With crazy courses and a multiplayer focus, GWYF is a golf game with a difference.
Sometimes a game can come along at just the right moment, and Golf With Your Friends, which this week left Early Access on Steam PC and launched on PS4, Switch, and Xbox One, could well turn out to be such a game. It's a crazy multiplayer putt-fest with colourful stages, challenging shots, and hats. Lots and lots of hats. It's also a bunch of fun, and we had a blast trying out its many modes and playing online with friend and foe alike.
The premise is refreshingly simple, but it has been executed with admirable depth. The Classic mode is exactly what you expect, with quirky themed courses where you've got to smack the ball into the hole at the other end. That mode, however, is accompanied by variants such as Hockey (which gives you a goal and a moving cut-out goalkeeper to get past), a basketball game (which we didn't like at all), and a custom mode that lets you change physics-based options or replace your regular ball for a cone or an egg-shaped ball.
There are a bunch of different courses, each one themed around something different, and for the most part, they're well-designed with fun features to get around and sometimes even alternative paths to take between teeing off and making your final putt. However, where Golf With Your Friends differs from pretty much every other golf game (that we've encountered, at least) is that all players take their shots at the same time, which speeds things up immensely and turns this normally sedate and absorbing experience into a manic race to the finish.
Playing online with up to 11 others, it doesn't take long for the pressure to build, with everyone able to see everyone else's moves playing out in real-time. It's not quite a race to the finish line because you don't seem to get bonus points for finishing faster, instead, it's important to take a little time and line up your shots with care. Don't take too long, though, as there's a timer constantly ticking away in the background, and not finishing incurs a harsh shot penalty (worse than that, you have to play knowing that all the other players are watching you be rubbish with superior scores already in the bag).
It's a simple set up, but it works a treat, and apart from a few matches where we found ourselves getting extremely frustrated (losing heavily on FIFA levels of frustrated), the crazy online multiplayer was a lot of fun. We played head-to-head against solo players and in groups and the experience works well both ways, although the Quick Match option didn't yield any well-populated matches and we had to seek them out on the server-list.
Naturally, most of our fun was had when we were playing with a friend, and over the course of an evening and several rounds of golf, we had an excellent time winding each other up, offering false encouragement, and genuinely being nice to each other during more tricky levels where constant restarts were required and our patience was wearing thin.
And there was certainly a fair few restarts. Some of the holes were devilish in their design, with platforms to bounce balls off, moving parts to navigate, and even gravity-changing orbs that would pull you out of your desired path should your ball stray too close. Some of our favourites were on the Worms-themed course, which had exploding proximity mines and jetpacks to help you get around the level (or hinder your progress). Overall we liked the variety in the different courses (especially the one filled with bioluminescence), each of which was accompanied by a bespoke soundtrack that fitted the theme, for better and for worse.
All in all, Golf With Your Friends is a hugely entertaining crazy golf game with a great multiplayer twist. There are tons of customisation options, the gameplay is very accessible, and a few rough textures aside, it's got cute graphics and a playful atmosphere. Playing solo is a reasonably entertaining challenge, and playing locally (taking it in turns to take shots) is also an enjoyable way to play, but the game comes to life when you head online with friends. It's not just a clever title, then.
8 / 10
Lots of courses with different themes, plenty of customisation options, easy to pick up and play.
Some fuzzy textures and annoying tunes, some holes aren't as well-designed as others.