Cursed to Golf review: Is this the hardest golf game ever?

Cursed to Golf review: Is this the hardest golf game ever?

The typical golf video game has six or seven courses and well over 100 holes. IN Cursed to Golf? There is only one course with 18 holes. And struggling to get out of a sand trap won’t result in a bogey as much as your eternal damnation.

This is not your typical golf video game. It’s the most punishing and creative twist on the golf formula I’ve ever played. And I still haven’t finished the 18 holes.

While Cursed to Golf has core similarities to the traditional game of golf (hit a ball with a stick until you get it in a hole), it quickly deviates from that model in wild ways.

Here you have a limited number of strokes to complete each hole. Run out of punches and you’re dead. Literal. You get sucked into a portal and you have to start back from hole one. The typical hole i Cursed to Golf may take 20 or more strokes to complete, but you start with far fewer than that. You have to earn more hits by smashing statues scattered around each lane, which can add two or even four life-giving hits to your reserves.

Two characters meet each other in Cursed to Golf

Image: Chuhai Labs/Thunderful

You also have a number of consumption cards to give you an advantage. The simplest is a mulligan, which allows you to take another shot without reducing the number of strokes. But they become strangers from there. One card splits your ball into three at the touch of a button, allowing you to choose from one of the three balls to take your next shot. Another stops at any time you choose, causing the ball to freeze in place and then drop straight down, saving you from danger. There are dozens of these cards, and knowing when to use them is critical to making the most of a situation. For example, you can use a mulligan after going out of your way to smash a punch statue, giving you the advantage of the statue without forcing you to use a punch.

It may seem like you have a huge advantage, but careful use of these cards throughout the 18-hole journey is necessary. It’s easy to fall behind on the number of strokes and just start burning your card buffer until you have no chance of surviving the hole. Every shot really matters in your quest out of Hell.

Smash a statue in Cursed to Golf

Image: Chuhai Labs/Thunderful

Due to these changes, Cursed to Golf feels much more intense and strategic than most golf games, which usually put me in a meditative trance. Comparisons with Dark souls has been made, but this feels closer to hardcore roguelikes such as Spelunky HD and Kill the Sproutwhere a moment’s careless play can lead to disaster.

There is also the element of randomness to contend with. It’s a bit unfair to say that Cursed to Golf only has 18 holes, because it’s actually procedurally generated. The placement of hazards and statues changes every time you start from scratch, so you can’t just memorize the most efficient path through each hole.

To mix things up further, there are course themes that change every few holes, with temples, jungles, and other fantastical regions to roam in. Each theme comes with its own set of traps and features (like ricochet walls that allow you to magically transform .the path of your ball). Your first time through a new theme will undoubtedly end in death when you misinterpret a hazard and burn a handful of strokes trying to get through it. As with the best roguelikes, this failure will eventually result in mastering the zone, leading you towards even more difficult challenges.

While most of the Cursed to Golfits twists on the formula work well, there are some frustrations associated with some of the game design decisions. While you can scroll forward in a hole to see what’s in the way, your view is painfully limited when aiming your shot. Often you hit the ball a bit blind, especially when it comes to long-range full power shots with the driver. While this mimics actual golf and its blind dogs, video game golf usually provides much more insight into where you’re actually aiming. IN Cursed to Golf, there is some guessing involved, and guessing wrong can end a run in no time. This randomness can be discouraging when so much is at stake, but it’s also something you can try to prepare for by playing more conservatively.

Even with Cursed to Golfits punishing difficulty, I’ve found myself getting closer and closer to the infamous 18th hole on each run, with no desire to stop until I’ve reclaimed my mortality. It’s a testament to the craftsmanship of developer Chuhai Labs, who was willing to take such risks with such a proven formula that I haven’t stopped even after several death sentences. And I won’t stop until I finally remove this dreaded albatross from my neck.

Cursed to Golf has been released on August 18 on Windows PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Nintendo Switch. The game was reviewed on PC using a pre-release download code provided by Chuhai Labs. Vox Media has affiliated partnerships. These do not affect editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find more information about Polygon’s ethical guidelines here.

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