Video games don’t have to be complicated to be enjoyable. They don’t always need to be grand, sweeping great works of art, nor do they always need to have something to “say”; sometimes they can just be fun.
Such is the thinking behind House of Golf, a Nintendo Switch release from Liverpudlian studio Atomicom, a group made up of ex-Psygnosis staffers who were last seen bringing us a game about driving JCB excavators on Mars.
This is a game designed to be nothing more than a bit of fun for 1-6 players — and it achieves this pretty admirably. Let’s take a closer look!
House of Golf is a miniature golf game that takes its cues from classic, simplistic, arcade-style takes on the genre that date right back to the earliest days of gaming. While unfolding in full 3D with realistic physics, the actual execution of the game can be traced right back to the original Miniature Golf on the Atari 2600: just aim, set your shot strength, shoot and hope you end up in the hole.
House of Golf’s twist on the formula is that it adopts a “tabletop” aesthetic similar to that seen in classic games such as Micro Machines, and the more recent Table Top Racing. The courses are laid out as arrangements of pathways, ramps, hazards and household objects in five different household environments — the garage, the lounge, a bedroom, the attic and the kitchen — with each having its own unique aesthetic and everyday objects scattered around to ruin your birdie chance.
Interestingly, House of Golf deviates from the standard miniature golf formula by not exclusively providing par 3 holes. At numerous points throughout the game, there are longer par 4 and 5 holes to challenge; these tend to be quite a bit more intricate, but can still be beaten well under par with good aim and sensible use of power.
The mechanics of House of Golf are immediately easy to pick up, making this a game eminently suitable for family gatherings involving gaming newcomers. You rotate your viewpoint with the left stick, with an arrow pointing in the direction your shot is aiming. Holding still for a moment causes a dotted line to appear indicating the path the ball will likely take — though the game doesn’t indicate what power level this is assuming.
Using this simple on-screen information, you can determine the best angle to aim your shot in order to bounce it around the various walls in your way — or in some cases, you can even “hop” over small obstacles by hitting the ball with enough power right into them. In later levels, this is an essential skill to master, since the more devious holes appear to completely block a clear shot to the hole thanks to small, low but solid objects getting right in the way!
Each of the five environments offer three difficulty levels with nine holes each, making for a total of 135 different holes to challenge. The “Easy” holes are pretty accessible — though you’ll still have to bear the physics in mind in order to do things like shoot the ball up slopes and accurately around corners — while the “Medium” and “Hard” challenges both get pretty fiendish rather quickly!
The game can be played one hole at a time, or as a “Championship” proceeding through the nine holes of one of the five rooms’ three difficulty levels at once. Up to six players can participate; given that the game makes use of a “pass and play” system where you pass the controller or Switch from one player to the next, it’s strange that this wasn’t bumped up to eight, but in most social situations it’s probably rare you’ll have more than four people that want to play at once anyway.
Longevity comes from a series of unlockable ball designs; these are purely cosmetic, but provide a nice visual means of celebrating your achievements in the game. The unlock conditions range from the simple and straightforward — just play a certain number of holes in total — to more challenging long-term accomplishments such as consistently hitting under par on particular, specific courses. There are also coins concealed in awkward places around all the holes; these also tie into this system.
To be honest, the game doesn’t really need this aspect because it’s clearly not designed to be a single player-centric experience, but it’s nice to have a certain feeling of progression if you continue to engage with it over the long term — or indeed if you like the idea of the game as a lightweight solo physics puzzle as much as a party game.
The actual environments and courses look really nice, though it’s a bit of a shame that a lot of the background detail is far enough away from the course that it’s not directly mechanically relevant. In the garage, for example, it would be amusing to be able to fire the ball in such a way that you could bounce it off the long-forgotten barbecue to accomplish a particular trick shot, but sadly it is not to be.
It would also have been neat to be able to explore the environments a bit further — perhaps via the courses winding through them a little more rather than sitting on a table or other surface in the middle of the room in question. The Attic environment feels like it comes the closest to doing this through the very nature of that part of your average house; the other rooms’ unique characteristics are mostly limited to background detail and the smaller objects that litter the various courses.
Ultimately, House of Golf achieves exactly what it sets out to do, which is to provide an engaging, accessible digital take on miniature golf with the twist that it’s all going on within the confines of someone’s house. It’s a fun diversion for the solo player and entertainingly competitive when played against friends or family, and is a great title to have on hand when getting together with people who perhaps don’t play video games all that often.
Plus with 135 holes to challenge and all those balls to unlock (shush) it should keep you busy for a while, too! All for just £8.99. Not bad at all.
Thanks to Atomicom and Sam at Decibel-PR for the review copy.
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Thanks for reading; I hope you enjoyed this article. I’ve been writing about games in one form or another since the days of the old Atari computers, with work published in Page 6/New Atari User, PC Zone, the UK Official Nintendo Magazine, GamePro, IGN, USgamer, Glixel and more over the years, and I love what I do.
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