Human life is wiped out. Earth is now a golf course for the ultra-rich.
Publisher: Untold Tales
Reviewed on: PC
Also available for: Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Cast: Peter Chaffey, Francesco Venturi, Yamilet Bogdanovic, Sofija Knezevic, Jelena Vorkapic, Paul Currion, Asa Berry, Alex Gortzounian, Mark Carson, Manja Zeremski, Nikolai Silwerski, Aleksandra Kovac
Developer: Demagog Studio
Writer, Director, Game Designer: Igor Simić
Art Director, Concept Artist, Character Designer: Nikola Stepkovic
Technical Director, Game Designer, Level Designer: Ivan Stankovic
Audio Director, Composer, Sound Designer: Shane Berry
A narrative-driven 2D-golf game doesn’t sound like a premise for success. Still, Demagog Studio’s debut project, Golf Club: Wasteland, manages to tell a poignant story while offering several holes of challenging golf. However, what’s most disarming about this game is the very bleak narrative on the surface, which ends up leaving you with a feeling of hope for us humans, and although yes, there are some terrible ones out there, we’re not all that bad.
The set-up is hauntingly simple: humanity has helped lead a disaster to Earth in the future, and the rich managed to survive by escaping to Mars. They’ve set up shop on Tesla City and now travel back to Earth to golf on the corpse of their homeworld for a bit of fun. Golf Club: Wasteland doesn’t tip-toe around its reference or ideology, and the aim of the golf club is squarely at Silicon Valleys face. It’s a game designed with a message about what class of people are going to ruin our planet, and it understands those same people would be the ones that will be able to afford to escape it if it ever became uninhabitable.
Golfing your way across 35 holes, the terrain tells most of the story, and the game’s difficulty will ramp up. Things begin with simple left-to-right courses with an object in the middle of the map to block your ball. Towards the end of the game, you’ll be putting on courses where the timing of your shot matters—attempting to hit the ball between hanging platforms on top of a skyscraper, or hitting over acid pools forming in the planets sewerage.
I started playing the game with a controller but switched to using the mouse for more precise controls as the levels got harder. There’s no complicated shot input system, it’s simply aiming and applying the right power, but the game doesn’t do a great job of letting you know, or even feel, where the ball will be landing. Using the analogue stick of a controller, I found it harder to input the minute differences in power than I could do easily with the mouse.
Each of the holes does have a par to achieve, but playing the game on Story Mode, there’s the luxury of taking as many hits as you need to get the ball in the hole. A Challenge Mode asks you to achieve par on each hole, and an Iron Man mode requires it of you.
As you play the game, you’re never entirely alone, thanks to ‘Radio Nostalgia’, which is playing back on Mars for your enjoyment on the course. The DJ feels like you’re a companion, and you’re treated to several catchy songs that help you vibe out while enjoying the golf course. Between these songs, the DJ cues-up interviews with people who reminisce about their time on the house, specifically during the last few years before Earth became uninhabitable. All of these stories are horrible, and no one has anything particularly good to say about their working conditions, home life, or the planet themselves. Other than maybe a handful that seemed to go for too long, these stories are all very engaging and help expand the vision of what Earth was like — although the run-down malls, billboards and storytelling happening in each level does a fantastic job at this as well.