Do you know what the video game industry is lacking in? Mini-golf games. We do not have enough mini-golf games. What’s to dislike about a game in which you hit a ball into a hole while avoiding fun obstacles along the way? Thankfully, two independent teams are combining forces to make mini-golf in the video game format happen. With Kinelco working on coding and Lone Elk Creative giving the game its visual features, Vertiginous Golf is born. The game is currently early in development, but I was supplied with a small preview build to see how the game is coming along.
Vertiginous Golf is set in a steam-punk Victorian world where the civilians have worked out how to build a virtual golf course in the sky. You could say only the sky is the limit in this adventure. This allows for a much more creative mini-golf challenge than what you’ll find at your local centre. While the first few holes start off with fairly simple design to familiarise the player with certain obstacles, such as moving platforms, spinning floors, conveyor belts and fans, the later holes thus far look like mazes.
Thankfully, a mechanical humming-bird is available for you to control so you can investigate the numerous pathways to the hole. It is a smart design choice because when I was not using it I found myself quickly lost. The larger holes at first appear overwhelming, but they are enjoyable because they feature multiple ways to get to the hole. This non-linear design adds some replay-ability to the levels, of which there are currently 15 with at least 45 planned for the final release.
Vertiginous Golf is quite unlike other golf games. Rather than having a range of clubs to choose from players have a putter and a chipper – so it is like normal mini-golf, except with one extra club. It is up to you to decide how best to use each club. I found myself using the putter more often than not. However, when I started utilising the chipper, I found the level traversal possibilities opened up. Soon, rather than taking some 20 strokes to reach the hole, I was only taking around 10 shots (which is usually a couple of shots above par for these holes). With the verticality of the holes, the chipper can help to move the ball up levels rather than navigating to a ramp. Just make sure you do not miss-hit the ball over the platform and end up somewhere back towards the start of the hole. There are certain areas which restrict you to only use the putter, usually once you get closer to the hole.
If you just so happen to hit the ball poorly, there is a rewind tool that allows you to take the shot again without the penalty of a stroke. Unless making successful shots, however, the rewind meter does not fill up. In other words, the rewind tool is not a fail-safe for bad shots; it is a way to replay the occasional poor shot. I enjoy the inclusion of this feature and feel the right balance has been found regarding how often you can use it. The ability to restart an entire hole without exiting to the main menu would be a much appreciated option too.
The space bar is used to hit the ball. Hold it to gain power and release when you’ve reached the power you want – or think you want. Throughout my couple of hours on the green, I could not seem to find the right power for my shots. Perhaps the ability to pull the mouse back and forward to swing the club would add weight to the action, improving awareness. Nevertheless, extended play time will most likely allow me to adjust and the issue does not hinder the experience too much.
One of the more interesting design choices in Vertiginous Golf is the free-stroke system. Spread throughout each hole are holes that move you further along the course and do not count your hit as a stroke. Hitting the ball into these holes is the only way to score a hole-in-one in Vertiginous Golf.
Aside from navigating the ball to the final hole, scoring a hole-in-one in this game is no easy task. Players will have to successfully pocket the ball in a free-stroke hole several times in a row to achieve the perfect score of 1. Albeit, the free-stroke holes close after a set number of strokes are taken. The free-stroke holes often require you to take a trickier route. So if you miss a free-stroke hole’s stroke count it can often hamper your progress towards the main hole. Quite a few times after missing a free-stroke hole I was forced to turn my ball around and hit back the other way to get back on track, taking up valuable strokes. While it does mean aiming for a hole-in-one requires great skill – and a tiny bit of luck – it makes it an all-or-nothing play. You either go for the hole-in-one and risk a high stroke count, or play it safe and score average. It adds another tactical layer to the game, especially when playing multiplayer.
The future for Vertiginous Golf looks promising. Planned features include modern-day video game expectations such as online multiplayer and leader boards, full controller support (including the new Steam controller) and in-game customisation options. However, the feature I am most excited for is the level editor. While I have no doubt there will be some amazing courses in the final version of Vertiginous Golf, with tonnes of unique and crazy obstacles to master, an extra brain never hurts. A level editor promises dedicated players will always have new content to dabble in. Furthermore, local multiplayer will be enhanced by a group’s ability to make a course and then attempt to complete their brilliant or disastrous design.
The most important aspect of Vertiginous Golf is definitely the obstacles on the holes. The developers have set themselves up to be able to go crazy with the course design, which is not a bad thing. However, the few obstacles present in my build will not cut it in a final version. Putting a golf course in the sky screams for endless creativity. As long as the team thinks outside of the box when it comes to obstacle design, Vertiginous Golf should be a fun game.