Golf With Your Friends

Golf with your Friends is a fun multiplayer title, but a wonky physics engine and over reliance on gimmicks saps the enjoyment in many places.

Golf With Your Friends is a minigolf game developed by Blacklight Interactive, and published by Team 17. You might know Team 17 for things like Worms or The Escapists. Or maybe for that moment earlier this year when they tried to make NFTs. PCGamer has a fairly good writeup on that whole fiasco here.

Back to Golf With Your Friends. It’s a minigolf game that supports up to 12 player multiplayer. There are a dozen or so courses of 18 holes to play through in the base game, and an entire Steam workshop of other courses of varying quality.

As a minigolf game, it’s… pretty good! Decent. Passable. B-. The big issue I have with it is that the physics engine is incredibly wonky. There’ll be portions of the game where everything seems reasonable and consistent. Then it’ll break completely with no rhyme or reason.

Here’s an example. One course has a set of moving platforms that move up and down. For one set of friends, they were able to hit their ball onto these platforms. The ball would stop moving and they’d be able to hit off the platform. For me, every time I hit a ball onto it, the ball bounced, never stopped moving, then clipped through the bottom of the platform and went out of bounds. Originally I thought this was the result of lag, or some client side weirdness. Then it happened multiple times in the level editor in single-player.

And the more I played of the game, the more of these weird moments cropped up. Ramps that behaved inconsistently. Vacuum pipes that didn’t vacuum up the ball. Finishing an entire round without some sort of bug or weirdness is a rarity on par with the Ark of the Covenant.

I found Golf With Your Friends best as a multiplayer game. Multiplayer serves a duel purpose of making golf bearable and as an excuse for the bugs. There are people out there who can find joy in mechanical repetition and mastery of a task, and we call those people athletes and speedrunners. I find joy in waiting for my friends to line up for a perfect shot, then knocking their ball into the water by smashing into it with my own. Also crowing about absolutely nailing a hole in one that was complete luck.

Your friend group might not interact like a group of self-cannibalizing jackals, though. In that case, you can turn collisions off. Golf With Your Friends has a variety of game options, including hole type, ball type, collisions, max stroke and time limits, jumping, collisions, and powerups. While this variety of settings is good for custom levels, and tweaking gameplay to suit your friend group, not all of the options feel like they were actually tested.

For example, you can play with a cube, instead of a ball. For a large number of courses, it is straight up impossible to actually get this piece of trash into the hole. And even the more subtle tweaks, such as making things extra bouncy, can have unintended consequences. On one course, having a ball that was larger meant that a launcher gimmick would fail every time. This would have been less annoying if it wasn’t the only way to the hole.

Now let’s talk about gimmicks. Most courses in the game have some form of trick or gimmick. Some of these are fine, like the small number of moving objects in the forest course. Some are obnoxious, or confusing, like the magic platforms in the ancient course. And some are pointlessly stupid, such as the non-stop explosions in the worms course. They’re not enough to make it unplayable, but they do make it pointlessly difficult. And these obstacles also tend to be buggy.

There’s one more thing I want to talk about before I wrap this article up, and that’s the game’s built-in level editor. It allows you to make and publish your own courses to the Steam Workshop.

It is also one of the most garbage pieces of software I’ve ever had the misfortune of using. Hotkeys are an absolute nightmare, Y is up and Z is sideways. The resize tools work differently for each object. You can’t group move objects. You can’t group copy objects. The level editor has a “Play Mode” which can be used to test courses, but remember all those game mode options I mentioned above? You can’t actually turn any of them on while testing, so you’re stuck playing vanilla golf.

Despite all of those issues, I actually did make a course I called “Pain Mountain,” and if you’re curious, you can play it here. It’s not the only Pain Mountain on the Steam Workshop though, so a rebrand may be necessary. The Pain Mountain tourism board is looking into it.

