I’ll dig right in. The game is in *very* early access – so expect features to be added and gameplay to blossom after this preview. Despite this – the game is very polished, very complete. I didn’t encounter a single crash or noticeable bug during my playtime, and no performance or gameplay issues.
Vertiginous Golf is something a little bit different – even among the swathes of quality Indie titles available on Steam. It’s an odd combination of physics-based mini golf and first person mechanical hummingbird exploration game, set in a gorgeous steampunk alterverse.
I first jumped into the game with no preconceptions – a curiosity spawned from a love of all things steampunk, but no idea what I was getting into…
You start the game in first person. No menu, no splash screen. A dimly lit, drizzly Victorian-esque street – the soft light reflecting from raindrops and puddles, providing a warm glow in the cold darkness. you move across the street to a shop with ‘Vertiginous Golf’ displayed proudly in the windows and ‘Forsake the eternal rain‘ engraved on the wall, open the door and head in. It’s something like a Barber’s – a row of rich mahogany leather seats on either side. At the other end of the shop is a strange assortment of screens collected together. You move towards them and they flicker into life – greeting you with ‘Vertiginous Golf’.
At this point I was well beyond intrigued and would have been hooked almost regardless of what came next. It’s a good thing, really, that the rest of this quirky little game lives up to the style and precedent set in that introduction.
Dan! What, exactly, is it though?!
Well – if you’ve played a crazy/mini golf game before, you’ll be mostly at home here. You are given (at the time of writing) nine holes to navigate on airborne courses of grass, brass and carpet. These are interspersed with physics-based obstacles and traps, often giving you a large variety of ways to get to the hole. Unlike many other ‘similar’ (more on that in a minute) games – there is no *right* way to get the ball into the final hole. Part of Vertiginous Golf’s charm is the freedom of choice it provides. Navigate one of the paths provided to you, or hope that a lucky chip of a trick shot will get you there? That’s up to you!
That’s all well and good, but what REALLY makes it stand out?
For me, at least – that’s a few things. First of all is the styling. That gorgeous, authentic steampunk vibe instilled in you before you even get to the main menu is maintained throughout the game. Everything from the relatively simple but serviceable graphics to the mesmerising score seem aimed to maintain the game’s feel. It’s extremely successful in this, all brass gramophones and Victorian rugs. Even the Green becomes a Green Room – set out like a tea room of maddening puzzles and restricting you to just your putter whilst inside. Secondly comes your strange, mechanical assistants: Sat atop the ball is a little brass bug, able to influence the direction and speed of the ball after your initial stroke by using up your ‘Rewind’ meter – earned by shot distance and length. This can also be used, as you may expect, to rewind your shot if you make a total mess of it. To aid you in navigating the sometimes sprawling & maze-like courses, you also have a brass hummingbird following you – which you can take control of and explore the courses in first person with. This provides a whole separate layer to gameplay, allowing the player to meticulously plan their route ahead of time with the hummingbird, and use the bug to prevent deviation when something doesn’t quite go to plan. What started out looking like a simple little golf game has become something of a pre-meditated murder in physics – instantly distancing itself from those aforementioned ‘similar’ golf games. Thirdly are the ‘Free Shot’ holes scattered around the course which negate the stroke it took to get to them – giving more skilled (at least, more skilled than me…) players the opportunity to chain shots between them and essentially get to the hole on a stroke of zero.
Early Access, right?
Yes – most definitely. Currently the game is a little barebones – containing merely the first nine holes, with plans (and empty menu spots) for many more. However, due to the unique open nature of the courses, I’ve found myself re-playing each one a few times in an effort to improve my (atrocious) scores and try to find a more efficient means of getting to the hole. Despite it’s status, what content is there feels extremely polished, and I’m yet to encounter a single bug or random crash. Performance is great too, maintaining 100FPS+ on my system (4770k @ 4.2GHz, 780Ti @ 1300MHz) at 1440p with all the bells and whistles on.
All in all – it’s a pretty, engaging little game with lots of potential to grow as it’s development continues – and I’d not hesitate to recommend it to anybody who wants to play something enjoyable that makes you think a little, especially if you’re a fan of Steampunk.
Developer: Kinelco & Lone Elk Creative
Available on early Access via Steam for £11.99