I’ll be perfectly honest with you; GolfTopia wasn’t exactly something that was on my radar for 2020. Yet, my love of gems like Theme Park World and Planet Zoo tickled something in my brain when I saw it. This looked like a title that just might scratch that same itch for construction and management, I thought, but can GolfTopia hit a hole in one?
Out now in Steam Early Access, GolfTopia, the futuristic golf course management sim from MinMax Games, plays a lot like a modern-day SimGolf. For those that haven’t played the 2002 Sid Meier’s classic, you still probably know what to expect; imagine Rollercoaster Tycoon, Zoo Tycoon, or really any Tycoon game, apply it to managing a golf course and you’ve got a pretty good idea what’s going on. It’s not the most exciting pitch for a game, but then none of the Tycoon games featured tower defence mechanics.
“What does tower defence have to do with anything?” you might ask. Well, GolfTopia drives a few curveballs your way with evil weeds that crop up sporadically around your resort, sucking the beauty out of their surroundings, and the fun out of your lovely golf course! It’s up to you to build up a small army of robots and towers to defend from them.
While the premise certainly sounds unique and intriguing, the majority of your time will still be spent in typical management sim fashion, plotting your perfect course and tinkering with terrain controls as you mould your own personal island to your liking. The inclusion of some seriously silly future tech even makes this interesting for someone with no interest in golf.
I was powerless to resist the allure of making my golf resort look more like Futurama than the Masters, adding a Ring of Fire to go alongside an insanely powerful launch pad. In this respect, GolfTopia excels in giving the player freedom to do as they wish, and I’m sure fans of the genre could spend hours perfecting their ideal golf course. The controls are certainly simple and forgiving in this respect, so the barrier to entry is surprisingly low despite all the bells and whistles.
Speaking of bells and whistles, however, the UI is so desperate to show you everything you can possibly build that it ends up looking cluttered and messy, albeit while matching the simplistic, cartoony graphics that they’re shooting for. Unfortunately, this is just the beginning of my list of gripes with GolfTopia.
The game is obviously only just entering Early Access, and sure to evolve from there, but there’s a fair share of rough edges that I’d really like to see GolfTopia smooth over for the final release. The lack of a robust, intuitive tutorial was the first thing that struck me, making the initial suite of options somewhat daunting. On the other side of the coin, the game doesn’t present much in the way of difficulty at all, which – coupled with content that is relatively light – ultimately left it feeling a bit shallow.
I don’t mean to be overly harsh, and GolfTopia offers a relaxing experience that’s perfect for any Tycoon fan looking to unwind from a stressful day, but it definitely feels like it has a long way to go. The key selling point of the malevolent weeds isn’t anywhere near impactful enough for my liking, playing second fiddle (way, way in the back) to the gentle, benign resort management gameplay.
That might be perfect for some, and the thought of peacefully arranging a beautiful bunker beside a fabulous fairway could have you rushing to click the buy button, but I think there’s some way to go in order to flesh out GolfTopia’s more interesting ideas. Hopefully MinMax Games’ estimate of needing six months to reach a full launch will be long enough for them to fill in any divots and expand their title into a management sim that can proudly stand alongside its peers.