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Review: Golf Peaks – accomplished golfing puzzler

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Developer: Lukasz Spierewka
Price: $3/£3
Size: 175 MB
Version: 1.05
Platform: iPhone & iPad

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Golf and video games go together uncommonly well. That’s probably because golf is essentially one big puzzle game itself.

In golf your goal is to get an object to the level exit, taking into consideration various environmental factors along the way. Doesn’t that sound like every iOS physics puzzler you’ve ever played?

Sand bunker squares will stop your ball dead

Golf Peaks is interesting because it doesn’t play like a physics puzzler at all. Rather, it takes the core mechanics of golf and applies them to a more abstract form of puzzle gaming.

Judging angles and distances largely goes out of the window here, and you don’t even need to worry about making a clean contact with the ball. Instead, each shot you play is determined by the limited number of playing cards you’re dealt at the start of each round.

Each of these shot cards involves an initial chip

You might have a shot card that rolls the ball forward three spaces on the grid-like level, or one that chips it forward two and then rolls it another two. Once you’ve selected a card, a simple swipe in the appropriate direction will initiate the shot. It’s an unexpected abstraction of golf, but it really works.

Each square of the grid has its own effect on the course of the ball, too. There are sand bunkers that stop a rolling ball dead and need chipping out of.

Taking a shot is a simple matter of touching and dragging

There are sinkholes and patches of water that will reset your progress. You’ll also encounter angled sections that will redirect your straight putts, and bumpers that ping the ball into the air.

In each case, you need to be extremely precise with your calculations. Hit the hole with a move to spare on the current card, and you’ll roll right on past.

Holing out is always satisfying

It turns out, then, that Golf Peaks isn’t a golf game at all. It’s more like a solo board game where you must play the correct sequence of cards to progress to the final square. The levels feel quite rigid as a result, with limited routes to success.

All of which might make Golf Peaks sound very dry indeed, but it’s really not. In fact, there’s a quiet thrill in figuring out the trick to each stage.

The holes get more elaborate as you progress

You might need to deliberately overcook a shot so that it goes past the hole and bounces back off a sheer surface. Or you might need to work out how to put gravity to good use through a series of ramps.

The presentation is as simple and inviting as the premise, with a clean hand-drawn art style and a blissful electronica soundtrack. This is the kind of meditative game that you can fall into for two minutes or an hour, and you’re guaranteed to feel a little calmer at the end of either session.