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Golf Club: Wasteland – golf with an unusual bunker mentality

Developer: Demagog Studio
Price: $3/£3
Size: 328 MB
Version: 1.0.1
Platform: iPhone & iPad

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Your average golf game doesn’t concern itself with the dark state of modern political discourse or impending ecological disaster. But then, Golf Club: Wasteland isn’t your average golf game.

At heart, Demagog Studio is offering the kind of casual 2D crazy golf you’ve played before in Super Stickman Golf and Desert Golfing. Your goal is to whack the ball from the tee-off point on the left side of the screen to the hole on the right in as few shots as possible.

The game is shot through with dark humor

Touch and hold anywhere on the screen, and your little golfer will begin to address the ball. Drag away from him to set the angle and power, then release to take your hit.

Golf Club: Wasteland actually adds an interesting risk and reward mechanic here, whereby a full-power shot will cause the aiming reticle to wobble and waver. That aside, though, this is a textbook mobile golf experience.

Three guesses how humanity gets to Mars

Indeed, it’s not even the best example of the format. Neither the controls nor the ball physics feel as nailed-on brilliant as either of those aforementioned pure golf games, while there’s an annoying lethargy in the way your character must physically travel between shots.

We also detected some curiously sub-optimal performance, with frequent frame rate drops. This seemed a little unusual given the simplicity of the 2D action and the power of the iPhone X we were playing on. Overall, this is a solid but unspectacular golf sim.

A handy shortcut pipe can drastically shorten a hole

But the golf is only half the story in Golf Club: Wasteland. There’s an actual narrative here with a strong underlying message, and it all flows from a surprisingly immersive and well-realized world.

Your lonely spaceman plays golf across an ecologically ruined future-Earth, with humanity having ditched its home in favor of a future on Mars. Abandoned factories and office buildings form the basis for the courses you play on, while puddles of toxic waste bring new meaning to hitting into the rough. It’s all rendered in a stylish, noirish comic book style through a suitably grainy filter.

The narrator occasionally appears

In between stages, a few lines of text from a local observer gradually fill you in on what’s happened, as well as hinting at the history of your melancholic avatar. Even more immersive is the fully recorded Mars-based radio station that plays without break over the action, complete with original music tracks and believable late night chatter.

Despite its futuristic setting Golf Club: Wasteland is clearly grounded in the here and now, with references to Trump and Brexit as well as various pop culture easter eggs. It pays to pan around each level before taking your shots – and not just because you might find a handy shortcut pipe.

Golf Club’s concerns are very current

All of which results in something quite unique: a thoughtful golf game. Even though the golf itself is occasionally less than thrilling (scoring below par often feels like a secondary objective), Golf Club: Wasteland will stick in your brain far longer than more mechanically accomplished yet generic fare.