A Little Golf Journey is the latest non-traditional golf game to land on the Nintendo Switch. It’s no birdie like WHAT THE GOLF? or Golf Story. But it’s also not a bogey like Golf Zero. It’s one of those love/hate releases I run into now and again.
More physics-puzzler than a sports game, A Little Golf Journey has familiar gameplay. The physics can be a bit inconsistent and sloppy, with bounces and rolls. It tries to set itself apart in a couple of ways, though. One of these is a success, the implementation of secrets. The other is the plot, which is much more mixed.
Yes, there is an attempt at a story in A Little Golf Journey. It’s delivered via short letters. It adds a bit of personality, I suppose. But it’s so cryptic I soon grew tired of it. As there are no players on these courses (you’re just a golfball), I could take or leave the plot.
When it comes to secrets, this is where A Little Golf Journey climbs its way up from average to decent. Finding secret holes off-path brings a sense of discovery, variety, and stars needed for progress. The three-star (or more) setup is employed, and it’s tired at this point, or at least in this implementation. It cuts off your progress so that finding secrets is more a necessity than an option. Thankfully, mixing things up and finding secrets is so enjoyable that I found myself minding much less than I would have otherwise. It almost makes me wish the whole game was secret-focused. Watching the map fill and expand with secret holes, routes, and stars is compelling.
But, when playing traditionally, I found the game got tedious before long. Courses are decent sized for this game style, but the diorama approach led to a lack of variety. The camera could also use some more work. I fiddled with it more than I should have, and it proved detrimental during timed sections. The game has techniques to assist your shot, but 99 percent of the time, I went for increased power and a flipped camera as there are no actual limits on these. A Little Golf Journey is best played in small bursts.
The game can be relaxing (except for secrets that employ somewhat clashing time limits). But the linear nature means you’ll likely reach a point where you need to replay previous holes. Good for secrets, but this repetition only makes the lack of diversity more pronounced. The “soothing zen soundtrack” doesn’t help either, with little in the way of pronounced changes between courses. The generic, sometimes somber tunes are ill-fitting more often than not. There seems little thought given to tying the tracks to the course themes. I was relieved I had the option to mute them. Options are an area where A Little Golf Journey reflects care.
Graphically the game fares better than it does on the musical end. Advancing and bringing color to a sepia tone map is a nice touch. But it’s still a pretty typical presentation for the most part. Even something as basic and slow as map movement is a bit jittery. An unmemorable visual display, but more than adequate.
A Little Golf Journey oversells its “stunning” courses and struggles to stay fresh with a mostly safe approach, regardless of plot attempts. It’s the sort of game that did enough to make me want to keep going for a few hours, but not enough to finish, let alone 100% it. Lacking diversity, both aesthetically and gameplay-wise, it pales when compared to many other Switch golf titles. But, even with a subpar camera, the secrets are quite a bit of fun. Assuredly not $19.99 fun, though. The content is there, but the enjoyment and polish aren’t as much. Wishlist this one for a sale while you browse other relaxing games on the eShop, and wait for an improved follow-up.