I’m standing on the tee of a hole I know. A rising driver fires over bunkers, bunkers and spikes to add four shots before hitting the golden idol. But now that I have different Ace cards, I can follow a very different path. There’s a column of TNT directly behind me that I can detonate with a card before equipping another that allows me to change direction of fire in mid-air. I extend my arm and swing the ball into the newly created opening behind me. Before it plunged into the water below, I deflected the ball into a narrow passage and a small intersection filled with spikes and handy ricochet protection. Then it allows me to turn the ball over a third time. The ball comes out through the small opening, bounces twice on the island green, and drops into the cup with the help of a little spin I added. A hole-in-one — my first ever curse to golf. The first two times I played this hole it took me about five minutes and over a dozen shots.
Cursed comes the magic of golf when you discover completely new ways to complete a level in efficient and mechanically interesting ways. Although Cursed For Golf lets you send your golf ball through a portal, turn it into snow and thunder, or turn it into a rocket, it captures the beauty of real golf in a way that very few golf games have before – even the “realistic” ones. Just like real golf, each and every shot feels different, and most importantly, the only limit you have is your creativity and ingenuity. The freedom you’re given to experiment with each level will keep the next similar layout completely fresh.
In the final round of the tournament, they are struck by lightning and sent to Golf Purgatory, a diabolical golf course run by the Greenkeeper. To escape, you must complete all 18 side-scrolling holes without running out of shots. If you fail in any of the steps, a similar structure will send you back to the beginning of the course. Gameplay is the focus here, but damn it for golf’s witty dialogue, a rather heartwarming story, and a voice that’s hearty despite being caught in hell.
On the surface it has pretty damn simple game mechanics for golf. It uses a click-based swing system. Pressing the button again resets your power meter and your aim. Crucially, targeting is not manual. The direction of your shot corresponds to your click time. Shot preview shows you the path the ball will take, so you always know where it’s headed. Your bag includes a driver, iron and wedge.
On a shot basis, Cursed is a lot of fun for golf, although when you’re not using Ace cards, the power-ups and perks you collect in each run can adjust shots. A quick press of a button in mid-air and pointing the D-pad or stick in the desired direction will cause the ball to spin as it lands. Spin is very important due to the high chaos of the levels. Ball physics are stellar. In some ways, Cursed to Golf is deep and rewarding thanks to tighter controls.
Ace cards turn levels into clever puzzles to crack. Cursed for Golf has over 20 different Ace cards. Some cards offer basic benefits, such as taking a mulligan (repeating a previous shot), adding a stroke to your score, or a practice shot. Most, however, affect the golf ball and its flight.
Turn the golf ball into a drill to dig through walls, coat it with ice to freeze ponds, electrify it to destroy the vines that eat the ball and give you a one-shot penalty, and you can U-Turn the shot. Card to get a hole (hopefully). Several different rocket balls give you free control over your shots in the air, some go faster and farther and others are better at cutting corners. Scattershot lets you press a button in mid-air to break the ball into three and choose which one to play next. Stop the ball in the air to make it fall immediately and also act as a pencil weight to keep it from rolling when it hits the ground. An Ace card turns the ball into something that has nothing, so it can pass through walls and other obstacles. Meanwhile, you can set up a portal, yes, it will work just like you do in that portal.
Different Ace cards give you many, many different ways to approach each shot, and make some of the game’s more difficult levels more approachable. Even after putting over 20 hours into the game, I found myself regularly experimenting with different cards, learning new tricks to reduce my scores. You start each run with a small set of Ace cards, but as you progress through the increasingly challenging levels, the deck expands and so do the odds.
In Curse to Golf, your primary currency is cash, which is earned based on how many shots are left at the end of each level. You can then spend money on Ace card packs and individual cards at the shops you find in each run. As you drive your cart between holes in the world, you can find money and Ace cards in chests. The setup is similar to other cheats like Slay the Spire, with forks in the road giving you a choice of direction.
The damn golf level design reminded me a lot of Spelunky because of the verticality to it and also the many small steps and rooms in each level that feel like little self-contained challenges. Divided into four biomes — Grass, Desert, Cave and Fiery Hell — the 18-hole course will throw a bewildering array of obstacles and patterns at you. Although imprecise, the level of spread is not random. The Greens Keeper will “change” the course, put stages in different locations, and introduce unplayed stages on your next run. Chuhai Labs claims there are over 70 possible levels. In the 12 runs it took me to beat all 18 stages, I probably saw 40-50 different course layouts.
