Let me tell ya, if you like golf games that aren’t actually just golf simulators, the Switch should definitely be your go-to console. After 2017’s GAME OF THE YEAR winning Golf Story, this year brings us Golf Peaks, a turn- and card-based minigolf puzzle game. Sound a little complicated? Couldn’t be further from the truth. While some of the puzzles might get complicated, the mechanics are very easy to learn, and the game has a quick pick-up-and-play feel that makes it a rather perfect little puzzler.
The idea is that you’re looking at a little golf course, and at the bottom of the screen are cards showing moves you have. They’re either hitting the ball straight in one direction for a certain amount of squares, up in the air for a certain number of squares, or a combination of the two. From that blueprint, the game starts layering in new terrain to worry about, such as mud, which absorbs your ball if it lands there, or slopes, which roll your ball down a square.
It’s easy to assume that the game would be pretty straightforward since you have so much space to go and only so many cards, but the developers are smart about making it so they don’t tell you the whole story, and the terrain really helps complicate things, changing how far the ball can go when hit. Other times the game gives you too many cards, or the cards have too many moves – it's all about utilizing all the tools at your disposal and knowing the rules of the terrain to get your ball to the hole.
This is such a great idea that I can’t believe it hasn’t been done before, honestly. As soon as I started playing Golf Peaks, I was hooked – the game’s got a very minimal presentation, but it’s charming and relaxing and extremely easy to get into. The undo and restart mechanics work great to make it fast and easy to experiment and try out new strategies, especially useful for later levels that start to get a hell of a lot more complicated. Each world also has three extra challenge puzzles, taking everything you’d done and turning them into a sort of final test of your mastery.
I’d actually picked up Golf Peaks when it came out on PC last year but the Switch version is definitely the one you want to get. Aside from the usual “everything’s more fun on Switch” effect and the fact it’s a perfect game to play a few rounds of when you’re just out and about, this version’s also got touchscreen control options and extra puzzles that weren’t in the original release. The touch controls were definitely my preferred way to play the game, just slightly faster to select the card you want to use at a given moment, but however you prefer, it feels snappy and works great.
This is definitely a game where when the credits rolled on it, I was a little bummed out because the puzzles are so good and the game itself is so fun that I didn’t want to be done with it. But for $5, you get over 100 puzzles, so it’s not like I felt I was being stiffed – instead it’s more that I loved the game so much I just wanted more. It keeps adding new challenges and wrinkles to its mechanics up to the end, which is always my catnip when it comes to puzzle games!
Golf Peaks is a great use of the idea of golf, with rule modifications that make it less a score-conscious sports simulation and instead an amazing puzzle game. I had a great time with it for the few hours that it took to get through all the puzzles, enjoying the challenge and calming ambience of it all. It’s an excellent idea, executed well, and it was a joy to play it on the go while sitting at a bar or something. You don’t have to be a golf fan to enjoy Golf Peaks, and the puzzles are engaging up through the end.