In a post-everything world, the rich and influential have fled to Mars, but as a homesick spaceship pilot named Charley you've returned to a desolate, toxic Earth for a final round of golf. Each hole in the wasteland offers its own little story, may well have a trick or shortcut to help you make that seemingly impossible par. As you play through the crumbling city of Alphaville you play makeshift holes in, on and through derelict buildings, shopping malls and even a museum.
Ahhh now the gameplay… Charley's swing power and angle of shot is tricky to judge and control, and takes a lot of mastering. Aiming and controlling the power of the shot with the left stick is harder than you might think, and while practice might not make perfect, I definitely improved with time.
At some point it dawned on me that Golf Club: Wasteland isn't really a golf game at all, it's a funny, sad, relevant and clever platform game from the amazing mind of designer Igor Simic, who also co-wrote the songs in the game. Yep, it's a flippin' platform game, except instead of getting your character to the end of the level by hopping from one precarious ledge to another, your golf ball has to do it. Just like in a platformer you need to look for the best way to negotiate a level, and slopes, steps, escalators, pipes, seagulls, squirrels, mutations and even a cow may help or hinder along the way, and you'll have to find out for yourself which.
The weird but wonderful Radio Nostalgia broadcasts from Mars, and features a chilled-out backing track that sounds amazing (apart from one crazily repetitive song unironically titled 'Repetition', which could drive you MAD)… But everything else suits the game perfectly, with varied styles of music and also a glimpse into the lives of the survivors. The announcer and his call-in guests have easy-to-listen-to voices and make for interesting accompaniment to the game as they poke fun at the weirdness of the human condition and hint that life on Mars might not exactly be a 'bed of roses.' Poignant news items, neon signs and graffiti also take subtle digs at current events, with Silicon Valley, woke culture and humanity in general getting gently roasted. As you play you also get a written commentary by a “secret spectator” who watches from a distance.
Three distinct modes of play means all types of golfer can find something for their tastes or mood. Want a casual, relaxing game? Then you can focus on the story and a simple round of golf in Story Mode – get stuck and want to skip onto the next hole? – no problem! Looking for an extra challenge? Then try getting par or better on each hole using skill and puzzle solving in Challenge Mode. When you've mastered those (and good luck with that!) then you can try Iron Mode, in which there's virtually no room for error – mess up a hole and it's right back to the first tee!
Golf Club: Wasteland has easy-to-grasp controls but gameplay that constantly challenges, with secrets and fun achievements to unlock. A minimalist user interface and zero help or hand-holding make for a game that encourages trial and lots of error, and a wicked sense of humour is never far beneath the surface of the apocalyptic setting. It may not be the longest-lasting game but at only £8.39 (and it's actually on sale cheaper than that at the moment) Golf Club: Wasteland is an absolute steal.
Special thanks to Demagog Studio/Untold Tales and PressEngine for the review code.