A charming and calm mix of golf and putt-putt.
While playing Metroid Dread, I received a review code for A Little Golf Journey, which turned out to be a wonderful addition to the dark, challenging, and tense antics of Samus Aran. A Little Golf Journey by Playtonic is exactly as the title suggests (or maybe more): a series of 100 holes spread over 10 different areas, including a desert, a snow-covered land and even the ruins of a castle in the middle of the woods. The gameplay is incredibly simple and approachable, but what really stands out is how calm and censored the whole experience is in the end. When I tried to avoid the scattered sand traps, I may have found a real diamond in the rough.
After a brief introduction to the controls, you are mostly left to your own devices on your way from hole to hole. A bit of narrative spice comes in the form of a conversation that takes place between two golfers on a postcard-like note. The notes are usually displayed before or after each hole, and some even offer tips on how to move around specific holes or find hidden secrets in them. And there are so many secrets in A Little Golf Journey. Many holes and trails are inaccessible until you figure out how to unlock them, which usually involves completing a specific challenge on one of the surrounding holes. For example, you might find a transparent block hidden behind a tree, and when you hit it with your golf ball, a timed mini-game begins where you have to hit about four targets before time runs out. Another challenge is to find a blue, flame-like ghost that will scurry away every time your ball hits it. After a handful of hits, a secret hole will open up and you’ll have to sink your ball into it to unlock a new path.
The golf mechanic is pretty straightforward and definitely leans towards the simpler side. Press the A button to prepare for your shot and use the joystick to adjust the distance. The ball has a bit of momentum that allows you to gain a little more distance or change its trajectory. If you hold down the ZR button, you can take a powershot (assuming you are not in the rough or in a bunker). The power shot has even more impact, but the ZL button can be held down for a few seconds to focus the show and prevent swaying. Putting is even easier with just a single line that shoots out of the ball and can be extended to increase power. Each hole awards 1 to 4 stars, depending on how many strokes it takes to pocket your golf ball and how many strokes you need for each star rating is clearly displayed on the screen. You have to collect a decent number of stars to advance as you cannot move on to the next area to reach a certain number of stars. Another collector’s item are “Blue Things”, which can only be described as such. These encourage you to return to previously completed holes to find a single Blue Thing hidden there and when you earn enough of it you can unlock even more content, such as:
The presentation shows that A Little Golf Journey actually comes a long way as its bright colors really pop on the Switch OLED. Holes on the overworld map come to life when you complete them as the color returns to the map, signaling your progress. A subtle but beautiful mixture of piano, guitar and harp playing in the upper world and the individual holes themselves as well as a particularly effective combination of day, night and twilight settings ensure mood and variety. The art style overall goes a long way in making A Little Golf Journey such an enjoyable way to get your golf fix on Switch.
With 400 stars to earn, dozens of Blue Things, and myriad secrets to discover, it turns out that A Little Golf Journey is actually much bigger and more content than the name suggests. I love to relax with it before bed as I need to relax after several hours of Metroid Dread sessions, and I think it might actually be my new favorite golf game on Switch that just closes Golf Story. I had a couple of technical issues where my ball got stuck and I had to restart the hole, but that didn’t happen often. If you are looking for a peaceful and zen-inducing golfing experience, there might be nothing like A Little Golf Journey. I intend to relive this trip over and over while shooting for the stars and yes, those little blue things too.