Golf With Your Friends is a game that does exactly what it says on the tin. This is minigolf, and… you can play it with your friends!
The minigolf here is really as simple as it gets. You simply decide the direction you want to hit the ball, set the power you wish to hit it at, and then let fly with a single tap of a button. There’s no analogue stick flicking or timing-based triple tap systems that you might find in other golfing games, making this instantly accessible and allowing for some of the game’s crazier elements.
Up to twelve players can play at once, but perhaps the craziest thing about the game is that you don’t have to play Golf With Your Friends with your friends. It actually has full support for golfing on your own, with family members, friends of friends, work colleagues, passing acquaintances and even complete strangers. Let’s just call them friends you haven’t met yet. The quick play option will bundle you and a motley crew of unknowns into classic mini-golf on one of the game’s 11 courses, everyone going all at once, but keeping a lid on any potential mischief by having no player collisions by default and fairly tight time limits on each hole.
As well as a server browser where you can hop into custom games that might delve into GWYF’s modified rules and modes. These include swapping holes for hoops to jump through – making things maddeningly more difficult – or for goals and strafing goalies while you now strike at a hockey puck. Then there’s the Party Mode, throwing a handful of chaotic power ups into the mix for you to pick up and curse your rivals with. There’s nothing quite like hitting a randomiser that turns everyone into odd shapes as they’re trying desperately to navigate through a level, or cunningly holding onto a freeze ability until you need to stop yourself rolling off a ledge. All of these modes can then be customised to different shot and time limits, collisions, ball spin and more, and you can play with your own rules in both open and closed lobbies.
The course designs get progressively weirder, starting off in a standard wooded area, jumping to a haunted mansion, then a space station, a sci-fi volcano, all the way through to a Worms course thanks to Team17 publishing the game. The laws of gravity are defied, there’s spectral ramps that you can temporarily make solid, boost pads and explosives, and you’re never quite sure what’s around the corner… unless you use the free look camera to preview a hole’s layout, that is.
The number of environments is great, but you get the feeling that quality and effort varies from one to another. Each course almost feels like it was created by a different team, and even within a course, there’s difficulty spikes. At the very least, it feels like nobody went back to revamp the first courses that appeared when the game first launched into Early Access.
The flat textures and dull lighting are not the best advert for the Unity engine (which is actually capable of great lighting effects!), nor is the pop-in during the flyover and stutter when a course title card is revealed, even on Xbox One X. A handful of funky geometry and shadowing issues have persisted through Early Access to release.
That leads us to a golf game’s biggest sin: inconsistency. While the game plays a good game of minigolf the vast majority of the time, you’ll almost certainly encounter some kind of inexplicable bounce or rebound at least once a course. Mostly this seems to be down to geometry reacting badly when you overhit, but when you’re then reset to your previous position, any camera angle changes you’ve made while in motion are retained, disorienting you and making minor adjustments or tweaks to your shot more difficult. The free cam that lets you preview the course also has the curse of adjusting your shot power and spin (if you have that enabled) when you return to the ball, and there’s regular instances where you get zoomed all the way in because your ball is a bit too close to a wall.
Oh, you’ll also want to do yourself a favour and turn the maddeningly repetitive music down or off.