I’ve often had a hard time getting on board with golf games. Something about the sport just doesn’t speak to me. But management is a genre I’ve loved since I was a kid. So GolfTopia, developed and published by Minmax Games, seemed like the perfect game to get me excited about golf. It gave me strong memories of the Rollercoaster Tycoon franchise, but with a few added twists. Some of those twists worked wonders for the premise. But others only served to confuse me. Despite that confusion, this is an experience that shines through the crowd.
GolfTopia is available on Steam.
Gameplay – A Score Card
The basic premise of GolfTopia is that you are the manager of a new golf club. You have complete freedom over how the property looks and operates. The main job is designing the different holes for your golf course, though you also have to make sure your guests are happy. That means taking care of things like restrooms and snack machines, as well as keeping the course well lit at night. The better you manage the club, the more opportunities you’ll get to expand it. Purchasing more land and upgrading your clubhouse lets you create additional holes and unlocks more amenities to place for your members.
The Holes in One
Before you can place anything, you start by customizing the island that will house your club. The game generates a generic one for you but also gives you the option to customize it via sliders. Getting to choose how much water the island will have, how hilly the terrain is, and the basic shape of the island helps make the experience more personal. Of course, you can alter most of those things later to suit your needs. Once you select your island and place the clubhouse, the real fun begins.
A golf course can’t exist without holes. As a manager, designing them falls to you. For me, this was the most fun part of the game. The design system is very intuitive. You start by placing your tee and your hole. You can raise or lower terrain if you want to create hills or water traps. Then, you paint the fairway to tell your golfers where to place the ball. There are a few different types of fairways, as well as rough and green, allowing you to vary the experience of putting. You can also place sand traps and mud bunkers as obstacles.
What sets GolfTopia apart, though, is the interactive devices you can place on the course. Bumpers, fans, and launchers help give your course more of a minigolf feel if that’s what you prefer. There are a ton of options, and interacting with them often makes your guest happier, which will net you more profit per hole. You can even play the holes yourself. It took me a while to figure out how to do that, but I could hardly stop myself once I did. For clarity, you can play your course by selecting your clubhouse, where you’ll find the option.
Another important system is the way weeds grow. It’s your job to keep the island free of weeds, which is simple at first. Your clubhouse comes with drones that help you with the job. Because of that, I didn’t see any for a while. But a tutorial explained that every time a guest complains, a weed would sprout at a random spot on the island. If you get too many complaints, a weed hive might form, allowing them to cover more areas very quickly.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get much experience fighting the weeds. My guests were happy enough at first that I didn’t notice any. Eventually, a hive did form, but it was on an area of the island that I hadn’t purchased and therefore couldn’t interact with. I still got alerts that instructed me to take care of the problem, though. I couldn’t find a way to turn them off, so I kept having to dismiss them. That got annoying pretty fast.
I should mention that the camera controls took me a while to master. They’re simple, but I often confused the different mouse buttons, making it hard to see what was going on in the beginning. The game also takes its time introducing tutorials for certain actions. I’d figured out most of them on my own before any instruction was given. For example, there is an award system where your different holes might be recognized for various elements. Getting an award will heighten your member’s opinion of that hole. That system really confused me until I found that particular tutorial. By then, I’d already won several awards and lost a few.
Building new holes and amenities offered some counterintuitive choices as well. If you build anything close to a guest, they’ll complain about the noise. I thought I had solved that issue by pausing the action to build. But it soon became clear that they still complained once I resumed the game. For a management simulator, where the building is the main control, this doesn’t make sense to me. How can I expand my club if the construction causes my guests to get mad?
Another area of contention for me is the option to host tournaments at your course. You’re allowed to compete in them for a cash prize. I loved hosting them, but they soon led to a sizable problem. Starting one will boot every guest except for those competing. Each hole accommodates two golfers during tournaments. So if you don’t win, you take a massive loss of income for that day because fewer people are in the club spending money. Things like this led me to long periods of downtime. Every time you level up your clubhouse, you can build three more holes on your course. So every time I’d reached my limit, I had to wait to get enough money for the club upgrade, which is expensive. I often found myself just watching the AI play my course until I’d saved up enough to purchase what I wanted.
Graphics and Audio – Fore!
GolfTopia features a blend of visual styles that works very well together. Your club will start off on a natural island. The foliage and rocks give a nice backdrop for a simple golf course. But the interactive course elements take on a sleek futuristic aesthetic. The more you expand, you’ll probably find yourself placing neon-lit features and high-tech gadgets. The two styles blend effectively, creating a unique mashup. The weeds have a style all their own too. They still look very natural, but they have a menacing purple aura around them. It ensures that if they start encroaching your course, you’ll take notice.
The music instantly kicks the game off right. Party/Vegas style beats playing on the menu screen were perfect to get me excited about the experience. Backtracks like this continue as you build, keeping you on track to build a busy, futuristic club.
Sound effects, like the smack of hitting a ball or the noise of construction, help fill in the world. They make for a little extra realism in a game that slightly pushes those boundaries. I took notice as well of the way the club members speak. It’s reminiscent of the language used in The Sims games and gave me a good laugh. Although I wish they had a higher level of vocabulary.
GolfTopia was reviewed on PC with a key provided by Evolve PR.