I rarely play mobile games, despite being a gamer and despite owning a device capable of running literally thousands of them. There are too many turnoffs. I don't like free to play tactics or advertisements, and most "big" games are better played on platforms where the controls are decent. Which is where Desert Golfing comes it. I picked it up after seeing it mentioned on a gaming website. After playing it for several hours, I have decided it might be the model mobile game.
On the surface, Desert Golfing is very simple. The graphics and sound effects look like an Atari 2600 game running in HD. It doesn't have a title screen or options. You can't delete your game and start over. It's just... there. Nothing but gameplay. But it's fun, addictive, challenging, and deceptively deep.
There is a ball. You knock it across the screen to get it into the hole. The game tracks how many hits it takes you to get the ball in, and adds that to a total number it tracks when you're done.
That's the game.
Yet somehow Desert Golfing epitomizes what a mobile game should be:
* Easy to play and enjoy in very short bursts.
* Easy to quit and come back to without losing progress.
* Opens and closes almost instantly.
* Very undemanding, so it doesn't kill your battery.
* Well-designed for touch controls.
* No distracting advertisements.
* No in-app purchases or timed pay walls.
* Doesn't require a controller.
* Doesn't get progressively harder too fast.
A lot of what makes Desert Golfing great is what it doesn't have. No distractions of any kind. No clutter whatsoever. It makes a game that is relaxing and focused. Yet there is nothing to get in the way of you getting into and out of the game at a moment's notice, so you never feel rushed, never worried you won't finish your game before you need to quit for some reason.
I have tons of games on my phone, including great stuff like Terraria, but I barely play any of them. They are usually awkward, battery draining, and poorly suited for short sessions. I'm not saying there isn't a place for "bigger" games on your phone, but Desert Golfing has become my go-to game because it's so easy to pick up and play for a few minutes any time I feel like it. Yet it's fun and addictive as well.
Desert Golfing works because it doesn't try to be something it isn't. It understands its platform, and how and why people generally game on it. Rather than try to awkwardly port a console or PC game to the platform, it takes the platform as a starting point for creating an appropriate experience. Yet it avoids the less desirable trappings of the platform - microtransactions and/or advertisements - instead going for a low pay-once price that feels fair and honest.
Should Desert Golfing be a model for other mobile games? Yes and no. I don't think every game on mobile should be as barebones, or aspire to every pro I listed. But it should have some of them, and a developer should certainly keep them in mind.