It would be a hole-in-one
It’s a great tragedy that with the unstoppable success of the Nintendo Switch, we haven’t seen hide nor hair of Mario Golf on the hardware. Mario Tennis made a decent enough comeback following its severe stumble on the Wii U, but there hasn’t been a peep out of Nintendo or Camelot Software about Mario’s return to the links.
Its absence has been noticed throughout the pandemic. Since I went into work-from-home mode — or as it’s better known, trapped-at-home mode — I’ve been putting in some time on the greens with my 3DS and Mario Gold: World Tour. But even with all the purchased DLC, I’ve been feeling the urge to move onto something new. Maybe that’s why I fell so hard for Birdie Crush this past week.
From developer Com2uS, Birdie Crush is a new, free-to-play golf game now available in North America for iOS and Android. It’s billed as a “fantasy golf” title, and to sell that concept, you’ll participate in a short hole-in-one challenge as a witch while you download the game. Beyond that, the fantasy elements are quite light. You play as a quartet of golfers who are students at the Delion Bridge Golf Academy, where they compete in various tournaments. Each character has their own backstory, but if you’re just in this to golf, you can easily skip through the dialogue.
If you’re wary about downloading another free-to-play gacha game, know that Birdie Crush is loaded with ways you can pour a disgusting amount of money into the app. There are a wide variety of packages available that’ll load you up with coins and crystals for gacha pulls or new costume parts that range from 99¢ to $99. If you don’t want to wait to collect all the pieces of a costume, there are some you can buy outright for $45. And because every game has to have one now, there is a season pass for purchase as well. The game is very in-your-face about its spending options, and you can expect to run into many ads.
So far, those ads haven’t really bothered me as the golfing here is really quite good. It uses a simplified version of what you find in Mario Golf or Everybody’s Golf. Tap the screen, and you’ll zoom out to the green where you can set where you want your ball to land, based on your available equipment and power. When you’re ready to swing, you tap the button to get the cursor moving and tap it again as close to the center of the swing zone as you can. The more you level up your equipment, the larger the center of that zone will become, and the more likely you’ll be to land those perfect shots. Putting is even easier as you really only have to worry about lining up your shot with the sloping terrain.
It can often feel as though Birdie Crush is simultaneously overstuffed and severely lacking content. In terms of just straight golfing, there are different tournaments to play, events, grade matches against other players, team matches, and casually playing with your registered friends. As bountiful as that might sound, most modes limit you to just three holes at a time, and it can grow repetitive in the early hours as you’ll continually play the same handful of holes.
Beyond that is a bunch of additional features I didn’t really care for, including a board game challenge map and the different buildings of the Golf Academy you’re supposed to unlock. It can seem like unnecessary busy-work, but I guess it did keep me playing day in and day out.
Look, I know a game that’s as grossly monetized as this one probably isn’t worth spreading the word about, but the gameplay is so warmly familiar that I sink right in every time I open the app. It’s the perfect title to unwind with after work, and it’s beautiful too, running incredibly smoothly on my Google Pixel 3a, even if it does devour the battery. Make no mistake, I will delete this off my phone in a heartbeat if Nintendo releases a new Mario Golf, but until that happens, Birdie Crush has proven itself more than capable of scratching that golf itch.