Review: Golf With Your Friends

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Is there anything more sublime than a round of minigolf with your buddies? Some of my fondest childhood memories were of birthday parties at the putt-putt course, and even as an adult I sometimes cajole my co-workers into a round or two. Like the name suggests, Golf With Your Friends aims to capture that same simple joy, and does so with an ever-growing list of content and features.

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When I first jumped into GWYF there were but three courses to choose from, Forest, Oasis, and Twilight, at 18 holes apiece. Forest hews closest to what you remember of minigolf, with the classic windmill, Plinko drop, and river jump holes. Oasis is an Egyptian-themed course with longer, more elaborate holes that cross over and send the ball flying through the clear desert sky. Twilight is a significant jump in difficulty, with unforgiving ramps and pits that might require half a dozen or more strokes to get just right. Added to those now are Haunted, Candyland, and Ancient, which vary even more in challenge and variety of scenery.

Navigating these courses is as easy as click, drag, and release. Your mouse aims your shot and you pull back to fill the four-part power bar, which gives you a wide range of control over the ball. Everything from feather-light taps to line drives are possible, and the holes you encounter will require them all. There’s definitely a learning curve to the courses, a large part of that being no preview or free camera to scout your shots so learning the courses is expected. Once you have the lay of the land, the challenge becomes learning just the right finesse to put on the ball to overcome the traps. I could come close to par on all the courses after just a round or two, but it does require come patience to learn the more insidious holes.

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That’s probably going to be the biggest hangup for anyone looking for a casual golfing experience, honestly. GWYF isn’t really here to simulate a real-world putt-putt outing, but rather a fanciful, hectic, arcadey approximation of the sport. Holes can be huge, sprawling, and require you to carom balls off of statuary, comestibles, and levitating decor. Getting some of the gimmick holes right can take dozens of shots and while replicating that success isn’t too hard, having the patience to suss it out might be an uphill battle. Especially with the uphill holes.

At least the interface is simple enough to get you into a game almost immediately. Since this golf is intended to be enjoyed with (your) friends, every game is set up as a hosted server. Choosing to join gives you a handy browser with all the filters you could want, and hosting plops you down with name, password, and custom game options. One nice touch is that the lobby itself is a practice hole where you can putt around different obstacles while waiting for the match proper. And then there are loads of alternate modes and silly options to enable if you just want to fool around with your balls. The player base seems pretty chill as well and it’s always easy to find a match, even if it’s not necessarily the course or options I might want at the moment.

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The graphics have been improving along with the content, taking ever-fuller advantage of the Unity engine to render its hazards and accouterments in excellent detail. The sound design is less ambitious, featuring a peppy, looping soundtrack and only the most basic effects. Obviously you’re going to have more fun if you have the titular Your Friends to play with, but even going in solo there’s plenty of fun to be had. Even in its early state, Golf With Your Friends contains enough fun and adventures to make it worth your time.

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