Finally, an update to one of the most underrated sports spin-offs in Mario’s locker.
The worlds of Mario and golf have always felt like a more sensible marriage to me than, say, Tennis or Strikers. There’s the lush, manicured courses that slot perfectly into Nintendo’s colour palette, and the bold, comical style choices that see Waluigi pulling on patterned trousers straight from the Ian Poulter Ryder Cup collection. It just works, but boy do they make us wait for it; it’s been 7 years since World Tour on the 3DS, ample time to perfect the party golf concept, you might think.
So, a long overdue spiritual successor to Wii Sports golf? Well, not quite.
Super Rush is, as the name implies, built around the concept of playing quickly. There’s a standard game mode that teleports you between shots like, well, every other golf game I can think of, and then there’s speed golf. In the latter, the minute you hit your shot you have to sprint after it, rationing a (quite measly) stamina gauge, collecting coins and hearts along the way, barging past competitors to get to your ball as quickly as possible. It’s different, and to begin with, quite interesting - especially on the odd hole where a less direct route might be faster in the end when you account for the A-B travel time. In multiplayer it even creates the occasional melee, but hasn’t got any of the brutality of Kart’s blue shells to bring a real edge to the gameplay. It’s a novelty, and one that wears off twice as fast in single-player, where the only challenge is trying not to run past your ball, or into a lake.
The Rush might be a bit weak, but the Golf is good, real good. Assuming you choose to play with button controls, it’s a very familiar system with a couple of great little additions. Firstly, you can (depending on your club selection) tweak the flight of your ball (high, low, left & right) at different stages, so hitting a low, hard drive that veers off at the last moment to avoid a tree is, with a bit of practice, a viable shot selection. Secondly, there’s the power bar itself, which bends to show the (potential) flight of the ball depending on your lie - it’s an effective little visual hint, something that Nintendo are consistently good at, and it helps enormously. Each character has a special shot with effects that all seem to do broadly the same thing (stitch up anyone else who has landed near your ball), but aside from that, it’s all very solid and easy to get to grips with. The motion controls are a different story; hugely inconsistent and inaccurate, so even hitting the occasional decent shot feels more like an accident than a real achievement. My wait for a Wii golf sequel goes on.
‘Adventure’ mode is where you’ll be putting (heh) all that to the test, as you step into the shoes of your Mii and set off to become Mushroom Kingdom champ. I was genuinely looking forward to this, imagining some basic RPG elements baked into a classic Mario plot, with challenges, unlockables and lots of creative use of the freedom afforded by the speed golf mechanic. Instead, I plodded through a handful of tournaments that barely increased in difficulty, completed challenges that offered next to no variety, and bought a modest selection of clubs and gear that weren’t noticeable improvements on my originals. Even the boss battles do little to spice up a seriously dull story, and the only redeeming feature is the golf itself, which is still enjoyable throughout.
The game is, kinda predictably, most fun as a 4-player experience. Speed golf becomes more frantic, special shots are actually worth using, and the whole package begins to make more sense. Taking matters off the course entirely, ‘Battle Golf’ has you careering around an arena full of speed boosts, chain chomps and thwomps, racing to hole out and claim points as quickly as you can. Whichever way you choose to play, the trouble is that - unlike Mario Kart or Mario Party - it still lacks the universal accessibility which means even a veteran can be one-upped by a total beginner occasionally. It’s fun for everyone, it’s just a lot more fun if you’re good at it.
There’s enough life in Super Rush that if you’re a Mario fan, or a fan of Nintendo sports games full stop, you’ll find something you like about it. The core gameplay is decent enough to carry it through a series of disappointments (motion controls, ‘adventure’ mode), and if a recent update is anything to go by, they will continue to add content to it for a while at least. I just wish that one day, somebody at Nintendo would pay me to come in and design some skill/score challenges for these spin-offs, because just like Tennis Aces before it, this sorely lacks depth and replay value.