There are a few games that I have strong nostalgic feelings for. Premier Manager 99, Final Fantasy VII, VIII and IX, but one that stands out – and is more relevant for this particular review – is Sid Meier’s Simgolf. Sid Meier has always been at the forefront of simulation games, and always was able to create some truly cracking and unique games. So unique, that prior to hearing about Golftopia, I couldn’t name another golf course building simulation game.
I sank hours and hours of time into my various golf courses in SimGolf, and I can already tell that I’m going to do the same in Golftopia. It’s not fully fleshed out, but you can create some really tricky, inventive and challenging courses to put to your course-goers. You’ve got all the standard bits and bobs you can plop on a golf course – fairway, bunkers and greens – but you can also entice your players to take slightly harder shots by placing fancy gizmos down that propel their balls in various directions. It’s a bit more futuristic than I was expecting, but it’s great fun and offers a significant amount of toys in your arsenal to create the golf course of your dreams.
Golftopia follows a similar sort of structure to how SimGolf was made (and I promise that’s the last time I’ll mention SimGolf!). You’ve got a base group of members who relentlessly play your course, and if they enjoy it, they’ll upgrade their membership to reflect their enjoyment. The more people that upgrade their membership statuses, the more things you can unlock – more holes, clubhouse, other knickknacks. This keeps things interesting, because although you might have built a relatively fun 3-hole course to begin with, your players might find it boring. Toss in a few hazards and suddenly, you’ll get players that find the course a challenge they must conquer, and will pay anything to keep it open. It gives you a sense of progression that genuinely makes the game a lot of fun to play.
There are other bits and bobs in Golftopia that will have you come back for a bit more as well. In addition to creating a course that plays well, it’s important to have one that looks lovely as well. Play around with terrain, plopping plants down where you can and also putting the golfer-niceties like snack machines and benches in a tucked away place all help to enhance the beauty score of your course. It’s not something I ever pay attention to, being a lazy person that prefers functionality over style, but it does give you a few additional things to consider when plotting where to put your tees and your greens.
Where Golftopia runs into trouble though is that it does feel quite unpolished. Granted, it’s early access, but there are a couple of things that could definitely do with some enhancement. For example, the fact you’re limited to only one island. It does have nine different zones, although none are very distinct from eachother so with the terrain tool and some bulldozing, you can definitely make the island a fairly mundane one. A bit of variety in course locations, in addition to having various effects that the players / golf games would have on those courses, would significantly enhance play time for me.
Another minor quibble I had was with the user interface. It’s not awful, not by any means, but it is pretty ugly, and it drags the game down to a slightly more amateurish feel to it. It wasn’t always obvious where things were, and things that I’d expect to find in certain places weren’t where I’d originally thought, which led to a bit of irritation trying to trawl through various menus, to locate various items.
Golftopia is a solid game in the genre – I’d say it’s still #2 in the golf course building games, but as we’re in the generation where patches can be dropped and games can be enhanced significantly after original release, I do have high hopes for it. If they add a bit more polish, throw in a few more mechanics, then I have no doubts it’ll hit #1 in the Golf Course Builder Simulation genre.