Game review: Cursed To Golf for EGS

Cursed to Golf is one of those games where many folks know right away if they’re going to love it or hate it just by describing it in genre terms. It’s a rogue-like side scrolling platform golf game, and any of these terms could be a deal maker or breaker for you. For me, the one that’s a sticking point is rogue-like, as opposed to rogue-lite. The difference is, every new run, the whole world is reset, and nothing carries over.

But let me set that aside and talk about what makes this a unique experience. After a tutorial explains how an almost legendary golfer end up in Golf Purgatory, players are tasked with battling eighteen holes of side scrolling golf to win a shot at returning to their body. In their arsenal are a driver, an iron, and a wedge. (I was annoyed by the lack of a putter until I realized the wedge can do the job by applying really low power to swings.) One button press activates a power meter. Pressing it again activates the angle selection. If you don’t like the look of a swing, it’s possible to back out of the swing, either to select a different club, or just to adjust the power level of the swing.

Each level starts with five swings as “par,” and falling to zero mean losing and returning to the clubhouse to start over. However, within levels are statues that can be broken to unlock more swings. Gold statues grant five swings, and silver statues give two. So really, even if the so-called par is five, most levels end with swing counts of ten to fifteen, and some go as high as twenty, and they’re still considered par. Riiiiiight.

There are also cards (because of course there are. Every game needs cards now) that can add more turns, and also give the ball super powers. Clearly, this is not regulation golf. Cards are very randomly rewarded between holes, but it’s more common to buy them as packs, which amounts to a loot box of three choices. Some powers like halting a ball’s momentum are useful in very specific situations, but there’s also a ball splitter, a U-turn card, and two variation of rocket-propelled balls that can be steered. (Both of which suck in my opinion because they are both painfully slow and fiddly to steer.)

In between holes are shops to buy more cards or pins to change the rules or level the playing field a tiny amount, but as with most rogue-likes, half the time the money earned in game isn’t enough to buy the items in the first shop. It’s almost like all indie game makers believe that the only way to have fun is to be as stingy as possible with their in-game budgets.

But the real deal breaker for me comes when reaching the boss levels between biome changes. Because then the game pits the player against a boss in a stupidly long hole that just grinds on and on forever. To win and advance to the next level, I can’t just swing for the gold and silver statues. No, I also have to waste time swinging for statues that will strike the boss with lightning and make them miss a turn. I can’t convey my annoyance at this mechanic enough. The only way to win is to attack the other player and force them to lose turns. I have to cheat to win? What? If I miss even a single knockout statue they’ll win and then it’s back to the clubhouse for me.

Let’s not even get into the level of cheating going on with the final boss, on both sides, or how the story has all the bosses waxing poetic about the purity of a golfer who has to cheat to win against them. All that really matters is this: Cursed To Golf has a really good premise and a relaxing game loop that’s hindered by boss fights that drag on way too long and the kind of stinginess that makes every shop visit aggravating.

For that, I’m giving it 3 stars. If you like the idea of playing mini golf with obstacles like TNT, vortexes, and zombie hands in addition to traditional sand traps and water hazards, this might be your jam. But for me, it’s all the grind of an old-school NES game with none of the lingering rewards found in a more enjoyable rogue-lite.

Plus, who doesn’t give players a putter in a game that’s glorified mini golf? Evil people, that’s who.