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February 2023

Golf Peaks

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Puzzle
Developer: Afterburn
Release Date: March 14, 2019


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Switch Review - 'Golf Peaks'

by Cody Medellin on June 6, 2019 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

Golf Peaks is a relaxing puzzler where you become a mountaineer and a golfer all in one!

Of all of the golf games on the Nintendo Switch so far, only two of them attempt to be a serious golf title. One of them is the Neo Geo classic, Top Player's Golf and the other is simply titled The Golf, a game that gives people pause since it was from the same publisher that released the simply titled but utterly dismal Tennis a year ago. The latest golf-themed title for the Switch, Golf Peaks, won't give serious golf gamers another option, but for those wanting another puzzle title, this will do the trick.

The basic premise is similar to almost every golf-themed game. From the tee, swing until you get the ball to the cup. Sink the ball, and you can move on to the next cup to repeat the process on a different layout. However, there are several things that are very different from a typical golf game. For starters, the course is presented in a grid from an isometric viewpoint. There are typical hazards, like sand traps and small ponds, but they're mixed in with bottomless pits, hills, ice plains, and ramps. There are also some items on the course that are more at home on a miniature golf course, like bumpers and a few other video game-specific things, like sinking mud traps, spring-loaded launchers, and portals.

The other major thing that makes Golf Peaks different from other golf games is that you don't have to worry about stroke count, a power meter, or trying to put a spin or arc on your swing. Instead, the game gives you a set of cards to use per hole that determine how your swing will go. One card may be straightforward and give you a swing that's hard enough to make the ball travel two squares. Another card may let you hop the distance of one square, while another card may let you hop two squares and let you travel forward one square at the end of the hop. You still need to point in the direction of the swing, but only one button is needed to commit to the move.

As in any good puzzle game, the pacing in Golf Peaks is well thought out. Each world introduces a new gameplay mechanic, and after a few holes, the difficulty ramps up. Later courses introduce features from earlier worlds, turning easy courses into something more devious. Almost all of the worlds you go through have nine holes, and beating the stages unlocks three more difficult holes. The latter three are optional, as completing the initial nine holes is all that's necessary to unlock the new world.

What may catch people by surprise is how casual the game. There are no bonuses given for using fewer cards than you're given, and there's no penalty for hitting the ball out of bounds or into a trap, as you can always walk back your last move or restart the hole at the touch of a button. There's also no grading system, so taking your time to solve a puzzle or trying to speed-run through it always results in the same marker denoting that you solved the hole. Without anything even resembling fodder for a leaderboard, this is a very low-pressure puzzle game.

At the same time, the game is rather short. There are nine courses in total, which equates to 108 holes to play through if you're a completionist and one extra hole once you see the end credits. There are some real brain-teasers in here, but unless you get completely stuck on a stage, expect to spend only a few hours with this title. This isn't really a bad thing, as the game is meant to be a calm and relaxing approach to puzzles, but some people will be left wanting after the last hole has been conquered.

The presentation is focused on simplicity. Controls can either be done with the traditional physical stick and buttons, but you still have the option to use the touch-screen, like the iOS/Android original. The graphics are hand-drawn but look simple, while the color palette is vibrant and eye-pleasing. Meanwhile, the soundtrack drifts between one relaxing tune after another, while the quiet chip of the ball and the ting of hitting the cup are even satisfying to people who aren't golf fans.

Golf Peaks is a gem of a puzzle game. Everything — its controls, presentation, and premise — indicates simplicity, but the ingenious puzzles won't let you breeze through this. It's an addictive enough title because of this, and while this is light on content, its relaxing nature means you won't mind too much. If you need a game that acts as a nice break from the longer and more stressful titles on the system, Golf Peaks is it.

Score: 8.5/10

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