Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Vertiginous Golf - 10/20 hours

I don't want to say anything too harsh about Vertiginous Golf's story mode. They obviously put a lot of thought and effort into it. The little messages you get by hitting your golf ball into the scattered targets are not only voice-acted, they're voice-acted well. There are distinct characters who are portrayed believably. And the story itself is competently written. It had a beginning, middle, and end and I could easily understand how the different events related to each other. I have absolutely no complaints about the craftsmanship that went into story mode.

Its only flaw was that it was ill-conceived from top to bottom. I mean, there's this golf course in the sky. It floats in mid-air and is filled with a bunch of overly-complicated contraptions that knock your ball around. Is there anything about this premise that needs to be explained? And, assuming you absolutely had to have detailed worldbuilding in your game about implausible miniature golf, why would you make your story a dour, self-serious affair about class warfare, where the world is divided into the privileged sky-dwellers and the unfortunates they left behind to endure terrible pollution and who only get to enjoy the elite sport of sky-golf by strapping themselves into a machine that will psychically project them into the body of proxy golfer. And then you make the player character into one of these ground-dwelling unfortunates and have them activate a huge, dangerous-looking sci-fi reactor to lift the city in order to aid the rebels who want reunite the kingdom and depose the king.

And . . . you know what, never mind. Suffice to say, the story doesn't fit the tone of the game, at all. Put all the sci-fi trappings you want on it, at the end of the day, we're still talking about miniature golf. It's intrinsically frivolous. The highest stakes I want from a mini-golf game are who has to buy the ice-cream afterwards.

It would be funny if this were a world where mini-golf were taken deadly seriously and players approached each hole with the intensity of soldiers entering the battlefield, but that's not really the approach Vertiginous Golf takes either. There's this super-serious plot about a revolution that touches on themes of freedom, equality, humanity's relationship with technology, and the preservation of the environment . . . and you just happen to be playing mini-golf in the middle of all this.

I suppose the game's backstory could be a commentary on the colonialist implications that come with using steampunk imagery (and it's probably not a coincidence that the evil king is named "Leopold"), but the question then is why? Call me old-fashioned if you must, but if I'm playing a sports game, I want it to tell a sports story. That Vertiginous Golf went another way is bizarre.

It doesn't really matter, though. The story is but a small part of the game. The real draw is to play mini-golf through a variety of ridiculous obstacles. To that end, I dabbled in a few of the community courses, created by my fellow players.

Seeing the ingenious cruelty of those who came before me has kind of put me off trying to make my own holes. Some of these user-created holes have had their traps laid out with such intricate precision that I just know that anything I could come up with will seem sloppy by comparison. As always, I'm amazed at the dedication and talent that fans can bring even to the most obscure hobbies.

I'll probably still try to make my own hole, because it's an available game mode and I feel an obligation to test it, for posterity's sake, but I'll certainly be too embarrassed by the results to share them publicly.

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