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'What the Golf' Is WarioWare With Frickin' Golf Clubs

It may technically be a "golf game," but 'What the Golf' does not care what you think it is. 'What the Golf' does what it wants, and it's one of this year's funniest games.

by Patrick Klepek
Sep 26 2019, 10:17pm

Image courtesy of Triband

Apple Arcade launched last week with a huge lineup. This week, I’m trying to unpack the service as I spend time with it, and I’m going to highlight several games, as I work through questions about the service and consider its promise: paying $5 per month for a bunch of games that’ll never ask for another dollar. I took a close look at the delightful puzzler Grindstone , a game easy to imagine filled with microtransactions, expressed guilt while playing and discarding games without knowing how developers will ultimately get paid , and examined what it’s like to jump between the various devices Apple Arcade games run on.

Every day this week, I’ve used various games on Apple Arcade to think through questions about the service. Today, I just want to point you towards a damn good game: What the Golf.

What the Golf is incredibly deceptive. It presents as a golf game with "wacky physics," making it a challenge to corral the ball in the right direction. But in short order, What the Golf reveals it’s much stranger—and much funnier. Here's a non-spoilery example that only hints at the heights of weirdness What the Golf reaches for.

A familiar setup for any “golf” game: a golfer, a golf ball, and a golf club. Place your finger on the screen to aim, pull back to fill up a power meter, and let go. A few strokes later, drop the ball in the hole. The next level? Place your finger on the screen, pull back to fill up a power meter, and let go—only to watch the golf club fly forward. The next level? The actual golfer is the one bouncing around. What the Golf escalates from here, in ways you’d never expect, and in ways I don’t even want to hint at because you should honestly discover it yourself.

Ultimately much of What the Golf is centered around trying and failing to corral the game’s exaggerated physics. Playing What the Golf, I was often reminded of a game like Octodad, one of those games where the act of failure isn’t a punishment—it’s another form of success.

In reviewing Sayonara Wild Hearts recently, I praised the music game for delivering new ideas at an electrifying pace, but Sayonara Wild Hearts has nothing on What the Golf, a game that feels more akin to Nintendo’s classic WarioWare series more than anything else.

(Side note: What’s up with the lack of a new WarioWare game on Switch?)

And much like Sayonara Wild Hearts, What the Golf transforms into whatever it wants to be, whatever suits the funny joke the developers are trying to capitalize on. There are very few limitations. The core mechanic of touching the screen to fill a power meter never changes, but how that power meter is deployed radically shifts. At times, the game will ask you to flip the phone in different directions. Other times, it will move from a 3D game to a 2D game.

There’s so much game here, too. There are hundreds of levels to dig through, and even presented with a stage that looks familiar, there is always a twist waiting around the corner. Some require you to get the ball (or couch (or car?)) in the hole, others make the same ask with a limited amount of strokes. Or, as I just found out in a recent stage, you might have to race against a sheep who’s also interested in reaching the pin. Naturally.

Some games are funny because of the writing. What the Golf is hysterical without deploying a single line of dialogue, communicating its jokes through level design. So far, it seems pretty special.

As a bonus: What the Golf is not exclusive to Apple Arcade. It premiered on Apple’s new service, but funnily enough, the game was announced during a Nintendo Direct? It’s slated for a release on Switch “later this year” and comes to the Epic Game Store on October 1. It’s one of those games that feels most natural with a touch screen, but it’ll be a joy regardless of where you play it.

Follow Patrick on Twitter. If you've got any Apple Arcade recommendations, drop an email: patrick.klepek@vice.com. He's also available privately on Signal.