The late comedian Mitch Hedberg once said: “I’m not good at golf. I never got a hole in one, but I did hit a guy. And that’s way more satisfying. You’re supposed to yell ‘Fore,’ but I was too busy mumbling, ‘There ain’t no way that’s gonna hit him.’”
I’m the same way. I suck at real-life golf, but when it comes to virtual golf, I’m a regular Lee Carvallo (for putting challenges, at least). From 1990’s PGA Tour Golf, to the original Xbox’s Microsoft Links 2004 and the more recent The Golf Club, I’ve always found video game golf to be a relaxing break from the usual running and gunning that is so prevalent in gaming.
Which brings us to Dangerous Golf, the debut title from new studio Three Fields Entertainment. The small team of ex-Criterion developers set about to combine two of my favorite things to do virtually that I can’t get away with in real life: play golf and break stuff. At its core, this is what Dangerous Golf is about. And while the game is a satisfying and humorous experience, it isn’t very deep, and is at its best when played in spurts.
Platforms: PC, PS4 (Version Played), Xbox One
Publisher: Three Fields Entertainment
Developer: Three Fields Entertainment
Genre: Super Smash Golfers
Release Date: June 2, 2016
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Before you start thinking that Dangerous Golf has some kind of basis in regular golf games, let me stop you right there. This has nothing to do with traditional golf. There’s no green, no choice of clubs, no upgrading your equipment or leveling up your character. This is wacky, arcade-style destruction, pure and simple. There is putting involved, but other than that, it’s like being a bull in a china shop. If that bull were a Titleist golf ball, of course.
The premise of Dangerous Golf is simple: cause as much destruction as possible before sinking the golf ball in the cup. That’s it. Each stage is set up as a fancy room with plenty of expensive objects, and the more you destroy, the higher your score. It’s an insurance adjuster’s worst nightmare. There’s a museum, a wine cellar, a hall of mirrors, and many other places to wreak havoc in. Each stage is played multiple times with different objectives. For example, in the museum, I was tasked to destroy all the statues in one instance, and in another I had to give the room a fresh color by smashing all the paint cans. Having different objects certainly adds some variety and keeps the game feeling fresh, despite revisiting several of the levels.
When a level starts, you line up your shot and push forward on the control stick. There is no backswing, or classic three-press mechanic. Once you tee off, the golf ball will cause some damage. If your damage counter gets high enough, you can activate SmashBreaker. Once you do that, it’s great balls of fire – literally – as you control the super-powered golf ball while it bounces around the room, decimating everything in its path. But act fast, as your SmashBreaker is timed. Once the timer runs out, the ball drops, and you need to press forward again to try to sink the ball. You only get one chance at this, so aim true. When the round ends, the game tallies all the damage you caused, and also factors ricochet putts, long shots, and secret items to give you bonus points. Depending on your final score, you can earn bronze, silver, gold, and platinum medals. So while destruction is important, hitting fancy bank shots in your putting game is instrumental in topping that high score.
There is an innate enjoyment that comes from seeing such a small ball cause so much mayhem. Smashing a pyramid of champagne bottles and seeing the corks shoot out, causing even more damage, is so satisfying. Getting that perfectly-timed bounce and destroying a group of wine barrels really brings a smile to my face. And yes, my immature side chuckled when hearing a scream when I destroyed Michelangelo’s David. That’s not to mention all the fun sound effects when you topple a toilet in the bathroom. It’s mindless, it’s silly, but it’s oh-so-fun.
While the premise is simplistic, it’s the flair that really makes the difference. The developers at Three Fields worked on the fantastic Burnout games, and Dangerous Golf without a doubt feels like a spiritual successor to Burnout. From the impact time reminiscent slow-mo, to the return of DJ Stryker, Dangerous Golf will be an instant hit to anyone who loved those classic racing games. If you sink a high-scoring putt, the hole explodes, leaving sparks flying and the flag a torched mess. It’s those little touches that really add to the enjoyment of the game.
And speaking of enjoyment, this game is best played with a group of friends, and is a blast when playing local co-op. Playing against your friends to out-obliterate each other is an amusing experience – especially if your circle of friends is as competitive as mine. Dangerous Golf also features online play, so if you can’t get a group of people together, you still have others to play against. In single player mode, you can play a single level or participate in the world tour mode. Once you finish your round in single or multiplayer, you can choose to see the aftermath of all the waste you just laid. I would have loved to see a replay mode, as sometimes it gets so chaotic that I can’t see everything being destroyed. The camera is constantly behind the ball, and sometimes gets stuck behind objects or clips behind walls. Unfortunately, this means that it can get difficult to see where you are aiming the ball, survey your surroundings, or find the flag location. Thankfully, the game gives you a bit of leeway in the putting game, as it seems to me like there’s a small bit of “auto aim” when putting. I sometimes didn’t even know where the cup was, shot the ball anyway, got a quadruple ricochet, and made it in. I honestly didn’t think I was that good, but whatever works.
Three Fields released a major update to Dangerous Golf back in July, and if you’ve read previous reviews of the game that weren’t so favorable, be advised this update addresses a lot of those issues. Improvements present in the update include faster restarts, easier controls, 360° movement and aim, and a “Smashwave” feature. A tutorial video was also added, and in the biggest change, difficulty spikes were smoothed out.
Dangerous Golf is a game meant to be played in short bursts – at least when you’re in single player mode. Destroying the same items over and over again does get a little repetitious, but it’s a game you can come back to again and again for an hour or so. I found myself saying, “OK, just one more round” many times, which is a sure sign of a fun title. It’s an effective stress reliever, and sometimes we need that mindless, amusing action in our video games. I can totally see this game being a stand-up arcade cabinet in bars, with friends reveling in all the annihilation they created. Dangerous Golf may not be the weightiest game out there, but if it made me smile, then it’s good enough.
Review Disclosure: A review copy of Dangerous Golf was provided by Three Fields Entertainment for the purposes of this review.