When I first was asked to review GolfTopia, developed by MinMax Games LTD, I was cautiously optimistic. I like golf games, and a management sim based on the game of golf seemed to be a very viable basis for another offering in the genre. Then I began to imagine all the bugs, glitches, and broken mechanics, but I thought I’d give it a go. I’d not seen any other reviews or watched any videos on it, and purposely curbed my enthusiasm to play with an open mind.
I was not disappointed.
In fact, I was downright impressed from the very beginning. I was immediately met with a “Thanks for the support” message from the two developers. Yes, that’s right, two. TWO devs came up with this great piece of work. As I went through the well-organized menus, setting sound and graphics up, looking through the controls, I began raising my expectations for this experience. This felt like a fully-functional management sim like any “Tycoon” or Sid Meier game! I set it all up and began to play.
First, I was introduced to an overhead map made of a grid of nine squares encompassing an island with vegetation, rock formations, hills, valleys, lakes, and beaches. You start by selecting one square, which is plenty of room for setting down your Clubhouse and laying out your first three holes. Later on you can purchase other squares and eventually the whole island.
During Early Access, there is a menu of options to make the game easier, one of which will give you $1M in the bank, effectively providing a full “sandbox” mode experience. This worked out well, which gave me a chance to experiment and learn some of the design and mechanics.
Now, I should say I’m not very good at editing topography or designing layouts. GolfTopia’s tutorials, which were clear and well written, led me through what to do, how to do it, and before long I had created my first three holes, and they looked great! I thought, “Well that wasn’t so hard. Let’s push it a bit,” and that’s when the game really opened up. The “painter” was very intuitive, and I was quickly creating monster tee boxes at the highest peaks, along with mud-holes and water hazards. Terrain was destroyed, built back up, and destroyed again as I played with the options. “Drawing” the course was easy, and you could choose what your painter would displace and what it would leave, like putting sand traps up to the edge of the fairways and making everything look clean and well maintained.
One mechanic that was not in the game was employees. Most sims will include a feature to hire janitors, groundskeepers, and other trades. In GolfTopia, all of these functions are attended to by drones. You don’t have too much control over them, but the AI does well taking care of supplying drinks and emptying trash on its own. If the weeds start becoming a problem you can get a drone hub that lets you set a waypoint for drones to go and clean them out.
Golfers kept showing up and I soon made enough to upgrade my Clubhouse. Doing this allows access to more advanced options like bigger decorations, amenities for guests, and hole features. It also allows you to build more holes with more style and options to torment your visitors. But only if you want to. I wanted to. I had tee boxes pointed at each other, with a putting green in the middle. I had monster drive holes, I had holes over the water, and I had a tentacle-like mass of transport tubes that would have impressed H.P. Lovecraft. I set up bars everywhere (because who doesn’t want to drink beer and golf?!) and my visitors were just drunk and fighting all the time! I laughed for a while just watching the chaos! But even when I started a new playthrough and was more serious, it was still a great time playing Golftopia. The music was fun, the sound effects were great, and the reactions of the golfers were really funny. Watching my course light up at night, seeing all the effects going off, it all just brought a smile to my face. Then my visitors started upgrading their memberships, and before long I could afford to upgrade the Clubhouse again. Time went on, the course grew in both size and complexity, and things kept coming together.
I had a fantastic time playing GolfTopia, and often forgot it was still an “Early Access” title. The graphics were fun and clean, the music was light and varied, and not so many hole design options that you became overwhelmed. The interface was not too busy, and, as I mentioned before, the terrain editing was easy to get the hang of. There are a lot of endearing features in this game that I’ve barely mentioned, like the weed eradication, the names of the items (zoom in and read the circular banners above them!), hoverboards, and actually playing the course as a player, not to mention all the achievements you can acquire. Were there some features that I felt were missing? Yes, I’d have liked to have employees to manage, and of course there will always be issues (although to be fair, I was hard-pressed to find things wrong). I can’t wait to experiment some more and see what monstrosities I can make! These guys at Minmax Games have created an absolute gem of a game and I cannot wait to see how far they take this. GG guys. We’ll see what the future holds, but so far I would highly recommend this.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m late for my 9am tee time.
Final Score: 4.25/5
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