And that’s Golf With Your Friends. A reasonable minigolf game, but with a large number of bugs and weird behaviors, a usable but aggravating level editor, and multiplayer that’s fun, but not consistent. It’s not very polished, but it is fun. It’s also several years old, and is no longer the only multiplayer minigolf game out there. If you want to play, you can buy it on Steam here, but I’d suggest waiting for a sale so you can pick up a few copies to play with your friends.

Everything Else We Saw At PAX East

Over the last several weeks, I’ve written up a few posts for the various games we played at PAX East. I covered the games with demos you could play at home. I covered the party games. I covered the board games.

This leaves us with just one final category: The games that I don’t have strong feelings about. Here they are, in a great big list, with brief summaries, some info about release dates/status, and links if you want to learn more.

Name – Guts’N Goals
Type – Video Game/”Sports” (The Quotes are on Purpose)
Status – Released
5 Second Version – Just not really my thing. Sportssss. Kinda fun at least.
More Info – https://gutsandgoals.com/

Name – Super Marxist Twins
Type – Video Game/Platformer
Status – Released
5 Second Version – Super Mario Parody, has level creator, felt kinda wonky to play, no strong feelings.
More Info – https://type3studios.com/

Name – Stellar Seige
Type – Board Game/Card Game
Status – Released
5 Second Version – Placement Card Game, did not love it.
More Info – http://www.paw-warriorgames.com/stellar/

Name – Togges
Type – Video Game/Collectaton or Puzzler?
Status – Unreleased
5 Second Version – Just not feeling it. Maybe I’m the wrong audience.
More Info – https://togges.com.br/

Name – HOA
Type – Video Game/Platformer
Status – Released
5 Second Version – Looked very nice, but did not feel good to play. Not super interested.
More Info – https://www.hoathegame.com/

Name – Depths of Sanity
Type – Video Game/Self described Metroidvania
Status – Available in Early Access – 85% content complete according to Dev’s
5 Second Version – Didn’t play. No strong desire to honestly. May need to research.
More Info – https://bombsheltergames.com/

Name – Cuisineer
Type – Video Game/Dungeon Crawler + Resturaunt Sim I think?
Status – Unreleased
5 Second Version – Couldn’t play. Not sure on genre. Don’t have much real info on this one yet.
More Info – https://twitter.com/cuisineer Look, the twitter has more info about this game then their website. I don’t know what to tell you.

Name – KAO THE KANGAROO
Type – Video Game/3D Platformer
Status – Released!
5 Second Version – 3D collect-a-thon that appears to be in the vein of Crash/Spyro
More Info – https://kaokangaroo.com/

Name – Demon’s Mirror
Type – Video Game/The lovechild of match-3 and Slay the Spire
Status – Unreleased
5 Second Version – I can’t tell if it’s a Slay the Spire like or not, it seems like one, but the match 3 but not quite elements are throwing me off. Requires more research.
More Info https://be-rad.com/games/demons-mirror/

Name – Mythic
Type – Video Game/Procedurally Generated Roguelike MMO? The Fuck?
Status – Has a Demo?
5 Second Version – Didn’t play it. It could be good, or it could be Buzzword soup.
More Info – https://store.steampowered.com/app/1752260/Mythic/

Name – Ikonei Island
Type – Top Down Adventure/Crafting Game
Status – Unreleased
5 Second Version – Seemed like a fairly simple game for kids? Didn’t quite click for me. May need to do more research.
More Info – https://store.steampowered.com/app/1550730/Ikonei_Island_An_Earthlock_Adventure/

Name – Writers Block
Type – Video Game/Spelling Game
Status – Unreleased
5 Second Version – If you read this site, you’ve seen how I spell. Not for me.
More Info – https://store.steampowered.com/app/1841380/Writers_Block/

Name – Valley Of Shadow
Type – Video Game/3D Puzzle Game
Status – Unreleased
5 Second Version – Might be Great. Might be artsy garbage. Can’t tell yet. Might just also not be for me. At least it’s not bad.
More Info – https://store.steampowered.com/app/1414030/Valley_of_Shadow/

