room for all the information – it is a very impressive feature indeed.
The solo player mode, which we touched upon earlier, is made up of a series of trials. These trials have you trying to sink the ball over a set amount of rounds with restrictions in place such as limits to the amount of shots or time you have. They are surprisingly challenging too – often even the slightest mistake has the potential to cost you the victory. Considering the game has such a multiplayer-heavy focus (you can actually play with eight players locally if you have enough Joy-Con controllers to share), this feature has a surprising amount of content.
For some, despite the amazing generosity offered in the customisation of the game’s settings, the game will likely work best in short bursts. We’d argue that the variety of ways to play (just about) justify the game’s cost but, essentially, you would have to enjoy the core ‘party-type’ gameplay to get the most out of this title. There are also a couple of little factors such as a temperamental loading screen and framerate drops (especially when playing with eight players) which stop the game from being perfect but, ultimately, it does its job rather nicely on the whole and there is an awful lot of fun to be had in the right company.
To answer our initial question of whether or not Party Golf can successfully join the eShop’s masterful collection of multiplayer goodness: quite simply, yes. The amount of customisation options are mind-blowing and essentially allow you to make the game be whatever you want it to be. The asking price at launch feels just a tad steep (a bit more polish and a slightly higher level of presentation wouldn’t go amiss) but, with the right friends around you, you’ll be having so much fun laughing at each other’s mistakes that you’ll hardly care.