I never played Sid Meier’s SimGolf, but I certainly know of it. It’s an obscure golf sim and management game that, even with Sid Meier’s name on it and being nominated for a few rewards the year it released, ended up relegated to obscurity. To my surprise, I started to see the name SimGolf pop up more and more often in relation to a game called Golftopia. Developed by MinMax Games, the developer behind the Space Pirates and Zombies series, Golftopia is a colorful, sci-fi golf game that, on the surface, doesn’t much resemble Sid Meier’s .
Golftopia is a business management game with a little bit of golf game thrown in. In it, you construct golf courses in a bid to make your customers happy. To do that, you have to design interesting challenges, provide sufficient rest and food opportunities, and stave off the ever-encroaching purple alien weeds. See, Golftopia all takes place on an alien planet and is done with a sci-fi flair. Customers get around in elevated tubes and hover boards instead of conventional golf carts, and you have access to several different types of gadgets that can make holes feel like they’re part of a mini golf course instead of a conventional golf course.
There’s something about Golftopia that is definitely old school feeling—for good and for bad. There’s no campaign or challenge modes—you just jump right into the game, and right away start designing your golf course. There’s a little to be desired in regards to new user introduction into the game’s systems and mechanics, but the little bit of tutorial does the job well enough, though it definitely didn’t strike me as a modern experience. I ended up having to dig into the game mechanics in a way that reminded me of messing around with Railroad Tycoon way back in the day. But instead of building interesting rollercoasters, I’m trying to build a golf course that my guests want to play on.
You’re not really trying to build holes that are difficult–rather, you’re trying to build holes that give the illusion of difficulty to your guests while being manageable. I used to complain that it’s the guest’s fault when they didn’t properly navigate an obstacle most other guests have, but their frustration on missing a shot can be mitigated with clever golf course correction. Some of the crazy gadgets you are given access to help mitigate it—if guests’ balls frequently end up in the water, you can try putting a bumper to prevent that. They’re fun, and they work as a barrier. But if the balls start bouncing back and hitting other guests, that could be a problem. In fact, if your guests suffer enough annoyances, that can mean freak outs. These freak outs can result in cancelled club memberships, and even cause a cascade effect to other guests.
When you first start your golf course in Golftopia, you’re placed on an island in the middle of a vast ocean. It’s recommended in the tutorial that you build slowly, and in fact, you have to: most of the island is locked off to you until you purchase additional land. This allows for natural iterative development of golf courses. If you build too much too quickly, your guests might suffer, and so will your bottom line. If you can’t keep your income above your daily upkeep costs, it’s game over. But doing so isn’t so hard, especially with some patience. Golftopia isn’t an inherently easy game, but it’s a game I found I can easily walk away from–literally.
I really don’t understand why modern management games have done away with most fast forward options. Golftopia allows you to speed up time, but only by a little bit. I wish I could say I spent most of my time designing my golf course, but a lot of my gameplay was spent away from my computer, accumulating wealth. There are certainly more efficient ways to play, but Golftopia presents few emergencies that require a player to actually be present to take care of. You have a fleet of drones that refill concessions and clean, and you can even get sets of automated turrets and even “lawn mortars” to take care of those pesky weeds. There are abilities that use orbital power to use, but you can eventually even automate those.
Golftopia also doubles as a golf game. You can play your own course. In fact, the manager avatar’s golf skills increase as you play more golf. I really liked the concept of building my own challenges and then defeating them, but the golfing is my least favorite part. It’s true you can get an idea of what your guests go through, but hitting the ball is just a matter of selecting your club, and selecting a distance. Your shot is determined by random chance based on your character’s golf abilities. If you were hoping for something a little more hands-on, like I was, you might be disappointed.
Golftopia is a colorful, sci-fi golf management sim that might be the spiritual successor to Sid Meier’s SimGolf you were looking for—or in my case, you never knew you wanted. I really enjoyed Golftopia, even during those moments I’d walk away from my computer for an extended period of time. Golftopia has an old school feel, but after learning the ropes, it works in its favor. I’m a sucker for a good management game, and Golftopia turns out to be a good one.
Golftopia is available now on Steam.
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