Dangerous Golf Feels Like An Early Access Game Not A Finished Product
A swing and a miss
I've been whiling away some pleasant hours smashing up stately homes and gas stations around the world in Dangerous Golf [official site]. But although I'm having an okay time spilling and crashing my way through a global tour, I'm not in love with the game. Heck, I'm not even a hundred percent sure I've mastered all of what's going on.
Okay, so. As you may have worked out from the screenshot at the top, this is not a game about neat putting greens and polite clapping. This is an arcadey minigolf idea which hinges around using the ball to smash up as much of a given room or area as possible - the Burnout Crash mode of adventure golf, which is fitting given its developers' origins. You can earn more points through things like combos or hitting particular objects or smashing hidden bottles as well as trick shots and so on.
I've been playing the solo mode and just working my way through each course as it unlocks. I've been using a 360 controller as mouse and keyboard wasn't supported at launch (a fact which seems to have been poorly communicated via the Steam page judging by the complaints) but is expected later today. There's no tutorial so I've been feeling my way, trying to learn from the tips which pop up on load screens as well as old-fashioned trial and error with the controls. Sometimes that approach is relatively inoffensive because I feel like I learn what a level wants pretty quickly. For example, you learn what the combos in a level might be by taking a few experimental whacks and seeing what gets rewarded.
Other times it's more unwieldy. I recently got to the point where it introduced hazards and aimed my first shot directly at a delicious-looking cake because to me a hazard is a sand trap or something. Turned out the cake was the hazard so I needed to work around it, destroying everything else but leaving the iced wonder intact. That was a pretty straightforward learning experience but it still meant I needed to reload and start again, spending longer waiting for it to reload than I did hitting the ball in that whole first run.
Other things were even less clear. I had to check on the Steam page to find out what "Reveal Flag" meant when you saw it pop up on the beginning of a level. It means you need to destroy enough to activate/unlock the flag. It also took a few courses to work out you could control the direction of the ball when it was in burning smashdown mode. I'd previously assumed it was a case of hitting it and making sure the angle of that hit would set up a chain of catastrophic destruction. I only found out I should have been guiding the ball like some kind of weird bouncing missile when fiddling with the camera angle during a shot. That feels like information you should be given immediately.
The loading screen tells you the basic inputs (at the point of release the game only supported controller input not mouse and keyboard) but there's no guidance beyond that. As such you're left to figure out how and when those controls need to be used. Some modes are timed and if your ball ricocheting about takes too long you can run out of time. Mashing the buttons meant I dropped into putt mode but I wasn't sure which button I'd hit, so when the timed levels came up I just got into the habit of mashing all the buttons to stop the ball, just to be on the safe side.
I will also say that the aiming seems to be relatively sticky which seems a bit weird to me. When you get to the putting phase the game automatically points the camera at the hole, thus aiming your shot for you. Most of the time all you need to do it push the ball in that direction and you get the hole. I've had a few rounds where I needed to bounce the ball of something to get the shot in when the hole was round a corner or something, and as I watched the ball bounce it seemed to obey the laws of physics for a while but then on the last bounce when it shouldn't have gone in it would start heading directly for the hole and drop in.
I mean, you could argue that the point of the game is the destruction not the putting, and you'd be largely right, but then why bother with the hole in the first place? Why not make the whole thing entirely about the destruction? Maybe it's for the people who ignore the camera reorientation and go for a trick shot to finish off.
As a personal preference I don't like that as a set up because I don't like the combination of chaos and skill. I feel like the destruction is relatively chaotic and so you can luck out on that and then really mess up the putt if you try to do something clever but thoughtful. Maybe you like that risk/reward, but for me it feels like I'd want the first section to be more replicable for me to then get into the habit of risking it when I go to finish off. As it is I appreciate the crashing and the smashing but I don't want to repeat levels – not even to oust a friend from a high score table which pops up at the end of a hole.
Right now I'd say that it feels decent to smash things up, but I find the controls unwieldy and the gameplay unnecessarily opaque in places. It feels less like a finished game and more like an Early Access project that's still awaiting things like tutorials or some usability testing for the menus – the quit option is hard to find and "options" is called "clubhouse" for some reason. When a chain of destruction goes well it's incredibly satisfying, but I've mostly found the control system and camera angles are too clunky for me to really settle into a session and I don't feel any drive to repeat a level. Others are also reporting audio bugs, display issues and language localisation problems.
Basically it feels like an unfinished console port that needs more time. Mouse and keyboard support is expected today and might help with some people's frustration (although it wasn't one of my own irritations). You might really like the destruction element, but it ended up feeling more like a showpiece – maybe something for a VR games collection like The Lab – than a solid game.