Review: Desert Golfing (iOS, Android)

Posted by Simon on September 12, 2014
Games, Reviews




Life is one long sand bunker.



It’s midnight. I’ve just woken from the kind of evening nap that’s more parenting-induced coma than restful snooze. Actually, I woke up about half an hour ago, but I blinked.




Installed on my PS3 hard drive is the biggest game of the year, Bungie’s Destiny, begging for some attention. However, I have to be up early in the morning and so there’s no time to become involved in space-faring Nerfgun blasting. Earlier in the evening, I read an article on Kotaku about Desert Golfing and it sounded like fun. It’s just a dollar on Android, although double that on iOS for some reason, so I grabbed it to check out the first few courses.



Desert Golfing can be imagined by conjuring four elements. First, the restless brown haze of the sky across the top of the screen. Second, the golden sand of the course stretching across the bottom forever, numbered flags standing unmoved in the stifling air. Third is the controls, a catapult of dragged forward motion, a simple arrow giving all the feedback you need for power and angle. And finally, it’s the sand itself, with the perfect level of stickiness capturing the muggy friction of every golfer’s nightmare, tiny plumes rising up into the sky with every hard impact. That’s it – the ball starts on the left, hole on the right; succeed in combining the two and the hole magically fills as the screen scrolls to the right, revealing the next target.



It’s 1am. I have to be up in five hours. The evening’s powernap has removed the edge of sleep but not the flesh-deep weariness. I could just lie back and let one outweigh the other.

Ball on the left, hole on the right.

Ball on the left, hole on the right.



What does this game even want from me? Desert Golfing takes masochistic pleasure in stripping away all the elements that are the polite form of video games, the things that give us sensory and emotive feedback, the things that make us love the systems and return for more. There’s no welcoming menu, so cheering of success. The ball goes in the hole with a muted ting, the screen scrolls to the right showing the next target, then, after a weightly, terrible fraction of a pause, your hole rises with a low hiss as a demand to proceed. Onward, onward. There’s not even a congratulatory ba-ding! for the heady satisfaction of a hole-in-one. Desert Golfing barely even blinks. Ting, scroll, hiss. Next, Next. Next.



I am in an abusive relationship. I just want to do a good job. Look. I got the ball in the hole! Finally. It took me twelve tries, but I did it. Are you happy? Do I make you happy?

Ting. Scroll. Hiss.




Ting. Scroll. Hiss.



I am Sisyphus, but instead of forever rolling my ball up the hill only to see it roll back down, the hill never, ever ends. Each hole unfolds, one after the next. The only two markers of progress – the flag number and overall shot total – can never be adjusted or reset. There’s no option to retry. Every success is sliced in two with the presentation of a new hole and the low commanding growl.

When does it end? Surely it ends?



This must be it. Video game progress is practically designed around progress on a metric scale. All this work – some holes needing 30+ sweated attempts at glory, some lulling you into relaxation with straightforward ease; Desert Golfing plays good cop bad cop with total, unflinching confidence. There must be something for conquering hole 100.


There must be.





Ting. Scroll. Hiss.



It never ends. It only ends if you stop playing.

Ting. Scroll. Hiss.

Ting. Scroll. Hiss.

Desert Golfing is an existentialist nightmare disguised as a golfing game. In the desert. You should never buy it, or buy it immediately, depending on how far into the abyss you want to stare. Also:


Desert Golfing, $1.99 on iOS, 99c on Android

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