Name – LOVE3
Type – Platformer
Status – Released
5 Second Version – Weird. Hard. The hell did I play? They had other games as well, one looked like Bomberman with Dragons
More Info – https://store.steampowered.com/app/1604300/LOVE_3/

Name -Pathless Woods
Type – IDK
Status – ????
5 Second Version – Didn’t play.
More Info – https://store.steampowered.com/app/1726130/Pathless_Woods/
or @PathlessWoods1 on twitter presumably

Name – Back to the Dawn
Type – Video Game/RPG-Simlite?
Status – Unreleased
5 Second Version – Might count as a CRPG? All the characters are animals, and it seems like your end goal is to escape prison.
More Info – https://store.steampowered.com/app/1735700/Back_to_the_Dawn/

Name – The D.Team
Type – Video Game/Tank Shooter + platformer?
Status – Unreleased
5 Second Version – Not great yet, better then expected. A first time project by a single dev.

Name – Below the Stone
Type – Video Game/
Status – Unrelased
5 Second Version – Not sure how good it is. Enemy AI is not currently interesting. There’s potential here though. Keep an eye on it.
More Info – https://store.steampowered.com/app/1170230/Below_the_Stone/

Name – Demeo
Type – Video Game/Turn Based Dungeon Crawler
Status – Released
5 Second Version -Literally made for Kyle. Potentially good.
More Info – https://store.steampowered.com/app/1484280/Demeo/

Name – Rightfully, Beary Arms
Type – Rougelike where your upgrades upgrade your enemies as well.
Status – ???????
5 Second Version – Made by Daylight Basement. Seems weird as fuck.
More Info – https://store.steampowered.com/app/1928030/Rightfully_Beary_Arms/

Minecraft Dungeons

I spent months seeing ads for Minecraft Dungeons and assuming it was a fancy Minecraft mod. As it turns out it’s a completely different game. It uses Minecraft textures, sounds, creatures, and trappings (like the currency is emeralds), but its actually an Action RPG.

Blocky Diablo would also be accurate.

If you’re new the genre, ARPG is just a fancy name for a Diablo clone. It’s a 3rd person top down dungeon crawler where you collect loot and level up your character. As a big fan of Diablo II and a big fan of Minecraft, you might expect that this would be my kind of game… and you’d mostly be right.

I mostly enjoyed Minecraft Dungeons. While I didn’t play much endgame content or go to the much harder difficulties, I did clear the full story, and some of the postgame, and had a good time with it.

However, I have three fundamental problems with the game

  1. Lack of twangy guitar music.
  2. Consumable arrows.
  3. Map readability and collision.

While issue one pretty much speaks for itself, issue two is a bit more nuanced. Why does it matter that Minecraft Crayons has consumable arrows? To explain that, let’s talk about how the game handles skills.

Minecraft Funyons has an interesting “class” system. I put class in quotes because there are no set classes; how your character approaches the game depends entirely on what kind of gear you wear and enchantments you apply. If you want to be a rogue, you equip armor that makes you deal more physical damage. To be a tank, you equip armor that reduces the damage you take. If you want to be a caster, you equip armor that reduces the cooldowns on your artifacts (effectively your abilities), and then equip artifacts that deal damage. And if you want to be an archer, you equip armor that gives you extra ranged damage and extra arrows.

The problem is that the arrow economy is such that even with bonus arrow armor, enchantments, and artifacts, you STILL run out of arrows at some point each run. With at most 10 de facto classes, it’s a strange design choice to make one of them effectively unplayable.

My third issue was map readability. While the Minecraft style maps are very pretty, because all the elements are visually similar, I often found it hard to quickly figure out which terrain was walkable and which blocked me. And that’s a big problem when trying to make a split second decision with a million mobs following me. Hit a wall, and you’re dead.

