Despite golf being one of the less exciting sports (and yes, that's a matter of opinion), golf games are often some of the most interesting sports games. Granted that's because golf titles generally shed the simulation stigma in favour of arcade mechanics, akin to what we see in crazy golf courses, creating casual, relaxing, and generally enjoyable experiences. While the genre is hardly lacking in games, I've recently had the chance to spend some time with Okidokico's upcoming adventure title, A Little Golf Journey, which combines a unique control system and various different levels to make for a calming game.
At the core of A Little Golf Journey is a simple narrative that asks you to follow a series of postcards to discover a friend who seems to be a bunch of holes ahead of you on this journey. In general, this is one of the less interesting parts of the game, as the narrative and storyline is never that impactful. But, this is offset as the mechanics are the driving force for what this title offers, and they are pretty well designed.
Unlike a lot of golf games that puts the player in third-person (an over the shoulder perspective, regardless of whether there's an actual should to look over), A Little Golf Journey plays from an isometric angle, providing you with a different opportunity to aim and make shots. You can move the camera and even survey the level to plan how you intend to get the ball in the hole, and then when it comes down to shooting your shot, all you have to do is decide where and how far to launch your ball, by changing power and direction. There's even a handy trajectory line that displays where the ball will land.
To keep things interesting, you will have to manage when you hit the ball to ensure better accuracy. The trajectory line will move all over the place depending on how hard you're hitting the ball, and it's up to you to release the shot at the right time to make the shot. You can focus to eliminate the movement of the trajectory, but that only lasts for a few seconds, so you'll have to be fast to find value with the system.
A Little Golf Journey is also played across a variety of miniature levels, where you'll be tasked with getting the ball in the hole in as few shots as possible to earn stars. The levels are for the most part small, but are packed with colour, objects and all kinds of hazards. Likewise, there are often multiple ways to approach a level, meaning you could take the obvious route, or rather take a risk, chipping the ball through minor gaps in trees to be able to get to the hole in a faster, more challenging method.
It's this style that makes A Little Golf Journey so entertaining, as it is a very simple game through and through, but there are such a wise array of options to get to your end goal that it never feels boring or slow. The freedom to be able to take silly risks, firing the ball through the strangest and smallest gaps to make a truly remarkable shot gives this game a bit of a thrill, which is quite surprising especially since for the most part, this is a relaxing game through and through.
Aside from the mechanics and the interesting level design, the visuals and the sound are two other areas where A Little Golf Journey excels. The title uses a simplistic art style where the levels, despite containing plenty of objects and foliage and the likes, never feel cluttered or overwhelming. And then to build on that, the colour palette for each of the biomes make the different worlds feel truly unique taking you across lush greens, icy lakes, and even digital cyberscapes. Stack all of this up with a calming soundtrack and you get a truly pleasing experience.
I will say that I often felt less enticed to return to a level to discover its secrets. Each of the nine worlds also have a bunch of other objectives that can be completed, including finding hidden holes to unlock new levels off the main narrative path, or even taking on challenges that require you to chip the ball along a route in a specific time limit. The optional objectives are there, but they never quite attracted me in the same manner that the main narrative path did.
But, with this being said, I do believe that A Little Golf Journey is shaping up to be a truly enjoyable game. From what I've seen, it is "little", you can blast through the game at a pretty rapid pace (assuming you're not intending to grab every star and optional objective that is), but that doesn't mean it isn't worth your time at all. If you like golf games, or are looking for a casual, relaxing experience to soak up some hours with, you won't go too wrong with A Little Golf Journey, whenever it does land in 2021.