It all gets a bit familiar early when Birdo
, the golf camp camp-house counselor, tells you to call her “mama”. I mean, she seems nice and all, but Birdo, we’ve only just met. Let’s take this relationship like any good game of golf -- one stroke at a time, eh?
In Mario Golf: Super Rush
, the game’s meatiest option -- your Mii’s Golf Adventure, which is essentially the game’s campaign; an RPG-lite ‘sim’, of Mario
sorts, is played out. A jumble of words that won’t make a lot of sense lest you’ve played these types of expanded Mushroom Kingdom joints before, where animosities and legit crimes are put aside in the name of good sportskoopaship. You play as you (so me here), on your way to golfing’s top honours and to take up the main stage with the MK’s greatest iron slingers in Daisy
, Donkey Kong
and, of course, Mario (among others, also). But like any good journey to the top, your meteoric rise has to start somewhere, and that somewhere is as a Rookie golfer at Bonny Greens.
Mario Golf: Super Rush is surprisingly deep for what it offers. There’s a legit open playspace for you to explore as a golf camp camper, and plenty of denizens to chat to. You can practice different shots at different areas, and each and every time you do anything towards leveling up your game you, umm, level up. That is to say, Mario Golf: Super Rush rewards the player for wanting to learn and nail the fundamentals. And it gives you a lot of tools to do this. It also doesn’t shy(guy) one bit from going all in on the golf bit. Most games from the sport dump you into a links lexicon water hazard, Super Rush, however, assumes a conservative approach to a player’s golf and golf-lingo knowledge, and educates in a manner that isn’t patronising at all. In fact, it’s just a lot of fun without being cheesy or too OTT.
"It’s now more akin to skilling up any other sports avatar in a sports or simulation title, only Marioified...”
The essential career setup has you, as we’ve established, starting at the bottom. Alongside you are three other wannabes: Boo
, Chagrin’ Chuck
-- each respectively representing a component of golfing’s approach tips: finesse, power, and strategy. You, of course, are the all-rounder, but on the face of that you’re not expected to do any good at all, which is something your golfing peers will remind you of until you leave them in the proverbial bunker while you go on and claim your chrome badge, which naturally opens up more courses for you to play, and more ways to play them.
As mentioned earlier, there are level-up factors and rewards, but it’s not RPG or even RPG-lite (as was once the case with this series in handheld form). It’s now more akin to skilling up any other sports avatar in a sports or simulation title, only Marioified
. Within the game’s ever-expanding campground setup you can go out and practise certain types of shots and skills that range (heh) from driving to putting, with spin, lob, special and more in between. And as also mentioned earlier, every time you do this you gain experience and coins, so patient and driven players can genuinely grind early on, but Super Rush’s pacing is pretty good on the whole, so playing how Ninty wants you to, is just as rewarding as trying to beat the game at its own, outright.
And just on that depth, a solid example to share is just in how you approach each shot. You obviously have a shot gauge, but this will eventually include four options for shaping the ball off the tee or your lie. This means you can put drift and drag on shots at varying stages of flight. So a curve right can come back on a left curve addition in a subsequent curve section of the gauge. Playing with this with weather conditions adds a fairly robust level of depth to how you approach your game and the courses do serve up dynamic and static options to exploit this, and to rethink how you would otherwise attack a hole.
Your shot gauge also reflects the lie of the ball. This means resting on an uphill slope will add a curve to the gauge, meaning you need to manage your stroke through the shot to avoid hooking or slicing too far.
"But things quickly hook right once you really get going, and it’s in the DNA of this and games of this nature that what should be an injection of fun, really turns into hazardous gameplay...”
There’s a slight random addition to all of this in the gauge’s ‘shift’ area. This is the flared tip of the gauge, and setting your power to include it can throw some random factors into your overall shot, regardless of how you’ve framed it. You can be conservative and hit just in the gauge’s safe zone, but you’ll get less power or effect from other input factors.
All of this is built around a risk-reward system that compliments decisions in the early game. I found learning the ropes and then playing in my first tourney fun and engaging, but things quickly hook right once you really get going, and it’s in the DNA of this and games of this nature that what should be an injection of fun, really turns into hazardous gameplay impediments that simply add unnecessary strokes to your scorecard.
And this naturally stems from the Marioification
of golf here. That deep content centred around real-world golf (to a degree) gets thrown out the window when the game starts throwing silly activities at you along with course obstacles that make for a more grueling experience. I get it, this is Mario, so I shouldn’t go in expecting anything less, it’s just that physics aside (which I’ll get to in a minute), that “surprisingly deep” early game feels for naught when it’s overtaken like this. The best Mario analogy here is Mario Kart -- a genuine game where skill can play out in super-fun ways, and feel rewarding when executed at a high level is forever tarnished by the inclusion of the dreaded Blue Shell. It’s simply the antithesis to playing the game with any level of ability when utilising the game’s systems and just ruins the overall experience. That sort of happens a lot here.
"Your Golf Adventure, as mentioned, is the meat of the game, but it’s a day’s work if you felt so inclined, which is another negative on the whole -- it’s too par 3 and not nearly enough par 5...”
For example, the Cross-Country Golf scenario is arguably the worst ‘party’ elevation of base gameplay, if only because of how you traverse the connected courses and how long that takes (which has a slight gameplay tie-in, but it’s honestly just not fun). And just how those frustrations manifest is part of the problem. The earlier game I mentioned sort of teaches you some serious golfing chops, but you eventually unlearn it all in place of special shots, bumping other characters off course, collecting coins and playing with ridiculous clubs. The physics in the game aren’t great, which I found detrimental early against the much-lauded depth in this review so far, but given how quickly the game turns into a Mario Party one-shot it actually makes more sense to have a canned grip on how the ball reacts to not only your decisions and inputs, but to the world around you.
Your Golf Adventure, as mentioned, is the meat of the game, but it’s a day’s work if you felt so inclined, which is another negative on the whole -- it’s too par 3 and not nearly enough par 5. Of course, like the practice areas of Adventure, beyond that journey you can play in a number of other modes. These include Play Golf which consists of Standard Golf, Speed Golf, Battle Golf and Online Play. Or Solo Play which includes a Score Attack and a Time Attack. There are six courses, four of which you unlock through Adventure Mode, but six is just too small. At least maintain a golf theme and offer up nine.
"There’s some fun to be had, and Nintendo gets a lot right with it, we just need the gimmicks and party favours turned down...”
Online Play requires the paid side of membership in order to swing with others, and then you’ll need room passwords and a whole mess of gated ways to play to traverse. It’s a bit on the side of ridiculous, and the only way I found any game at all was to create my own room which wasn’t visited more than twice. You can play locally with other Switch’s, or in a share the controller way with one screen or one TV, so couch-play, really, but as far as online goes, this spent a lot of time off the fairway an waist deep in the rough.
In addition to a lot of the clear annoyances I have with the game is music. In that, it’s bad. Really bad. Repetitive and annoying to a fault, it just sort of sat as a bit of an audio metaphor to the whole experience. Obviously you can turn it off, but we shouldn’t *have* to.
With everything above said, there’s an obvious draw here in it just being
a Mario game, which alone will pull people to it. And there’s some fun to be had, and Nintendo gets a lot right with it, we just need the gimmicks and party favours turned down. Invincibility Star isn’t a number, so dialling the game up to that just isn’t something we can tune into on the reg. Especially given golf on its own merits is a game of strategy and patience, that can still be fast and fun without needing addressive rolling rocks impeding your path all the time.