Welcome to Nintendo Link! My name is Jason Capp, and I happen to be the resident golf expert of the site. Does that mean I am the best golfer? No. I just happened to grow up in the golf capitol of the world! We here at Nintendo Link love our golf games, too. From Golf Story to What the Golf? to Golf With Your Friends, we have played a lot. Well, A Little Golf Journey is a special one, as this game somehow balances the worlds of actual golf and videos games to near perfection. How so? Well, with a little fun and creativity, that’s how.
So is A Little Golf Journey a hole in one? Or does this indie title settle for a bogey? Let’s find out!
A Little Golf Journey starts off rather ambiguous. There are no fancy tutorials, avatars, or even a country club to hang out in. Instead, we receive mysterious letters from someone simply signing off as “X”. They challenge us to play some golf and even encourage us by claiming that someday we may even be better than they are.
The story of the game kind of hides in the shadows throughout play, but this is surprisingly a story of depth, as the player and the writer continue forward into what becomes a strong relationship that is quite reflective. This is one of the elements about the game that I did not expect to hit me, but it may be one of the most impressive aspects of the game, which does not even contain any actual golf. Just two people connecting and having a deep and personal bond with one another.
But enough about that, how does this play? Well, it is golf, but it is also an adventure. I mean, the video game-kind where you play stage after stage until you move on to the next area that has its own theme and trials. And wouldn’t you know? Each area even has stages with secret holes that take you down special paths on the map that lead you to mini-golf holes among other goodies and surprises. This is a truly special experience that really combines some of the best aspects of a golf game while also borrowing from great video games like Super Mario Bros 3.
The three type of secrets lead to holes that grant you either Blue Things (A special item that you can collect in certain stages), access to a special mini-golf hole, or down a special path on the map that leads to free stars. Stars and Blue Things are kind of a currency that grant you access to new areas and holes as you continue your journey, so they can be a necessity at times. However, it is not required to collect everything in order to move on and clear the game, so these extra challenges are for those looking to do more.
The holes themselves present their own challenges, though. Instead of the standard bogey, par, birdie, and eagle terminology, A Little Golf Journey instead rewards you the aforementioned stars for how well you do on a given hole. You will have a star counter in the top right that dictates how many shots you have before failure, and of course, the less shots you take to get in the hole, the more stars you can collect. This is a great mechanic that helps you to know the minimal number of shots it can take before you even look at the hole itself, and it also encourages you to think outside the box as you look for alternate ways to the hole.
The controls are honestly wonderful, as they are simple in theory yet a bit difficult to master. Essentially you have two types of swings: a standard one that is perfectly easy to aim represented by a yellow line and a power swing represented by a red line that is much harder to aim but gives you greater distance. Finally, you are able to hold the left trigger to initiate “breathing” which gives you a lot more control on either shot, but “breathing” only lasts for a couple seconds before things like the power swing start going wild again.
It is the simple controls here that make things so much more interesting, as “breathing” seems like the right answer usually, but actually taking the right “wild” power swing is possibly the better option. This is where A Little Golf Journey gets even more interesting, because it is not just the stages that make you think differently but the way you swing, too. Learning to combine these is absolutely key.
There are nine different islands with numerous stages/holes, and each of them bring their own little personality, color, and flair, which really is a treat on the eyes most of the time. Each island also has its own hazards and difficulties, too, and this keeps you on your toes throughout. Just when you think you have a handle on A Little Golf Journey, it throws a little curve ball at you and makes things fresh once again. This mixed with all of the secrets and challenges add so much value to the game, as this is a whole lot meatier than the title eludes to.
I only ran into a couple of things that did not feel quite right, one being a technical issue and the other being a tutorial one. Starting with the technical, even if it is to the player’s advantage, but the ball does not really follow physics at times. For example, it can quite literally hang off of the edge and still be in play. It can also be in the rough, out of bounds, or in the sand and technically not be because it is between the fairway and the hazard. Like I said, it is to the player’s advantage, but it is quite noticeable, especially the ball floating in the air as it hangs off the edge.
The other is more of an instruction that was lacking, but that is the teaching of certain hazards and how the ball reacts when it enters those areas. A little more instruction in that would have been great, as I thought a black strip of land was a concrete pathway (Like a cart path) but found out the hard way that it was out of bounds, so instead of bouncing to my advantage like I thought it would, it stuck the landing and I was out of bounds.
The soundtrack for A Little Golf Journey is wonderful, as it gives the perfect tone for a relaxing golf outing as it soothes the player and helps them to stay calm even in defeat. I thought the art style was equally impressive, as it did not rely on hyper-realism. Instead, it goes for a more abstract style somewhere between realism and toony. This allows for some stunning designs and eye-popping color that really make certain themes stand out.
A Little Golf Journey was an absolute surprise for me. I honestly did not know what I was getting into nor did I spoil myself by looking things up before playing. What I fell in love with was the mixture of styles that I would have never put together, and it really pays off in the end.
If you are looking for a proper golf title, this is absolutely not the game for you. However, if you are a gamer and simply enjoy an abstract challenge that borrows from some pretty heavy hitters, this is an excellent video game with a golf skin. This is not Tiger Woods or PGA, but it is a golf video game, one with branching paths, secret holes, collectibles, and more! It is not a little journey, either, as A Little Golf Journey will take up lots of your time in a wonderfully relaxing and fun way.
So ready your shot, take aim, and go for that hole in one, because A Little Golf Journey sure is one itself!
A Little Golf Journey Review provided by Nintendo Link
Review also found on OpenCritic
Release Date: October 14th, 2021
Price: $17.99, £15.49, €16,79
Game Size: 1.3 GB
Fantastic and unique gameplay
Secrets and branching paths
Very meaty game
Lovely art style and relaxing soundtrack
Interesting subtle story
Some technical issues here and there
Lack of explanation about certain elements (Have to learn on your own)
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My name is Jason Capp. I am a husband, father, son, and brother, and I am a gamer, a writer, and a wannabe pro wrestler. It is hard to erase the smile on this simple man.