Saturday, August 6, 2016

Vertiginous Golf - 20/20 hours

I don't know how I got so jaded about this game so quickly. I mean, it's a game of clever geometrical and mechanical challenges, where baroque steampunk contraptions float in the sky and success revolves around unraveling complex chains of cause-and-effect. Which normally sounds like the sort of thing I at least pretend to enjoy (and bear in mind, Vertiginous Golf actually is a pretty enjoyable golf game).

I had a theory that Vertiginous Golf lacked that certain critical element of all-American kitsch that characterizes all the best real-world mini-golf courses. I'm not sure what windmills, miniature skyscrapers, and dinosaur mouths would have brought to the holes that the game's pneumatic tubes, moving platforms, and conveyor belts would have lacked, but I do think I'd have enjoyed seeing steampunk interpretations of these mini-golf staples.

However, I don't think that's really that much of a factor. If the putting environment was a bit more sterile than I might have liked, it was compensated by the fact that the courses were more abstract and (theoretically) easier to read.

Overall, Vertiginous Golf was a perfectly adequate game, about which I have no major complaints. I think I was just cranky when I played it. I felt like I had it all figured out in the first couple of hours . . . and after twenty, I can say that feeling was mostly correct, but there was really no reason for me to be such a dick about it.

By way of apology, I will make an embarrassing confession. At one point, my total score for the game's most difficult course was +51 over par. It was almost entirely down to a combination of the radically unpredictable obstacles and me not knowing how to putt. I eventually got my score down to +4 over par (112th best in the world!), but there are several courses I never got to revisit, so my total ranking is still terrible. Even if I am wise to Vertiginous Golf's tricks, I still have a lot to learn.

I don't think I will, though. Despite its science-fiction trappings, Vertiginous Golf is still a sports game, a member of a genre which, you might have noticed, has absolutely no presence in my Steam library (kind of surprising, too, considering how many games I own). Maybe it's just some lingering nerd-obstinance from a childhood of resolutely avoiding sports or maybe it's because there aren't a lot of sports games that have turn-based resource management, rpg character-progression elements, or freeform voxel crafting, and thus nothing to really hook me into them, but the sports game genre is normally totally invisible to me. Like, I'll go into one of those stores that sells vintage video games and see that they've got a whole shelf of NHL 96 or Madden 98 or whatnot and I'll think to myself, "oh, they don't have any SNES games to sell."

My brain literally processes them as detritus, the stuff that's left over as a console sheds its user-base and becomes a historical curiosity. It's not fair, and it's not wise, but it's a blind spot that has been exposed by my time with Vertiginous Golf. If I want to become a true video game aficionado, I should probably address that, but honestly, I have no idea where to even start.

So, while I found Vertiginous Golf to be mildly enjoyable, but mostly pretty forgettable, that opinion must be understood in the context of my own staggering ignorance.

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