Cursed To Golf, by creator Liam Edwards and the development team over at Chuhai Labs in Kyoto, is poised to wrestle the frenetic roguelike genre into collared shirts and docker-style shorts. But don’t be mistaken into thinking this game is your bog-standard arcade golf affair, or a complete snooze.
Sure, its core mechanics borrow heavily from classic arcade golf games like Mario Golf and it certainly offers a much more relaxed experience compared to its roguelike contemporaries, but these links aren’t a walk in the park. These par 5’s will leave you quaking at the knees and if you’re not careful, a fairway closer to destruction.
The core gameplay is simple enough. You have three clubs, a driver (all power, little control), and iron (some power with more favourable angles) and then the wedge (excellent control but little forward momentum). Cursed To Golf cleverly avoids throwing too many clubs at you, as the real challenge lies in how you navigate these massive dungeon-like holes. The key item you will use to do this are the Ace Cards.
Ace Cards vary in power depending on how far in the game you are, and directly affect how you can maneuver within a course, or what pathways you can choose to explore. For example, at one junction of my playthrough, I was presented with two different paths to choose from. However, one of those was filled with TNT, one of Cursed To Golf’s many environmental hazards. I could have just wasted the shot to destroy the TNT and my ball in the process, but instead I used the “practice shot” card, which reset the ball back to my starting location after it has settled without counting to my total allotted shots, but will permanently affect course hazards, such as TNT. Boom (literally), TNT gone and a new pathway cleared.
There is an undeniable joy in finding the best ways through these massive constructs, especially considering that the initial 5 shots you start with dry up very quickly. Every drive, chip, approach and bunker shot counts, with adorable little pop-ups and animations ramping up the tension throughout. By the time I made it to the end of the hole, I had one shot remaining. As I’m weighing my options, the screen turns a tint of red. A thumping heartbeat replaces the splendid 8-bit soundtrack. I am a fair distance from the cup. All I have is my driver, and the ability to shatter my ball into three via an Ace Card. I shoot my shot. By some miracle, one of the three balls sinks into the cup, completing the hole, letting my cursed golfer survive another day and causing myself and game director Liam Edwards to leap from our chairs in joy.
Liam told me that some people have described Cursed To Golf as “the Dark Souls of golf”. I happen to agree with them to an extent. The game will punish you hard for even the slightest shanked ball. But unlike Dark Souls, Cursed To Golf packages this pain in such an adorable, approachable and downright addictive package, I never felt defeated. Just ready to try again.