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For the purpose of this review, I have spent a lot of time researching what the difference is between a roguelike and a roguelite. And I can confirm, I am still none the wiser. They appear to be interchangeable, with roguelite being used to describe a generally easier experience. By that token then, Cursed to Golf is definitely a roguelike.
Cursed to Golf is a tragicomedy that even Shakespeare would be proud of. If golf would have existed when he was alive that is. As the so-called greatest golfer on the planet, you are one shot away from cementing your place in history by winning the biggest tournament ever. However, tragedy strikes, and you die right before this final shot. Instead of finding yourself in either Heaven or Hell, you are stuck inside Purgatory. The game is not up though, as you have one last 18-hole course to complete; do so, and you may just be able to return to take that final shot.
The course in Cursed to Golf is just about as far away from a traditional golf course as you can imagine. For a start, the game is played with a 2D perspective. Then there is the fact there is no putter and you can add to that fact that it is quite normal for some holes to take upwards of twenty shots. You would be better off throwing out everything you know about golf, as none of it is applicable here.
With a lack of putter, you are only given three clubs to choose from: a driver, an iron and a wedge. If you think of these as long, medium and short shots, then you are close to what their primary use is. You can get fancy with the wedge in some situations as you build your confidence up with Cursed to Golf, but land in either the rough or a bunker and your limited club selection is reduced even further.
Cursed to Golf does at least mimic other golf games in how you take a shot. Firstly, choose whether to hit to the left or the right, then select your power using the power bar. Finally, choose the trajectory before unleashing your shot. Don’t be afraid to back out if you don’t get the shot power you require. You don’t lock in, so play around with the power to make sure you are hitting it where you want it to go. You will find out very quickly that there is a real trial and error approach to some of the shots you need to make in Cursed to Golf.
At the start of each hole, you are given five shots. This shot counter is your health bar; if it reaches zero then back to the beginning of the round you go. But you can add to it; amongst the bounty of hazards in Cursed to Golf are silver and gold idols that if hit, will add shots to your overall amount. You will quickly learn that these are essential if you wish to succeed.
Not only that, but there are Ace Cards. Ace Cards come in a wide variety of variants, including the ability to add additional shots. They can also offer mulligans, extra bounces or no bounces, and even blow-up TNT. Yes, Cursed to Golf has holes that feature TNT boxes. Later ones can freeze water, turn your ball into a rocket or even set it on fire. Again, correct use of these can mean the difference between life and death.
At the start of each new round, you are given five Ace Cards. Over time, you can accrue more as random drops, from treasure chests and from the Eterni-Tee in-game shop. Any that aren’t used within the course of a round are lost forever, but you can store up to forty in your binder for use in future rounds. This binder is never really referred to in the game’s lengthy tutorials – which combined can take upwards of an hour – but really is worthwhile utilising and stockpiling for the boss holes.
Of course there are bosses. This wouldn’t be a good roguelike without them. However, they are also here to help you, acting only as barriers to ensure you are good enough to continue on your round. They all reference the mysterious Greenskeeper, who appears to be the one pulling all the strings.
The cast itself is brilliantly written, and whilst they don’t necessarily exhibit the raw sexual magnetism of Hades’ colourful cast, their personalities shine through just as well. And at least these guys don’t require tributes to keep them on your side.
Defeating a boss also grants you with some extra abilities to help, such as a checkpoint system and the promise that you only need to defeat them once. This is good to know because the boss stages take place on the same hole layout each time, and with a pool of over seventy courses in total, having to do the same ones with each run would be repetitive. That is if you can even get to the boss holes in the first place.
Cursed to Golf is hard. I mean, really hard. Don’t let that gorgeous pixel art lull you into a false sense of security. At the time of writing, only forty-nine golfers have completed the full 18-holes, and their scores are into the hundreds of strokes to do just that. You can compare your personal best thanks to an online leaderboard where you can see how many others have fallen by the wayside.
But that just means the sense of accomplishment that comes with beating a hole is all the greater. It definitely isn’t for those of a defeatist nature though. Most roguelikes are unsuitable, but this one especially.
There is another upside though to having to start again from scratch. You get to listen to the rather excellent soundtrack time and time again. It is a wonderful mash-up of chiptune sounds and TV sport show-alike themes . Even when you feel that Cursed to Golf is being unfair or unforgiving it easily gees you up for another shot.
Get over the very, very high difficulty of Cursed to Golf and there is a fun roguelike to be had. It may be a little on the small side in terms of replayability once you escape Purgatory, but the journey there is substantial. Cursed to Golf is punishing, unrelenting and a lot of fun. It is everything you want a roguelike to be, with a side order of delightful pixel art.
Escape Purgatory in Cursed to Golf from the Xbox Store