Version tested: Android
It's odd, isn't it, that as the possibilities video game technology allows become ever more amazing, the keener developers are to recreate the real world. Contemporary games wear their verisimilitude like a badge of honour, while PR blurbs parp half-truths about 'authenticity' and 'realism' with depressing regularity. Imagine being that guy who went into game development full of excitement and ideas and ended up having to render the creases in Tiger Woods' immaculately modelled golfing slacks.
Most smartphone games don't have the kind of production budget EA Sports can afford to spend on such trifles, which is perhaps why many of them hark back to the good old days where video game avatars didn't need trousers - or indeed knees - to do their job. Super Stickman Golf seems rather proud of its similarly afflicted hero (and he is a hero: you try playing golf without any knees) by proudly declaring his physical deficiencies in the title. He's a stick man and he's super, and so, happily enough, is his game.
Here the sport of golf is less a good walk spoiled, more a good spin around a sticky rotating platform spoiled. Which is to say it has no truck with realism and is all the better for it. The courses here make the back nine at Carnoustie look like kids' stuff - greens often lie on floating platforms several dozen feet above the tee, and along the way you'll have magnets, icy ledges and portal gates to contend with. Bunkers are still present, of course, but you'll welcome their soft embrace when the alternative is rolling off into the void.
Some would say it's more a puzzler than a golf game, but then isn't golf a kind of puzzle in itself? Besides, like the real thing, you still have to judge the aim, power and timing of your swing to hit the perfect shot. Wind isn't a factor here, but then old Tiger never had rotating platforms that look like misshapen coconut rolls to negotiate.
Indeed, some of the holes are so fiendish that even the seven shots to gain par aren't always enough. As your golfer's level increases with each completed nine-hole round you'll gradually gain access to power-ups that give you a greater chance of finishing under par and unlocking the next course. One freezes water hazards, another allows you to make a mid-air ball instantly drop, though you'll likely reach for the mulligan more frequently than any other, even if it prevents you from earning the 'clean ball' bonus for a boost-free round.
Meanwhile, in-game bucks you've collected can be spent on a gacha machine containing a selection of hats that offer a range of perks. (As a side note, I'm still not sure I've encountered a bad game that features unlockable hats. Perhaps I've stumbled across one of the last great secrets of game design.)
Best of all, this generous helping of 20 courses is entirely free on Android. Resist the temptation to spend real cash on in-game bucks when your power-up supply has run dry - and it will once you reach the City Land course, believe me - and you needn't ever spend a penny. On iOS the basic app costs £1.99, but with or without the upfront cost I'd hope most will think highly enough of the game to lob the devs a few quid nonetheless. Sure, this might be a long way from the real thing, but it's a smart, slick and confident piece of game design that proves you don't need an impeccably ironed trouser to play a fun round of golf.
8 / 10