Golfing your way out of an early death may sound like an odd premise for a game, but that barely scratches the surface of what Chuhia Labs upcoming game Cursed to Golf is all about. We went hands-on with the quirky sports game at PAX West and found a one-of-a-kind 2D roguelike that was genuinely one of the most fun games of the show.
You play as The Cursed Golfer. Killed in a tragic accident while taking a would-be tournament-winning shot, your imperfect life has earned you a spot in Golf Purgatory. The only way out is to complete 18 dungeon-like holes. That may sound simple, but these hellish holes are filled with all manner of hazards, from spikes and explosives to the ever-dreaded sand traps and water hazards (it is still a golf game, after all).
The game is played across sprawling 2D levels, making it feel more reminiscent of something from Celeste than a traditional golf game. You have three clubs at your disposal and are driving and chipping your way toward the hole. PAR is your defacto health. Each swing of the club consumes PAR, and if you don’t reach the hole before you run out of par then it’s a one-way ticket back to Golf Purgatory.
After a short tutorial, I tackled the first hole. My first shot drove me deep down a corridor, while a follow-up allowed me to drop down to a lower level that snaked back. My PAR count was dwindling, but as luck would have it I struck a golden statue, returning four strokes back to me. A quick chip shot sent me down another level, where a wind trap blew my ball forward, and I quickly dropped my ball into the hole.
Completing the hole awarded me three randomly assorted cards, which act as powerups/modifiers. This was extremely helpful on the next hole, where a diabolical series of spikes separated me from a teleporter. I selected the rocket ball, which turns the ball into a steerable projectile. It wasn’t easy (it was a rocket after all) but I managed to navigate the ball to the teleporter before fuel ran out. The teleporter sent me most of the way to my goal, and a few nicely aimed ricochet shots on my part finished the level.
Each section of Golf Purgatory has a sort of Patron Saint NPC. The Scotsmen was my early guide, acting as part instructor, part shopkeep. According to the representative from Chuhia Labs, each is trapped within purgatory themselves, and kind-hearted players may have an opportunity to free some of these lost souls along the way.
Failing to complete a hole under par results in a wormhole opening up, which mercilessly sucks your spirit back to the beginning. As is tradition in a roguelike, you need to complete all of the courses in a single run-in order to truly finish the game. There are persistent upgrades to gain as you progress, giving you an ever-improving chance to make it to the end.
I managed to squeeze quite a few adventures into my 30-minute demo. The well-written jokes and puns were charming, and the retro-inspired music is excellent. Biomes will have different quirks that affect how you play. Jungle levels will have burnable foliage, water levels can be more easily conquered if you apply ice effects to your ball, etc.
As my time with the game ended, and I drove my last ball into some spikes to watch my golfer be consumed by a wormhole, all I wanted was to take another shot at the next hole
Overall, Cursed to Golf is feeling like a charming and creative, if hilariously odd, spin on the puzzle-like nature of golf, and “one more run” loop of rogue-likes. Cursed to Golf will be driving onto Nintendo Switch and Steam in early 2022.
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