First look at GDC
“Oh, you actually know the rules of golf? We don’t. We don’t know anything about golf. Everything is golf.” These four sentences — or some variation of them — were most of the conversation I had with guys from Triband, the developer behind What the Golf.
Yes, I know golf and Triband has mostly hit its mark in being intentionally not-golf. Swatting a thing toward another thing is about as golf as What the Golf manages to get. Through the early part of my approximately 30-hole demo, it was a lot of miniature golf inspiration — putting a ball through and around obstacles to reach a cup. Eventually, it turned into soccer. Sometimes a soccer net would go hurtling forward instead of the ball.
And that’s the irreverence Triband tries hard for. It’s perfectly aloof in its approach. There’s nothing serious about any of it, as it makes a mockery of a sport that’s traditionally dead serious. This is evidently clear by the time I reach the Superhot-themed levels that have my ball pick up a gun and dodge enemies’ bullets.
However, What the Golf can’t dodge the weird dissonance between not caring about golf and needing to have some sort of video game objective. Every level that I saw had one goal: Get the ball to the end point. The demo wrapped by telling me exactly how many strokes I took and how that compared to the day’s best performance. What the Golf hits the player over the head with the notion that they shouldn’t care about golf, and then it evaluates them in the only logical way — by the rules of golf.
But most people probably won’t care much about that disconnect. They’ll just be thrilled at the idea of golf by way of Tim and Eric-type flippant attitude. What the Golf seems like it’ll accomplish that in a way that’s fun enough. But don’t believe the “we don’t know anything about golf” shtick. Designing a game that is golf at its core requires an understanding of the sport. Maybe Triband doesn’t care about eagles and birdies and slices and bunkers. But it wants you to hit something from here to there, and that is golf to a tee.