Golf. In a desert. Forever. This decidedly "uhmm...that's it?" pitch is exactly the premise of developer Justin Smith's Desert Golfing, a 2D golfing game set in a barren, but undulating desert, in where you the player are confronted by literally never ending rounds of golf. Presented in an entirely unceremonious 2 color Atari 2600-like landscape and using the most simply implemented Angry Birds-style catapult control mechanic possible, Smith's Desert Golfing seems to have gone out of its way to not look or sound remotely interesting. Desert Golfing is like, totally normcore, bordering on borecore, with no in-game rewards, no power-ups or collectibles, shit- there aren't even freaking menus in the game. There are no mulligans, there's no restarting the game. Leave the game and come back to the game and you're exactly where you were when you left. Forever. As in there's no finale here, no light at the end of the tunnel, YOU AREN'T GOING TO FINISH THIS GAME, and even if you were to play on just to see if something popped up beyond the odd cactus here or there, well forget that, because even the game's designer has stated that beyond hole 3000 (there are players beyond 5000) "there is officially nothing of interest", largely because Smith appears to have never thought players would get that far. In Desert Golfing there's just you, your ball, and the hole, wait - there isn't even a you, there's your ball and the hole and your score which will always be terrible because your hole-in-ones are always being usurped by nigh impossible levels where you waste 20 strokes just trying to get the ball on the bank behind the hole without it rolling off the screen (and thus start all over). Hit the ball, make the shot, the screen slides left to reveal the next hole, repeat ad infinitum. In summary, Desert Golfing is a terrible game, boring to borderline frustrating to play, ugly to look at, and utterly unworth the $1.99 Smith is asking for it on the App Store.
On second thought
Except that...well Desert Golfing is actually kind of glorious, offering a near zen-like game experience (zencore?) that makes the world around you melt away for the 10 minute blocks of time the game is best suited for killing. The game's controls are stupidly simple, but perfect, pull back, adjust elevation, and let go. The levels, well they're all over the place. You can have several easy holes in a row, then a challenge, and later...seriously infuriating, but still entirely possible with patience levels that utterly kill whatever already bad score you have staring at you from the top of the screen. Then there's the sand...it's got way more friction than grass and much less bounce, making long putts tricky and dulling bank shots off the games endless dunes. Interestingly, the game's physics are always working both for, and against you. They make the courses harder, but they also tend to be critical for making many shots, like parking a ball halfway up a slope to setup the next shot, the defiance of gravity courtesy the same sticky sand that made the previous hole a two-shot putt instead of one.
Then there's the graphics. They're terrible. Or are they? No, they are terrible, but perfect for this game. There isn't much to see out there in the desert: the ball, the hole, the flag, eventually I hear tell of a cactus popping up, a cloud, maybe a rock, and shifts in color palette, but I haven't seen shit through 150 rounds so far. Not that I care, because the last thing my score needs is another obstacle to screw with my current, but slowly deteriorating, 3 stroke average.
A transcendental experience, an analogy for life, a journey towards deeper introspection, I've heard variations of all these used to describe Desert Golfing, though it seems a bit much. Desert Golfing should be and maybe is a terrible game, but I keep coming back to it, to kill 5 minutes here, on the train back from NYC, in line at the bank, or to get through that first damn commercial on Hulu. I can't say Desert Golfing is the best game you'll ever play, but it is a game that probably everyone should play, because somehow hitting a ball through this two colored and two dimensional desert for no rewards, no power-ups, no end-game, forever...turns out to be an oasis of fun.
Requires iOS 5.0 or later. Compatible with iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch.