I always loved visiting crazy golf courses as a kid. In fact, I still do, but I haven’t been to one now for years; I actually can’t remember the last time I went to one. I don’t know why, but the one I always think of is at the top of the Great Orme in Llandudno, just outside the café. It’s not a fantastic course, or particularly big, but when I was young, driving up the steep banks or even riding up on the tram, it culminated in a truly exciting experience for seven-year-old me. What Golf With Your Friends captures is perhaps not that entire experience, but rather the largely entertaining competition of beating traps and occasional ball-control related frustration (in a good way…usually).
I will preface the rest of this review immediately with the fact that this game really is best played with friends. It’s just like playing crazy golf on your own; sure, it can be fun, but there’s a lot you would miss out on if you’re not with a small group. Not in terms of features, just of potential hilarity when things go wrong or when you bash other balls out of your way, either on purpose or purely accidentally. There is matchmaking though, so that may be a good compromise for some.
Lobbies support up to 12 people with a good variety of official courses. Some of them feature other characters from Team17’s portfolio, most obviously the Worms based stages which can be quite tricky to manoeuvre. These courses are basically full on warfare, with bombs detonating left, right, and centre, so careful putting is required to get you on a safe course to victory. Some of them are much more mellow, such as the space station or the forest, nonetheless each have their own delicate areas.
The actual gameplay can be summarised with the overused trope of “easy to learn, difficult to master”. After all, all you have to do is pull back, aim and shoot. But each course has something that you’ll need to consider, or some hidden shortcut to help you get that hole in one. You can’t just hit the ball at full strength straight ahead each time, as very often you’ll end up overshooting a jump or bouncing way too far away from the path to the hole. To mix it up a bit, some courses will also provide you with a jetpack so you can fly like a birdie over large jumps. There are also sections with increased gravity to grip the call as it rolls alongside a curved wall.
There are other power ups available too, however these can be toggled on and off should you wish. The Honey Trap is probably the most effective, which lets you drop some of the sticky sauce onto the stage to dramatically catch out the other balls. Personally, I prefer playing without these as it can start to get a bit too messy at times with them on.
If you find yourself getting a little bored of the golf, there are also a couple of other modes. Hoops and hockey provide slightly different experiences, with the former swapping holes for basketball hoops to guide your ball into. When you approach, you need to time a jump pretty immaculately to succeed and trust me when I say that this is a lot harder than it sounds. After a few rounds, you’ll soon get used to it, but it’s particularly challenging on some courses where the hole is raised up, so you have to contend with ensuring you have enough power to get up and then perfecting the final jump.
Hockey switches the holes for nets, with a goalkeeper who will slide across in predictable patterns to bat your ball out of the way. In some instances, this is actually easier than standard golf, because you have a much bigger area to aim for when shooting your ball into a net rather than a little hole.
Outside of the actual gameplay, there are a plethora of customisation options allowing you to change the colour of your ball, costumes with hats, et cetera. My ball has a nice big piñata on it, previously it was a sombrero. I don’t know why I’m always drawn to the sombrero, it’s the same in Rocket League…
All of this put together makes a very fun and quirky game that – as its name suggests – is fantastic when played with friends. What most will complain about, and have always had issues with since it entered early access some three years ago in 2017, is that it can be pretty janky. To say it has its share of bugs is probably an understatement; oftentimes, you’ll find your ball getting stuck at the side of a map, but moving ever so slightly so you can’t hit it again. Some maps are perhaps a little too unforgiving; sometimes I have found myself not able to hit the ball anywhere where I wouldn’t fall off the map, meaning I just have to take all my goes and class the course as a failure.
These are definitely worse in the user created maps. Although there are some fantastic creations available here, they are evidently difficult to perfect without players coming across places where they will fall off the map, but then have no way to get back up. For a game that has been in early access for so long, and I have owned it for about 18 months at this point, it is a bit disappointing that some of these issues haven’t been addressed.
But I can’t let these issues take away from what is simply a very enjoyable game to play in a group. It’s not a game that you can sit and play all night – at least I can’t – but for a couple of hours at a time, it provides some fantastic entertainment.
Golf With Your Friends (Reviewed on Windows)
This game is good, with a few negatives.
It’s a little janky at times and the interface a bit cumbersome, but at its core it’s a brilliantly entertaining game that knows what it wants to be, and achieves it well.