Over the festive break we’ll be running through our top 20 picks of the year’s best games, leading up to the reveal of Eurogamer’s game of the year on New Year’s Eve. You can find all the pieces published to date here – and thanks for joining us throughout the year!
What the Golf? (yes, there is a question mark in the title and I’m going to stick with it, sorry) is a simple game about nothing, and that is more than enough. It is, I think, the game that captures the big bang arrival of Apple Arcade better than any other. That moment was an explosion of creativity, a sudden, off-guard and off-beat arrival of fun. It was the best thing to happen to video games in the last year, I think, and at the core of it all was this silly, simple, endlessly enjoyable game about pinging things around for a laugh.
In What the Golf? you are a golf ball plonking around some zany science lab of an overworld, unlocking a path by completing the odd little golf courses that are really science experiments, or something, and occasionally getting told off by a big computer. Honestly it really doesn’t matter. The brilliance is the simplicity of its fun and the basic, fundamental pleasure of playing it.
This is not an original thought, but much of gaming has become an ordeal in recent years. It’s an ordeal to literally start a game, waiting for downloads, managing space, juggling performance – now a concern of console owners, sadly, as much as those on PC – and it’s often an ordeal to actually play them. Modern games’ desire to monopolise your time and attention seems to be rising perfectly in line with your lack of it. I am tired binging and junk gaming as an escape, tired of games demanding I work for my dinner, like fun is something to be earned, like I have to be worthy of it, like I must commit. I hate commitment! I have enough trouble with that as it is!
What the Golf? is, in a way, an antidote to it. I can turn to What the Golf? instead of Twitter or Instagram or Facebook, other gamifications of my mind and my time. I can turn to it instead of another god forsaken battle pass or end game, level-cap-only raid. It’s a snack, quick and easy and instantly gratifying, but somehow one that won’t ruin the inside of my gut or try to lace my brain with addiction. It’s good, clean fun, kids, full of guffawing stupidity and placative niceness. It is, in what feels like such a rarity, actually a funny game, without resorting to Whedonesque quippiness or memified, office poster self-reference. It is mercifully easy to pick up and put down anywhere. It’s built immaculately well for the mobile form, although if I worked anywhere but here I’d be downloading it on my office computer and pinging about in it on breaks too. It’s joy without guilt, strings emphatically unattached. An effortlessly pure game, without the vile aftertaste of what some consider “pure games” to be. Play it! Have fun. That’s all there is to it.