I have absolutely no interest in real-life golf, but playing golf in a video game can be a ton of fun. If the mechanics feel wrong it can also be a bit of a mess. A Little Golf Journey caught my eye because its lo-fi art style seemed like it'd make a perfect game to just relax and vibe with at the end of the night.
The feel of A Little Golf Journey was super important to me since the mechanics of the last golf game I tried nearly ruined the experience. This is another game that foregoes the usual tap-tap-tap golf control system that's been around for decades. Instead, you line up your shot using an arc that shows you exactly where it will land, then press A once to hit the ball.
The arc is 100% accurate in showing you where the ball will go, which I actually like a lot compared to the randomness of a swing in Mario Golf: Super Rush. Instead, the randomness here comes down to the fact that your targeting arc sways a bit as you are aiming. Being patient and timing things right means the ball is always going to land exactly where you expect, which feels really, really good.
The visuals in A Little Golf Journey match the beautiful simplicity of the gameplay. Each hole is a sort of diorama. The course exists on top of a small box in a gradient void, and a fuzzy warmness makes the whole thing feel like it's shot through a tilt-shifted lens. Trees and windmills and ruins and all sorts of little details fill the environments, and everything is rendered in a wonderfully simple style.
The music throughout the game is a sort of relaxed, ethereal piano. It's just a quiet tinkling in the background that is super calming. It sounds like the sort of thing my wife puts on when she decides to have an at-home-spa-day. It's nice, but it also completely disappears from my brain as soon as I stop playing. I actually had to boot up the game again as I write this to remember if there was any music in it.
Being able to shoot so precisely makes this game feel extremely playable. In fact, the actual golfing almost feels easy in A Little Golf Journey, which is where this game starts to almost feel like something other than a golf game.
Rather than aiming for a specific par on each course, you get a number of stars based on how many strokes it takes you to get through a single hole. Most holes have up to three stars, though some have even more than that if you get through really quickly. The game is divided up into several worlds, each with several holes to play on. There are checkpoints between worlds that require a certain number of stars to proceed.
On my first try on most holes, I was getting at least 2 (if not 3) stars. This let me coast through 4 of the game's worlds before I hit a stopping block. At that point, I had to go back and replay some courses to either try to get a better score or to find hidden secrets in the course that rewarded me with bonus stars.
I like A Little Golf Journey, but I liked it a lot less as soon as it threw any sort of obstacle in my way. The super calm feel of the game and the super-precis golf mechanics made the first chunk of time I spent with it a very soothing, meditative experience. The complete lack of difficulty was a delight. I normally don't mind a challenge in a game, but here it just doesn't feel right.
The moment I ran into that wall, it felt like the game snapped me out of a dream. Suddenly I realized that I'd been completely zoning out to this game's twee aesthetic. I was mindlessly feasting on little boosts of happiness each time I made the ball go in the hole, even though there had been almost no resistance to stop the ball from going in the whole.
Basically, A Little Golf Journey had been exactly like the game they play in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Episode “The Game.” Except now it wanted me to actually do stuff, and I became way less interested in it.
I still like A Little Golf Journey, but I think I'll try turning on some of its accessibility options to see if I can get back to that calm, quiet flow state before I try playing it again.