STAFF REVIEW of Cursed to Golf (Xbox One)

Monday, September 5, 2022.
by Adam Dileva

Cursed to Golf Box art Just when I think I’ve seen every genre combination out there, I’m surprised once again. Cursed to Golf combines the sport of golf with some roguelike elements, an odd mixture that I certainly wasn’t expecting from developers Chuhai Labs. A simple premise, a morbid story, card based power-ups, bumper walls, randomly generated courses, simple controls and adorable pixel art makes for a unique golfing experience that I didn’t quite expect but had an entertaining time playing.

You begin your story playing through a tournament, about to win on the 18th hole by a large margin. As you line up your winning shot the unthinkable happens; lightning strikes your club mid-swing, killing you instantly. You awake somewhere you don’t recognize by a large ghost-like being that welcomes you to Golf Purgatory. That’s right, you didn’t go to Heaven or Hell when you met your fate, now stuck somewhere in between. But not all is depressing though, as you’re told that you can ascend back to life if you can manage to defeat the ominous Greenskeeper in 18 holes of golf across four different biomes. I told you this was an oddly morbid story.

As you progress your way through Golf Purgatory one hole at a time, you’re going to notice that the rules of the sport are slightly different down here compared to what you were used to when you were alive. First and foremost, instead of each hole having a par in the traditional sense, you instead start with five swings allowed to reach the hole, and each swing reduces it by one. As long as you make it to the hole before there’s zero swings left you’ll progress, but there's no way you'll reach the pin on some of these holes in less than twenty shots. Failure to do so though and you’ll be sent all the way back to the beginning of Golf Purgatory, which is where the roguelike elements come into play. It’s an odd ruleset but works quite well with the other mechanics and rules. To survive Golf Purgatory you’ll need to complete all 18 holes in one go, something that is much more difficult than I initially expected.

Because you’re stuck in Golf Purgatory, don’t expect typical courses and holes you’d find in the living world. Instead, you can expect holes that are almost dungeon or puzzle-like, sometimes with branching paths where you can attempt for shortcuts but require much more skill and precision with your shots. To make thing seven more interesting, you also collect cards that offer single use abilities or bonuses, but more on those shortly.

Taking place on a 2D playfield, the randomly generated holes will greatly vary in length, obstacles and difficulty. You’ll not only have to deal with reaching the hole before you run out of shots, but avoiding bunkers, water hazards, spikes, TNT boxes and more. I told you, Golf Purgatory isn’t like real world golf at all. Certain holes will require 10 or 20 shots to complete, so how do you pass the course if you only begin with 5 shots you ask? Littered throughout the course you’ll find silver and golf shot idols, where if you manage to destroy these by hitting your ball through them you’ll gain more shots to your counter. Silver Idols add +2 shots and gold +4, so they are definitely worth going slightly out of your way to the hole to destroy these if you believe in your golf skills.

To keep things simple you only have to worry about using one of three different clubs; your Driver, Iron or Wedge. The driver is for your long range shots, iron for higher angles and wedge for getting out of bunkers and short range shots. You’ll notice I didn’t mention a putter, and that’s because there is none, so you need to factor this in for your setup shots, as the short range ‘putts’ can be a little tricky to do. Pressing ‘A’ start the power meter, press again to determine the power you want, then you’ll see the angle/height meter with ball trail moving up and down. Press ‘A’ one more time and you’ll complete your shot. Eventually you’ll also be able to add some spin to your shots, forwards or backwards, so you can have them land or roll exactly where you want.

Before you even take your shot though, you’ll want to use the ‘B’ button to move the camera around the course to figure out the best path and to watch for any hazards that will be in your way. Many of these holes will have numerous paths you can take to the flag, sometimes even having multiple different holes, so you’ll need to plan ahead which way you want to go, making every shot count. Some holes feel almost like a puzzle when you have to decide to use teleporters or not, though I found it impossible to tell which portal it would exit from if there were multiple.

The Scotsman is the first person you meet when you awake in Golf Purgatory, an ally that teaches you the rules down here, also the owner of Eterni-Tee, a store you’ll be spending your earned cash from each hole for new cards to hopefully survive Golf Purgatory. Clear enough holes and the final one in each biome will have you facing off against a boss, which your friend The Scotsman will be your first opponent. These ‘boss fights’ is more like a turned based race to the hole against your opponent, though there are special shrines that will zap them with lighting if destroyed, causing them to miss one of their turns. They can hit much further and accurate than you, so you’re going to have to play smart, plan ahead and know when you use your Ace Cards.

Ace Cards adds a unique twist on the gameplay, as most holes are so long and technical that there’s no way to reach the hole in the five shots you’re given. With more than 20 different Ace Cards, these vary in what they do for you, allowing you to add shots to your counter, perform mulligans, shoot multiple balls at once, perform a U-Turn with your ball, stop time and more. These unique power-up cards will need to be used at the right times if you want to survive Golf Purgatory and ascend. These cards are single use though, so if you run out of cards early on, the later holes will be near impossible to complete, so you need to only use them when needed. These add a layer of unique strategy, especially during the boss fights and make for a unique golfing experience that I quite enjoyed. Do well on holes to earn cash to buy more card packs at the Eterni-Tee store so you have a chance at getting out of Golf Purgatory.

The bright and colorful pixel art is gorgeous to look at, even when you factor in the dark narrative. The animations are done quite well, as your golfer takes a portal to the ball after each shot and The Scotsman is larger than life in personality. While there’s no voiced characters, instead using gibberish sound effects, the soundtrack is done quite well and is catchy, never wearing out its welcome even after attempting to progress through Golf Purgatory dozens of times.

Cursed to Golf is one of those games that I wasn’t sure what to really expect but came away not only surprised, but smiling every time I played. Even though I’ve yet to ascend out of Golf Purgatory, I’m enjoying each attempt, getting better with my shots and strategizing when to use my Ace Cards. At $25.99 CAD, the price might initially seem a little high for an indie golf game, but the roguelike gameplay and high difficulty adds near endless replayability on the links.

**Cursed to Golf was provided by the publisher and reviewed on an Xbox Series X**

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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