Not to brag, but the one time I played mini golf, I won. And I wasn’t a kid either, that was this year. So with this boundless confidence I decided to try out Cursed to Golf, a roguelike where you play to escape from purgatory back to the real world with your golfing prowess. You play a little golf champion about to solidify your name as the best golfer the world has ever known before a sudden storm hits, dramatically kills you and sends you 60 feet under.
Cursed to Golf tasks you with playing through 18 tough golf holes in an effort to leave purgatory and rightfully claim your title as the best of the best. Roguelikes are ever more creative in finding a way to get you to play the same game over and over and over until you find your way out. I particularly liked Hades’ take on the formula and haven’t stopped playing Slay the Spire after I bought it on my phone. The former’s premise is very similar to Cursed to Golf and they both evoke that desire to break free from a supernatural prison—Hades’ Underworld and Cursed to Golf’s purgatory. For Slay the Spire, it’s all about taking your time and smart resource management, which is a little more like managing Cursed to Golf’s line ups and powers.
The art is adorable with its rounded, bouncy, pixelated style and purples and greens evoking a halloween-y vibe. But with the champ’s little coordinated outfit (which you can alter the colour of), bright backgrounds and luscious grass, the art makes this ghoulish setting very inviting. And the music is just the right amount of quirky and energising. The actual golfing is also more engaging than just choosing how hard to hit the ball as you’ve got ace card power-ups at your disposal too. Though you have three clubs, the iron, wedge, and driver to pick from, as well as their direction and velocity, the course is pretty hard without some extra little underworld magic. Cards that will allow you to freeze the ball mid air and let it drop to the floor are good when you’ve only got a small platform to land on, while others let you practice your shot first, before you take that critical swing. When each hole only gives you five shots, any help is appreciated.
And that’s where the other main cast member comes in. The Scotsman is a ghost that’ll show you around and owns the chain of shops (called Eterni-tee, amazing) you can buy the all important ace cards in. His design is equally delightful with his ghostly flowing beard and green kilt with a badass fiery golf ball where his heart should be. And he gives a great tutorial of how to begin your golfing adventure, even providing the cutest little golf cart for you to lug your kit around in.
The holes themselves are platforming in style. Rather than the holes you might think of for mini golf or, uh, big golf, these send you up, and down, and all around, giving you multiple ways to play the same hole depending on your skills and confidence. The five shots to complete the hole sounds harsh but you can earn shots along the way by hitting statues which replenish your stash. This doesn’t make it easy, but it makes these levels far more achievable.
Players also have the option to pick different paths through the course. A harder hole for better rewards? Or maybe just an ordinary hole which you’re more likely to survive? It’s up to you.
Cursed to Golf is pretty delightful. Though the stakes are high, it’s a chilled out indie adventure with a dark premise and adorable artwork. I smiled plenty just going through the first section of the game, and felt suitably challenged by the gameplay. If you’re a fan of any of the recent silly golf games and new roguelike projects, I’d consider giving it a go. The only downside is that I feel it’s the perfect project to try out on a sofa with a Steam Deck, which I don’t own. It’s these sorts of games that really make me want to change that.