Super Mario has an innate ability to make almost anything fun. But not even Mario Golf can make this sport entertaining.
Having said that, Super Rush does at least aim to make golf a faster, more lively affair, but that’s easier said than done. Take the game’s new Speed Golf mode, for example.
The idea here is to complete each hole as fast as possible, not just in quick hits but in sprinting to your ball between shots. Rather than take it in turns, it means you and your competitors are simultaneously whacking away across the fairway.
On paper this seems exciting, but in practice it’s tedious. Rather than simply focusing on the good bit of golf – hitting the ball – it balances that with the bad bit of golf – walking. Ok, you can run and use a special dash to hit your opponents, collecting coins along the way for your special shots. But awkward running and jumping controls make for a poor experience.
It’s not as if your characters can leap and bound and triple jump their way across the fairway, dodging Mushroom Kingdom obstacles. Had Nintendo leaned further into the Mario theme it would’ve added some much needed personality.
Unfortunately, Mario Golf: Super Rush also fails on a more fundamental level: with its controls. They’re simple enough, just line up your shot and hit a button to select your power. A few other shots allow you to add curving spin, topspin or lob the ball high, but they’re not always needed.
What’s frustrating is the game doesn’t give you enough information to predict your shot. There’s no guide to the direction of your shot; a grid overlay when putting is confusing to read; and there’s no free camera movement to analyse the course. There is a limited overhead view, but that doesn’t reveal obstacles, only the course outline.
This might be akin to actual golf, but this is Mario and fantasy plays a part. Too often the strategy is just smack it and hope for the best. But in this game, one false move can ruin your strategy across the hole – not only in lining up your next shot, but in reaching the ball in the first place during Speed Golf.
If you want to live your Wii Sports fantasy, you can also play with motion controls. These are marginally more entertaining purely because it’s even more difficult to judge power and distance this way, making for a wild party experience.
The tutorials are overly brief and don’t quite explain the nuance of the controls. Instead, it feels more like trial and error. Too often you’ll under or over hit the ball, or miss a shot that should be easy. The simple controls are hard to master, but for the wrong reasons.
At least there’s a story mode, which essentially works as an extended tutorial. It sees your Mii character on a journey to become the champion – as well as a more fantastical quest. Completing different missions provides experience you can use to re-balance your character between power, spin, running speed and the like.
Don’t expect something like Golf Story, though. This is far from a golf RPG, despite some of the trappings. There’s a minimal story that’s just an excuse to introduce different modes, there’s unnecessary padding and back and forth between the different areas, and your CPU competitors have a hilarious habit of missing the easiest shots to allow you to win.
It does take you through some varied courses, with weather effects and elemental hazards that force you to change up your strategy, all of which can be played in other modes. There are boss battles too, but they’re simply a case of timing over skill.
The bare bones presentation, plain graphics and repetitive sound effects make for an experience that feels cheap – a rarity for Nintendo. It’s also a short affair, so what’s left afterwards?
You can select between standard golf, speed golf, or battle mode, with all also available in local and online multiplayer.
Battle mode sees you competing against others in a stadium of obstacles, with the first to get three holes winning. It’s carnage though, between players sprinting between shots, using the special abilities unique to their chosen character and dodging explosive obstacles. The novelty factor gets in the way of skill.
There’s also a solo challenge mode, but after the story mode there seems little point. Multiplayer is clearly intended to be the real meat of the game and with enough friends maybe it could be fun…but it’s hardly Mario Kart.
Mario Golf: Super Rush follows a line of Mario Golf games (as well as other sports), but with its awkward controls and lack of features it’s anything but super. The game fails to balance the novelty of the Mario universe with the actual skill of golf, landing instead in a banal middle ground. Sadly, this one’s a bogey.
2 / 5
Mario Golf: Super Rush is available on Nintendo Switch from 25 June.