STAFF REVIEW of Golf Club: Wasteland (Xbox One)

Thursday, September 2, 2021.
by Adam Dileva

Golf Club: Wasteland Box art We got to check out an early build of Golf Club: Wasteland a short while ago and came away impressed with its relaxing vibe, ridiculous (yet grounded) premise and amazing soundtrack. That was an early version, and now the full release is finally here, so the question is, has the wait been worth it? It sure has.

Demagog Studio has done something quite interesting. They’ve made a 2D platforming golf game, but one that has a narrative and some heart to it. How is that possible you ask? For starters, Golf Club: Wasteland doesn’t have a normal backdrop. Yes, it’s on Earth, but this takes place long after the planet had been wiped out and escaped to Mars to colonize. Now only the ultra-rich can afford to go to Earth for their favorite pastime, golfing. It’s a ridiculous premise, but the more I thought about it, it’s completely something that we could all see coming. I mean, two of the richest men in the world literally just went to the edge of space privately due to their privilege, so this really isn’t all that farfetched.

You are a lone golfer, Charlie, playing through various holes on Earth in your spacesuit while listening to a nostalgic radio signal from Mars while you’re above ground shooting the links. Between each hole you’ll get snippets of backstory, of which I don’t want to spoil given Golf Club: Wasteland’s short playthrough of 35 holes. Basically Earth has been long abandoned due to climate change, natural disasters and the top 1% greed; sounds familiar doesn’t it? Now that humans live on Mars, Earth has been relegated to a glorified golf course instead of a home since it’s now uninhabitable.

To prove that the ultra-rich run the world, even on Mars, the colony you’re from is actually named Tesla City, but this also is a way that Golf Club: Wasteland makes its political stances without outright directly referencing anyone or organization. Faded neon lights still litter the apocalyptic remains of Earth buildings with “Covfefe” and other billboards and graffiti that mimic the times we live in now. It’s a powerful statement done in a subtle way full of other Easter Eggs and references you may figure out if you keep an eye out.

Each hole feels unique and has its own tone. The holes begin to feel almost like a puzzle as you’ll sometimes have different options of how you want to reach the hole and find those perfect shots. Given that this is a 2D golf game, you can expect there to be shortcuts and other little tricks to find how to get the best scores possible. Certain holes will require you to hit a wall mounted button to open a garage door, while others will have shortcuts but much smaller platforms to land on that requires a lot of skill and practice.

The best part is that while you are tracked on your shots and score, it’s not the emphasis on your first playthrough, to the point where your score isn’t even shown on screen and there’s no fanfare for doing well or booing if you played a poor hole aside from your own disappointment. This made for a very relaxing experience as I hit the links across abandoned buildings, swamps filled with radioactive goo and other oddities. This meant I could focus on my shots and appreciate the background visuals, but also actually concentrate on the relaxing soundtrack from Radio Nostalgia.

For casual players wanting to simply enjoy a relaxing golfing experience, the Story Mode is where you’ll want to spend your time. You’ll earn backstory for holes you make par, but it’s not forced and you can come back to any hole you want later on. Play well enough and you’ll unlock the diary of the lonely golfer to learn more of the backstory and what happened to him and why he’s here. This gives players incentives to revisit certain chapters in hopes of a higher score. Those that want to prove their worth as an astronaut golfer can try their luck in Challenge Mode. Here you’re unable to move onto the next hole until you make it in Par. Sounds easy but some of the holes can be quite challenging until you figure them out and get the skills to land the ball exactly where you want. Lastly is Iron Mode. Here you’re unable to make any mistakes and will need to basically play perfectly to complete or you go back to the beginning, so good luck.

Most people will know how to golf in games naturally, but the controls are quite simplistic. Basically you aim the Left Stick the direction you want to hit the ball and you’ll see the aimer indicated with an arrow, the further you move the stick, the harder you’ll hit the ball. Hit the button and you’ll make the swing. These controls were changed since the preview build we experienced, so it took a little getting used to. Your golfer will automatically head to the ball with his jetpack once you’ve made your shot as well, so anyone really can pick it up and play without any need for confusing tutorials.

When you think of Grand Theft Auto, the soundtrack is probably one of the more memorable features, it’s no different with Golf Club: Wasteland either. The Radio Nostalgia that plays throughout was easily the highlight of my Golf Club: Wasteland experience. The whole game has a relaxing tonality and the chill music only helps set the mood. The broadcast will also have short stories from survivors who tell interesting stories about their memories on Earth or how they got to Tesla City. The DJ has an ultra-smooth and relaxing tone and the audio couldn’t have been any better in this aspect. Complete the campaign and you’ll even be given a QR code to download the OST, something I highly suggest doing as the music is fantastically done by Igor and Shane Berry, a former Tokyo-based DJ and Sound Designer.

It’s odd that for a golf game, the golfing aspect really isn’t its main focus. Yes, that’s what you’ll be doing throughout playing, but the underlying message feels much more important here. The artistic style is basic but beautiful for taking place on a desolate planet, even when you see seagull crap on a monument where your next hole is located or a giraffe that eats your ball if it lands nearby.

Golf Club: Wasteland’s atmosphere is great and its relaxed vibe was something I looked forward to after a long day at work or as a palate cleanser from my typical game genres. The soundtrack is absolutely fantastic and made for a really unique golfing experience. While the adventure is a brief one, able to be completed in a single sitting, you’re always able to work on bettering your score or truly challenging yourself with its Iron Mode, or do what I do and simply load it up to listen to its OST.

**Golf Club: Wasteland was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.2 / 10
Gameplay: 7.5 / 10
Visuals: 7.5 / 10
Sound: 9.5 / 10


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