As gaming at large gorges itself on a feast of fantastic titles, PCVR crawls beneath the table licking up the crumbs. There are tasty treats simmering in the kitchen, like the remake of The 7th Guest and sequels to I Expect You To Die and Arizona Sunshine, but right now all the fine dining is happening on Quest and PSVR2, covering which would involve running my thumb under RPS' hermetic PC seal.
In my desperation, I've turned to golf, something I would never consider under normal circumstances. I feel about golf the same way I feel about the UK Conservative party, insofar as both occupy space that would be better filled with trees. But I haven't gone totally tartan slacks. We're only entering the realm of minigolf, which I am more positively inclined toward. It lacks the pretensions and exclusionary nature of its bigger, paunchier cousin. Anybody can rock up to a minigolf course with a putter and nobody will sneer at you for being shit at it. It's also small and inherently naff, traits I can likewise relate to.
My goggley eyes were initially drawn to the excitedly titled Golf It!, a recently-released minigolf simulator that supports VR but is not VR exclusive. It features eight official courses with unique themes ranging from fantasy villages to Japanese gardens to icy boreal forests, and a level editor that has produced a wide array of community made courses. It also costs six pounds, substantially less than the price of actual minigolf.
Sadly, I found Golf It!'s VR mode wanting. For starters, the teleported movement system is nowhere near precise enough for the game's cramped holes. Each time you hit the ball, the game teleports you automatically to its new location. But it spawns you right on top of the ball rather than next to it, hence you either have to shuffle about in your room to the appropriate position, or use the manual teleport, which always seems to place you to the side of where the reticule indicates. Oh, and the reticule only appears for the right hand controller, even if you move using the left analogue stick.
Moreover, I'm not sold on Golf It!'s simulation of putter-on-ball action. It feels hollow and plasticky, like playing with a child's golfing set purchased from the summer aisle of Poundland. The courses are pleasant enough, although as is the case with actual minigolf, some holes are more interested in gimmickry than playability. One hole, which involved navigating your ball across a narrow bridge, spawned me underneath said bridge with my head stuck in the course geometry. Another involved putting the ball around a loop-the-loop I was stood at the rear of, meaning I couldn't actually see the hole I was supposed to be putting at.
I sense that Golf It! is a flatscreen experience first, and that it offers a VR mode in the same way a water hazard offers an opportunity to clean your golf balls. Luckily, while trying to recall the name of Golf It! by Googling "VR minigolf" I stumbled upon another virtual putting experience named Walkabout Mini Golf VR, released back in 2021. With Golf It!'s VR mode proving less than whelming, I figured I'd check out this other pretender to the Windmill Throne.
And I'm glad I did, because Walkabout Mini Golf is excellent. Unlike Golf It!, Walkabout is a dedicated VR experience, and it shows. Although the two games look similar, from the abrupt "drop you into a 3D menu" opening, to the abstracted, painterly art-styles, it takes one swing of your club to understand that Walkabout is far more refined. The slight inertia of both putter and ball effectively simulates the "weight" of both, instantly guiding you into that typical putting stance, knees slightly bent, arse slightly out, swinging at the shoulders. Within minutes you'll be skipping balls across the rim of the hole and holding your club aloft in frustration like a true middle-aged marketing executive. I can tell the game's physics is spot on because it replicates the infuriating slice to the left I always forget to compensate for.
Walkabout Mini Golf also features one of the most elegant accessibility features I've seen in some time. By placing the head of your putter on the ground and straightening your arms, your golf club automatically adjusts to be the perfect size for your height. It's ingenious to the point of feeling slightly magical, and rather satisfying apart from its practical function.
The base game features eight eighteen-hole courses, ranging from Seagull Cliffs, which in atmosphere resembles a minigolf version of St. Andrews, lacking only the bracing coastal wind, to more exotic courses set under the sea and even in space. Every course also has an alternate "Night mode" version, which alters the arrangement of obstacles to make each hole more challenging, which is a neat touch. The game lacks Golf It!'s level editor, but does feature a wide array of purchasable DLC courses, including several "Lost City" courses such as Atlantis and El Dorado, and, weirdly, one themed around Jim Henson's Labyrinth. [Feel Rick buried the lede, here - ed.]
Both games also include extensive multiplayer options like online PvP and leaderboards, while Walkabout also has a guest pass that lets you invite a player who doesn't own the game (but does own a VR headset) to play. One feature Walkabout lacks is a local "hot seat" multiplayer mode. This is a shame, as it seems an ideal game for parties, provided you don't mind sharing an increasingly sweaty VR headset with your pals.
Yet even without that feature, Walkabout Mini Golf is a worthy addition to any VR game collection, a convincing virtual representation of the kitschy challenge of minigolf. And although Golf It!'s VR mode needs some work before I'd recommend it, the wider game might be worth a punt as a flatscreen alternative, especially given its low price.