Apple Arcade: What the Golf is pure comedy

Uncaddy valley.

I am aware, obviously, that you're not supposed to explain jokes. The thing is I'm not sure there's any way for me to explain what What the Golf is without at some point explaining a joke.

If I can't explain a joke, though, maybe I can define one. It's a thing that is funny. What the Golf is a game and it has lots of things in it that are funny. There! Done.

I actually played What the Golf at EGX in 2018, which feels like ages ago now, where it was just a series of very simple scenarios, one after the other, on PC. Now, it's on the brilliant Apple Arcade - what else? - and rather than that effective but pretty simple stream-of-consciousness it's now a much more fleshed-out, recognisable game, with a sort of overworld inside a weird experimental lab, where you ping a little ball about to the specific courses and get occasionally berated by a computer.

The magic though is the movement, or dare I say it the physics. Video game physics have a way of turning people to their most borish, either picking apart the minutiae or praising something grander and more systemic, as they sail through some impossible Rube Goldberg machine of death they set up in Breath of the Wild or Dishonored. But What the Golf's physics are different. They're brilliant because they are fundamentally funny, in that proper golden age, silent movie, ducking ladders dance-of-danger funny, and they are devilishly simple: there's one input, where you drag an arrow back to fling whatever needs to be flung, and that's it.

What's more, though, it clearly knows why it's funny, and because of that it knows how to keep being funny. What the Golf has a wonderful knack for constantly undermining what you think you know: ping a golf ball on one round, as per the title, and maybe there's some obstacle that pops up to give you a little chuckle. Line the ball up again for the next hole, fully prepared for what's to come, and this time a chunk of dirt flies out where the ball's supposed to be, and you realise you're just one part of a giant pun, aiming to ping a literal hole into a literal 1. When you've got that figured out it's then the little rubbery man that's trying to hit the ball that goes flying, or a flag, or whatever else you can imagine but always, crucially, just before you've imagined it. On and on and on it goes, constantly one-upping itself and side-stepping you and not just moving the ball or the hole or the flag, but the punchline, just when you think you've found it.

Comedy - like golf! (I don't play golf) - works best when it has lots of moving parts and you notice none of them. There's no point nailing the visuals and scrimping on the sound. No point getting the sound right if you haven't got an eye or an ear for timing. No point in doing any of it if you haven't actually got, you know, a sense of humour to work with. What the Golf has got the lot, and it knows it just needs to keep it simple and pure: the game is catapulting things at other things whilst being constantly foiled, at every stage along the way, by the game itself. There's no point explaining it any more than that.

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About the author

Chris Tapsell

Chris Tapsell

Staff Writer

Chris Tapsell is Eurogamer's Staff Writer, its newest Chris, and a keen explorer of the dark arts of gaming, from League of Legends to the murky world of competitive Pokémon.

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