Being pinned against terrain by a wave of enemies wouldn’t be terrible if the standard roll ability let you roll through the enemies, but it doesn’t, unlike almost every game I’ve ever played with a dodge. It also doesn’t actually dodge hits. All it does is give you a quick burst of speed followed by being slowed. Looking back, I found this design decision this most frustrating part of the game.

And there are a few other things that don’t quite make sense to me. The enchantment system seems to be built to encourage you to try out new sub builds frequently. But this never really worked. There are only two ways to get your enchantment points/levels back to try out a new item or build.

Option 1 is to salvage the original item, getting rid of it. If you do this and then don’t like your new build, you’re shit out of luck. Option 2 is go give your items to the Blacksmith, which gives you back your enchantment points, and then upgrades the item after your clear 3 levels. But again, if you don’t like your build, you’re still shit out of luck, abeit only for 3 runs. Why there isn’t just a “refund enchantment points” button is beyond me.

The game is also a bit buggy. While none of these are “Eat your savefile” or “Crash your machine” levels of bugs, they’re still annoying. For example, I fought a miniboss at the start of a level, and then spent the entire level listening to the dramatic boss music. Almost every chest you open spews some consumable items out of the level, entirely wasting them. Another time I rolled in the middle of combat and got stuck in a hole in the map.

Overall, I did have fun with it, even if it was somewhat simple. It honestly felt like the game was initially designed as a roguelike, but at some point they changed it to a perpetual gear chase. The addition of the Tower, a game mode that is quite literally a roguelike adds to that theory.

Minecraft Dungeons is available on pretty much every platform, and also has cross-play between all of them. So if you’re looking for a solid, but simple ARPG you can play with other folks, grab a copy, and sit back. Just be prepared to deal with some annoyances along the way. And if you’re still on the fence, you can read more about it here.

Ed Note: The post-game content is actually surprisingly extensive, and decent. I played it even if Max didn’t. It functions similar to PoE’s mapping system, in that the zones themselves are remixes of previously cleared areas with increased mob variety and specialties. It also has it’s own special gear chase with gilded items and whatnot. TLDR: Postgame good!

Elden Ring Pre-Review Views Review

A rant about Elden Ring, and the bits I don’t like very much.

I haven’t actually finished Elden Ring yet. When I do, I’ll probably do another writeup on the game. Right now, I’ve played about 70~ hours across various characters, and also a bit of the Seemless Co-Op Mod. My furthest character has about 44 hours on them, just around level 80.

I’m mentioning all of this to give a bit of context. Usually I don’t do writeups until one of three things happens:
1. I finish the game.
2. I quit the game with no intention to return.
3. The game doesn’t have an end/win condition, and is multiplayer, and I feel like I’ve played enough to give an opinion.

None of these situations are true for Elden Ring. I fully intend to complete the game, and despite bits feeling like bullshit, I haven’t quit. In addition, as the game is a single player RPG, it has an end. So why am I writing about it now?

Well, it’s mostly to get my thoughts into writing, and also provide a different opinion on the game than I see most places. The usual take seems to be that Elden Ring is a perfect masterpiece. I don’t think Elden Ring is bad, but I do think that the game feels uneven in tone, and while some parts of it are incredible, others… simply are not.

Bugs, frame drops, and crashes, oh my!

Let’s start with the easiest one to quantify. Performance, bugs, and crashes. On release, Elden Ring was plagued with a massive number of issues. After several performance patches, it is now only plagued with a large number of problems. Playing offline, the game still crashes a ridiculous amount. I was streaming my playthrough for a while. Quite a few of those streams ended when the game crashed, and I couldn’t be bothered to restart it.

If you’re wondering “How bad can it be?” here’s a horror story from a friend. He had beaten most of the game, and gotten to the gate instead of the final boss. He also recently had a kid, and decided to be a responsible parent, and do the last fight later. He went to bed, woke up the next, and found that whenever he tried to load his 60 hour save file, the game would instantly crash.

A patch did eventually fix this, but still.

