Late last year, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting with Giant Margarita, a small independent development team, based in the small state of Tasmania, Australia. This humble team was showing off Party Golf, their small entry into the big world of video games. Now, nearly a year later, their small game has created ripples around the world as the first Tasmanian game to be released on PlayStation consoles. And no, unfortunately Ty the Tasmanian Tiger doesn’t count.
Party Golf’s inception began during a 48-hour Game Jam event over a year and a half ago. The premise was simple but it sparked a fire with members of staff from the University of Tasmania’s School of Engineering and four of the course’s postgraduate students. Together, the team decided to pursue a full-fledged, content rich version of the game. One of the biggest steps for the team was the Kickstarter funding to help create a console version of Party Golf. The team successfully surpassed their goal and as of October 4th, 2016, Party Golf was made available on the PlayStation 4.
But, what is Party Golf? The game is a local multiplayer, physics-based party game where players compete simultaneously to sink their ball into the hole on a 2D course. Although the premise is simple, the biggest twist for the title is the ability to customise and set rules that change the properties of the game.
Players can tune many different modifiers, such as changing the shape, size and gravitational properties of the ball, the background elements and various other aspects of the stage. For instance, should you wish, you can play a set of rounds where the balls are bananas, bounce with low gravity, and stick to other balls on contact, all the while the stage is steeped in nearly total darkness. On top of this, there are over a hundred different game modes.
To further add to the variety, every level is randomly generated. While the randomly generated foreground does a good job of creating an interesting environment to play in, there are times where a player can spawn in an absolutely detrimental spot, making success a pipe dream. Granted, while this has been an uncommon occurrence, the fact remains that these unfair map generations can put players on, quite literally, an uneven playing field. But that is the price you pay for chaos.
In regards to the art style, while the textures for the balls and the foreground terrain are relatively simple, the lighting and background colour shading makes playing the game a much more aesthetically pleasing experience. With incredibly entertaining fireworks displays and light features, the game looks a lot more dynamic, which helps to create that overall sense of wackiness and joviality.
One of the biggest features implemented by the team, was the Party Golf companion app and Twitch integration feature. It’s quite clear that the most important feature in the team’s design document was to emphasise not just a staggering amount of customizations, but to make the game an interactive and entertaining viewing experience for spectators.
The companion app, which comes with the game, allows a third party to actively change the rules of the round mid-game on their phones. This added layer of chaos can lead to some incredibly fun gameplay, especially in the hands of a legendary troll– I mean friend.
The chaos doesn’t end there. If you’re streaming the game on Twitch, and you’re itching to never win a round again, Twitch viewers can also alter the rules through Twitch chat. Having the same power as the companion app, both social features can allow anyone to participate. This in itself is a fantastic and pleasant feature to really emphasise the notion of ‘multiplayer’.
When it comes to controls, there really isn’t anything more complex than aim and shoot. This in itself is a boon, as it allows Party Golf to enables up to 8 player support, two people per controller.
Fortunately, if you’re unable to wrangle some friends together, there are still some formidable AI that are more than happy to be cannon fodder. That said, the experience of playing with other players can never be replaced by mere AI. This, in turn, can mean the single player experience is lacklustre. Multiplayer is the definitive way to play Party Golf.
There’s very little that can go wrong with Party Golf. Bring in a simple concept of a game, sprinkle in some anarchy, and you have yourself a ridiculously entertaining title. Couple that with good company, and you have yourself an equally entertaining evening. Party Golf is one of those games you definitely want to bring out when company comes over for games nights.