Fore! Cards To Solve. Or Maybe Three.
HIGH Clever, elegant and player-friendly.
LOW Nothing. It’s all good.
WTF Why aren’t more puzzle games this chill?
The only thing I enjoy more than a good puzzler is an elegant puzzler. I love it when a simple concept is used in a clever way and the net result is a satisfying level of complexity and challenge. It’s a tough thing to do well, so in this regard, Golf Peaks is a solid success and worth a look from anyone who enjoys the same.
While people who aren’t too crazy about sports or golf might be put off by the title, don’t be fooled. Golf Peaks uses little white balls and putting as a theme, but it’s not about traditional golf at all — in actuality, it’s a series of minimalist, almost abstract courses divided up into a grid with a ball at one end and a hole at the other, but instead of using clubs or other traditional sports mechanics, they give the player a series of cards.
These cards each have a specific movement value or action attached to them. One card may move the ball forward two spaces, while another might hit the ball in the air for one space and then roll it forward one space, and so on. The cards are all clearly marked and easy to understand, and they’re specifically preset for each puzzle – the player does not collect them, and they’re not random.
In addition to figuring out which cards to use in what order to get the ball in the hole, each course has characteristics that need to be taken into account. For example, if a ball is hit onto a slope, it will roll back down. If a ball hits a wall, it will bounce backwards and travel in the opposite direction. There are many factors like this affecting a shot, and they can either help or hinder the player. Figuring out how to leverage (or avoid them) is a common ask.
That’s really all there is to Golf Peaks, but the developers take these elements and blend them together wonderfully. It’s nice to be able to look at a course, think about the path the ball must travel, and then suss out how to use the resources given – it’s just a question of logic and experimentation thereafter.
This formula would already make for a good puzzler as it is, but what makes it a great one is that the developers have absolutely no interest in punishing the player. Any move that ends up being a mistake can be instantly taken back, and a player is free to undo every move they’ve done all the way back to the beginning of a level if they wish. There are no time limits, no points, no deaths – they’re free to experiment and try as many tactics as they like as many times as they like, and the result is a supremely stress-free experience that only requires clarity of thought and the patience to work through some problems.
Golf Peaks is small in stature, easy to grasp, and quite elegant in design — so in essence, it’s the perfect puzzle game to play on the Switch, and it’s one that I recommend without hesitation.
Disclosures: This game is developed by Afterburn and published by 7Levels. It is currently available on Switch. This copy of the game was obtained via publisher and reviewed on the Switch. Approximately 5 hours of play were devoted to the single-player mode, and the game was not completed. There are no multiplayer modes.
Parents: According to the ESRB, this game is rated E and contains no descriptors. Did you see the screenshots? Nothing remotely offensive here.
Colorblind Modes: There are no colorblind modes available in the options.
Deaf & Hard of Hearing Gamers: There’s no dialogue in the game and the only text is in the menus. There are no audio cues necessary for play. This game is fully accessible.
Remappable Controls: No, this game’s controls are not remappable, although they can be inverted. There is no control diagram. The left stick chooses a direction for the ball, ZR/ZL choose a card, and the A button uses a card.
Currently, he's got about 42 minutes a night to play because adulting is a timesuck, but despite that, he's a happily married guy with two kids who both have better K/D ratios than he does.
Brad still loves Transformers, he's on Marvel Puzzle Quest when nobody at the office is looking, and his favorite game of all time is the first Mass Effect -- and he thought the trilogy's ending was Just Fine, Thanks.
Follow Brad on Twitter at @BradGallaway or contact him at bradgallaway a t gmail dot com