Content Re-Use

When From Software makes games, they re-use assets from their previous games. This can include enemies, weapons, textures, what have you. And it’s fine, and not what I’m about to complain about here.

What I’m complaining about here is specifically the parts of the game that re-use the EXACT same boss fights. While I’ve generally tried to avoid spoilers, a large portion of the game focuses around reaching and taking down 5 larger enemies. Of these 5, four are incredible experiences, with incredible design and weight to them.

The 5th is a reskin/remix of an earlier boss in the game. It’s an incredible build-up for a massive let down.

And it’s not the only area guilty of this. There’s one mini-boss I’ve seen 3 times so far, and while the area you fight it in changes, it still feels fairly dull to reach the pinnacle of a brand new area, and see something you’ve found before. In general, I’d say the mid game area feels much weaker in this respect.

A Winding Circular Pattern

The last thing I want to quickly cover, because I’m not sure I’ll get to it in my actual Elden Ring writeup, is the general flow of the game. Having Elden Ring be open world is an interesting choice. On the one hand, it means that if you find yourself smashing your head into a wall, it’s possible to explore and find other objectives, or do something else.

On the other hand, it makes it much easier to get lost, or fail to find a particular location. The in-game map is beautiful and clever, but also not always the easiest to read. And when you do get stuck, it’s hard to tell if you need to Git Gud, or Git Going somewhere else.

The end result that my Elden Ring playthrough has a pattern to it:

  1. Get to a new area.
  2. Run into a hard boss, or be unclear on how to progress.
  3. Explore more, trying to find a way to go forward.
  4. Find more roadblocks.
  5. Thrash around with multiple deaths to either hard boss, or roadblocks.
  6. Get frustrated, and stop having fun.
  7. Start trying random garbage, or run to random places.
  8. Finally figure out a way forward, or a way to beat a boss.
  9. Go back and clear areas/places from step 4.
  10. Get to a new area.

    This has happened to me about 4 times so far. But perhaps more importantly, Step 6 in this process can be a few hours long, and it’s incredibly non-enjoyable.

In Conclusion

Elden Ring is good. But I don’t like how the game seems to get near universal acclaim when there a quite a few spots that could be heavily improved. I’m willing to cut From Software some slack on things like their open world design, as it is their first open world game. But the incredibly poor technical performance, and boss-reuse? Not so much. This isn’t an inexperienced indie studio. Elden Ring is a synthesis of years of design and planning, and a literal synthesis in some cases of old ideas, and cut content from their previous games. It’s good, it’s worth playing, but it could be better.

PAX East – Dome Keeper

I was going to title this post the “Good Stuff” post. It was going to be a nice big list of everything from the show that I liked, but hadn’t listed out yet.

Then I ran into a slight problem. See, that list was a grand total of one item long. I already covered most of the games from the show that I liked in the “Games From PAX With Demos you can play at home” post.

So instead, you get a super short post about Dome Keeper, the single remaining entry on that list. So I say to Dome Keeper: congrats! And please don’t disappoint me when you actually release.

Published by Raw Fury! Who also published Atomicrops, which I loved.

So what is Dome Keeper? Well, two things, sorta. It plays like a combo of Motherload, and Space Invaders. You are a small space person, living in your tiny little dome. You can leave the dome to dig down, and gather various minerals and ores, which you then drag back to your base and deposit. Different ores are used for different types of upgrades, which range from increasing the speed at which you move, your carrying capacity, and how quickly you dig. They can also be used to upgrade your dome. And you’re going to want to do that, because there’s a timer, and when it ticks down, your dome gets a attacked by a wave of monsters.

Of course, even if you clear that wave, the next wave will be stronger. So back into the mines you go to search for more minerals. Rinse, repeat.

The demo itself was a ton of fun, and the game is supposed to release later this year. The Steam page has it listed as a roguelike, so I’m curious to see how that gets implemented, and what other features the game has.

But like I said, the demo was fun. And really, that’s the most important thing. So cross your fingers with me, and let’s hope it’s good.