Much of Dangerous Golf feels like it was designed to appeal to players in the most basic and obvious ways possible. The game is all about flashy fonts, rewarding sound effects, and is, of course, based entirely around one of life's simple pleasures: just straight up smashing things. Something is always popping off. Money flag! Smashbreaker! Bucket Blast! Richochet! New text on screen, new sound effects going off, it's like having a slot machine RIGHT in your PS4! Yet for a game that takes so much from the Peggle camp of "always be rewarding the player," Dangerous Golf falls super flat. Why does it wind up feeling like it's a shallow game with no strategy involved, where almost every hole plays out the same?
Maybe it's because Dangerous Golf is a shallow game with no strategy involved in which almost every hole plays out the same way. In fact... alright, I shouldn't do this, but just for you, dear reader, here it is, 100% unauthorized, presented for your enjoyment:
Rom's Officially Unofficial Dangerous Golf Player's Guide!
Alright, Dangerous Golfers, the tee is set, the "green" awaits, and it's time to get out those drivers and smack 'em on home, and you've got the pros at Rom's Expert Homemade Video Game Strategy Player's Guides and Hints and Tips Books, LLC to thank for these amazing tips to help you keep at the top of your game! We've plumbed the depths of Dangerous Golf for you and, ears still bleeding from all of the explosions, we've got these tips for you to succeed in almost any level in the game!
1: Smack that ball towards the place in the level with the most stuff.
2: Fire the Smashbreaker and awkwardly control your ball around until it's smashed enough stuff.
3: Putt it in and hope that the stupid automatic aiming that takes over on putting doesn't screw you over AGAIN.
Now sit back, and enjoy those gold (and maybe platinum!?) medals, golfateers!
Please now send me $5 to my Paypal now that you've read that, it took a lot of research and this ain't a charity.
Of course, this is only a guide to MOST of the levels, and there are still some tricky ones that have alternate goals to them – one I especially grew to loathe being the putt challenge ones, where it's just a bunch of different holes you gotta putt into. Usually with a time limit. Without the time limit, it would be super boring, because you'd just have forever to aim and there'd be no challenge. With the time limit, though, it just becomes frustrating. As tip 3 to that top-notch, totally-worth-it-$5 guide up there suggests, there's a weird auto-aiming feature on the putts that I think is trying to help you get a better score, but also winds up making it so your straight-shot putt will randomly miss when it was supposed to go in so easily. Sometimes this is awesome ("whoa a quintuple ricochet that also took out the remaining targets I had, awesome!"), but a lot of times it turns out frustrating as hell ("this was supposed to go straight and it veered and flew to the other side of the room, bogus!") and I wish there was either a smarter system driving it, or that it just wasn't even there.
Other modes include ones where you're supposed to drop into buckets and launch those at objects, ones where you have glue on your ball and stick to walls, and those ones have another version where you also plant sticky bombs which explode at the end of the hole in wonderful slow motion. These were the modes I actually enjoyed the best – they broke things up, and had you think about them in different ways. Some levels even have the launchable buckets in addition to just smashing, giving you a feeling like you're bowling as well. But most levels are just about hitting things with a golf ball.
In which case, everything is working towards unlocking your Smashbreaker, which lights the ball on fire and sends it flying around the room – entirely within your control, but it doesn't feel great. I'd describe it as "swimmy", which I suppose makes sense for an out of control flaming ball, but it also leads to a lot of "LEFT GO LEFT AAAH YOU JUST MISSED IT!" moments, feeling a little more like you're just suggesting where the ball should go next and it sort of decides whether it wants to listen or not.
Then you smash it all up cuz that's literally all you can do, avoiding any hazards that happen to be there, maybe see if you bother to care enough about finding secret items to smash, and try to get that putt in. And that's all. It's just a game about breaking things, which really should be the best – think about how many games you've played that get improved because you have the ability to just destroy everything! Just build a game around just that concept, and you should be good, right!?
So let's talk about smashing in games.
There's a proud history of games that tout their destruction technology, from the Red Faction series to Just Cause and even stretching as far back as things like Blast Corps on the N64. Heck, development team Three Fields is filled with ex-Criterion folk, and if there's one thing about the Burnout series people remember, it's how good wrecking up your car and all of the other cars felt.
The thing about all of those other games, though, is they had other things going on. The driving in Burnout was fun, Blast Corps had the giant missile you needed to clear the way for, Red Faction gave you a depth and breadth to your tools that's practically unmatched, especially in later games. Even though they were about breaking stuff, they were never just ABOUT breaking stuff – they built other systems, too, which helped give the games more longevity.
But they also gave you a lot of agency in how you chose to do these things. The controls were tight, and the world as it fell apart felt good. As I walked away from that building, its metal beams creaking, glass shattering as it finally began to fall apart, I felt accomplished because I'd gone in and known where to hit it just right with my sledgehammer until it fell apart. I slammed a mech onto that building, I smashed that car into another one, I picked up that carousel and threw it into space!
The whole time, though, I was in control. And that's what's most important. In those games, I felt like I was the agent of destruction, delivering chaos through action. Dangerous Golf feels the opposite of that. I am chaos. It works through me to bring destruction. But chaos cannot be controlled. Plates shatter. Tables collapse. Shelves fall apart. But it wasn't me. In fact, it was entirely in spite of me. I'm trying to get the ball over there, but instead it gets stuck somewhere here. It might destroy a bunch of stuff, but it's not what I wanted. And it's much less satisfying because of it.
That's why the other modes are more fun, with glue sticking you to walls, not focused on the Smashbreaker and instead focused on, well, something else. There's a better feeling limit to it, too. Look at all of these suits of armor! Well you've only got 8 strokes, can you smash them all AND sink the ball in that time? That's far more interesting. There's control, there's challenge, there's more to it than just a mindless smash fest that sometimes works like it should, but usually is just a load of frustration.
I want to like Dangerous Golf. I want to tell you to go out and buy it because the developers said yo, we'll make a driving game maybe if enough people buy this one. But Dangerous Golf is frustrating entirely because of all the ways it's not as tight as the games they're trying to hearken back to. It's unsatisfying and the controls don't feel good and it just can't hold up its frame rate. Three Fields is definitely filled with talented developers, but this game is far from their best foot forward as a studio.