Although there isn’t an “infinite” supply of levels, each level has multiple ways to take it. Some of the later levels are so large that you’ll need to play through each area at least 10 times. Many levels also have multiple flags, so you can win by landing one. Each biome introduces new obstacles. The grassy zone has cones, water and bakeries standing your way. The desert biome includes giant sand dunes, more elaborate spikes, the aforementioned defenses that basically play pinball, movable platforms, and tunnel systems to transport your ball. You’ll trade the giant grills for the cavernous stairs that eat your golf ball. All of these biomes have teleporters that can help you skip a section of the level in hard-to-reach places, and there are wind turbines that guide your ball through labyrinthine corridors.
Cursed maintains balance for golf and rewards excellent design at different levels. The downsides are that you really have to stop and think about which Ace card to use and which way to go. Given that many accidents also result in a one-shot penalty, avoidance is important. You only start each hole with five total shots, but you can add to that number by breaking idols and using Ace cards in each hole. The “danger” is always due to the difficulty of the shot you are trying; Even when using Wacky Ace cards, you don’t leave the end result to chance. A well-struck shot almost always works, making the damned into golf strictly fair, despite its silliness.
The first time I played one of the cave levels, it took me over 30 shots by playing it safe and taking a very obvious route. The next time I played that hole I won it by five strokes because of my Ace cards and appetite for risk. It’s a remarkable feat of level design that both results are rewarding in their own way. Late game levels have such tricky structures that you can reasonably use an Ace card on every shot and not feel like a waste.
The risk-reward increases your choice of which path to take. There are “cursed” versions of levels that are harder but reward you with a pack of Ace cards and are often found along the way with treasure chests and shops. Cursed levels will hurt you or the course with a pernicious feeling every few shots you make. Idols are removed from the course, the deck is locked, there is disruptive wind/rain, your driver is unplayable, etc. There is even a bad curse that flips the screen up and another that allows you to hit the ball to the right or left. Cursed levels also have small graveyards that will punish you for one shot. The odds of dying on a cursed course are higher than normal layouts, but the rewards are incredibly worthwhile in the long run. This is where smart use of Ace cards and accurate shots are rewarded.
It’s not just the cursed levels that make such a progression system truly humiliating. I love how Cursed Two implements Golf-like features in a way that encourages them. At first, you can only get through a few holes before you die, but once you start to understand the rules, the levels become difficult but doable. You lose all the Ace cards you get during a run and your money when you die. Considering that the later levels often require you to use Ace cards, after defeating the cursed bosses for Golf, it can be a very frustrating experience if you don’t implement a few progression system features.
During your run you will encounter three bosses, each of which you must hit the flag to continue. All three bosses have their own unique character and traits that make playing with them fun and exciting. The armored Scot hits ridiculously long drives. Explorer will change parts of the course in the hole to try to distract you. And The Forgotten enlists the help of a pair of birds — Birdie and Albatross (golf names!) — who juggle the ball and carry it through the rough spots of the level. Once you beat a boss, you shouldn’t encounter them again in subsequent runs. This forced me to go out with my Ace cards to win – even though there weren’t many left for the next stages.
The rewards for defeating these fearsome foes are immense and make golf one of the least annoying – yet challenging – mocks I’ve ever played. The first skill you get is the Checkpoint Flag, which lets you save your progress after a completed pit each round. If you die, you still lose your gear, but you don’t have to start over (unless you die again). Jimmy’s ability increases your par number to five once per hole after the last stroke, effectively giving you 10 strokes by default. The last, and ultimately most important perk allows you to return to the checkpoint flag (or start) with all of your Ace cards after death. These abilities, combined with storing some of your cards in a container for future runs, allow you to experience the entirety of the game in a way that highlights all of its best features – Ace cards, all four unique biomes, and many different levels.
My first completed run took 2.5 hours – the game saves after each level and records your stats for each run – and I spent a total of 15 hours getting there. On my second completed run, I figured out the lowest possible score, and found a very interesting way to do it. I played the first 15 holes using only two Ace cards. Then I die on purpose to go back to the beginning with all my cards. I was able to use cards on every beat and not run out. I even finished that run with over 100 cards left. So if you’re cursed with the difficulty of golf or just hate the fairies, you can play the system without worry.
A golf course is an absolute joy to play, but it’s also beautiful to watch and listen to. The colorful characters and environment designs have an absolutely charming Game Boy Advance vibe to them. An electronic soundtrack composed by Mark Sparling (Short Hike) complements the image to create an atmosphere of hospitality that is catchy, engaging and makes you want to hang out.
Each cursed aspect of golf comes together to create a unique and unique game. With its easy hook, beautifully designed levels, huge array of dynamic abilities, and balanced rogue-like structure, it’s damn near endless fun to golf. In the year There have been a lot of great games released in 2022 so far, but Cursed for Golf is easily at the top of my list this time around. It’s one of the best golf games ever made, but you don’t have to love golf to enjoy being cursed at being forced to play it.