What the Golf, 2019’s hilarious anti-golf golf game, is at its best on Switch. Everything that was good in the Apple Arcade and PC versions, which we reviewed last year, remains good here, but the additions and improvements that the Switch version brings make it the definitive What the Golf experience.
The game arrives on Nintendo’s hybrid console with a new two-player “Party Mode” that wasn’t included in the PC or Apple Arcade releases. This mode, which sees you and another player each picking up a Joy-Con and facing off in a series of competitive levels, is an absolute hoot. Both players are made to compete across 11 random levels, each based on levels from the campaign, to see who can get to the hole first. There’s a great diversity across Party Mode’s levels, with some levels feeling more like puzzles, some purely based on skill, and others that could only work in multiplayer, like when you’re both controlling separate items that are tethered to each other or trying to goad the other into tipping over a tower of boxes that the pin is sitting atop. There are lots of levels here, and I still saw new ones pop up after playing for several hours.
In keeping with What the Golf’s style, very few of Party Mode’s levels really feel like golf, which is part of the fun. After you’ve played through 11 stages, you and your opponent compete in one final competitive arena-based game, and the number of lives each of you has depends on how well you did in previous rounds. There are only three types of final competition, but they’re all fun, particularly the combat-based game where you fling around in an office chair, trying to pick up and fire explosive beach balls at your opponent. Your victory depends on how you perform in this final game, and how many lives you have–if you won seven of the previous rounds, you can take up to six hits in the final competition, whereas your opponent can only survive three. A full round of games in Party Mode rarely takes more than 10 minutes, and you only ever need the analog stick and the A button. These are less mini-games, more micro-games, often lasting just a few wild, hilarious seconds.
As an extension of What the Golf’s brand of irreverence and comedy, Party Mode is wonderful. It’s also hugely accessible–I jumped in with my partner, who is not a big gamer and never played the campaign, and it didn’t take long for her to start collecting wins. Granted, it’s not the most balanced experience (one player will start some games with a slight advantage), and it would be nice to be able to toggle certain levels on or off–over time we’ve learned the tricks to overcome the levels that initially caused frustration. One level also seems to award the win to the wrong player consistently, but it’s unclear whether that’s an error or the game trolling players as it tends to do. Yet every time we’ve sat down for a quick session it has turned into multiple rounds, with lots of swearing, shouting, and laughing. It’s rare for competitive party games to be built specifically as two-player experiences, and What the Golf is great for forming an intense rivalry with another person.
The single-player campaign is essentially unchanged from previous versions, at least in terms of levels and layouts, but playing on Switch gives you some extra control options and a few bells and whistles. Players now have the option to use either a controller or the touchscreen, and if you’re playing in handheld mode you can switch seamlessly at any time. You can play through the full game docked, but a few levels that use first-person motion controls will prompt you with a recommendation that you switch to handheld for the best experience–these are also the only levels that require you to have the Joy-Cons connected. I found that I preferred a docked experience for party mode and undocked for the campaign.
While initially I wanted to only use the touchscreen controls, touching the screen and swiping to determine the direction and power of my shot, the more I played, the more often I found myself switching to traditional controls if they suited a level. It’s not that the touch controls don’t work well–they’re responsive and feel natural–but it’s nice to have options. You can change at any time without needing to enter a menu or toggle anything–touch the stick or the screen and the game will immediately switch control schemes. The game supports every configuration of controller the Switch supports, and it’s clear that a lot of care has gone into making this feel like a game that was made with Nintendo’s platform in mind. HD Rumble adds an extra layer to the experience, too–while it’s used fairly sparingly, the little rumble that kicks in whenever you hit the pin is just right and makes completing a challenge all the more satisfying.
As an extension of What the Golf’s brand of irreverence and comedy, Party Mode is wonderful.
All of these extra touches have made replaying the campaign a pleasure, and I found myself more inclined to dig into the extra optional challenges on each hole, switching between touch and stick control methods to see which ones best suited each. There are occasional frame rate stutters and some slight visual glitches in this version, but nothing that impacts the experience in a meaningful way.
What the Golf was already excellent on PC and mobile, but the Switch version is the definitive one, especially if you have another player handy. It’s still wildly funny, weird, and lots of fun, and if it was just the campaign again, it would still be the best version of the game thanks to the ability to switch between touch and stick controls–but the addition of Party Mode really elevates the whole package. In my original review I said, “Like all great jokes, you’ll want to share it,” and now that’s easier than ever.