Twenty years ago, sim-building games were all the rage. Between Theme Hospital, SimCity, and everything else Sid Meier touched, the genre was everywhere. Sid Meier’s SimGolf released to rave reviews in 2002. It allowed players to create and manage a golf course, and cater to the whims of their high-paying clientele. While the Tiger Woods Golf series could fill some gamers’ golfing needs, those who wanted to design their dream course were left in the dark. Until now, with the release of GolfTopia.
While not a genuine successor, GolfTopia certainly serves as the cult hit’s spiritual successor. Developers MinMax Games have, up until now, only produced games in their Space Pirates and Zombies (SPAZ) series. While both SPAZ games have received positive reviews, GolfTopia marks a departure from their usual fare – but with similar results.
“Courses are judged based on their craziness, so if you’re looking at recreating Pebble Beach or Augusta, you’ve got the wrong game.”
GolfTopia lets you design, build, and maintain your own golf course, working to keep your golfers happy while also fighting weed infestations to keep your course looking spick and span. However, in GolfTopia, you don’t just build any old course. The game has a futuristic setting, meaning you can add several crazy features to take your golf course to the next level. And we’re not just talking windmills and slides. We’re talking giant fans, ramps, and booster squares. Courses are judged based on their craziness, so if you’re looking at recreating Pebble Beach or Augusta, you’ve got the wrong game. In GolfTopia, the zaniest courses will win you the most fans.
GolfTopia is incredibly easy to play. The learning curve is nearly non-existent, meaning you can jump straight in without having to endure a series of punishing tutorial levels. Although if tutorials are your thing, that’s ok too. As you reach various stages of the game, tutorial boxes pop up to let you know what’s going on.
GolfTopia has the building blocks of a great sim-building game
You are always able to make changes throughout your golf course. Is Hole 2 too easy? Throw a couple of fans in there. Golfers struggling on Hole 7? Add a skill boost to allow them to shoot more accurately. Your course is ever-evolving. You can watch it play out, take on feedback from your members, and make changes in an absolutely pain-free way.
A feature I was almost certain would be missing is also present – the ability to actually play golf. Sure, it’s no PGA 2K21, but it does add another layer to the game. It also allows you to simply zone out and enjoy your golf course when the building gets a bit much.
Of course, this is not to say that GolfTopia is the perfect game. The game could certainly use some improvements. For example, once you place an item, it’s stuck there. If you want to move it, you need to destroy it and place a new one – something that could cost you a bit of money if you’re not careful. Water features, a staple of almost any golf course, are damn-near impossible to make accurately. The people are well… terribly designed compared to the rest of the game. And try as I might, I couldn’t rotate the camera to get a full 360-degree view of my course.
“If MinMax properly pools their resources into this game, they could be on to an absolute winner.”
GolfTopia has a lot of potential. Rather than SimGolf, GolfTopia could look to another mid-2000s classic, Theme Park World, for inspiration. GolfTopia could take on different types of themed parks. Today, franchise tie-ins are a regularity – look at the number of skins you can download in Fortnite. Yes, a Marvel or Star Wars-themed golf course would be amazing and highly improbable. But it doesn’t need to be on such a large scale. A simple Halloween or space-themed course could open the game up to new possibilities and audiences.
If MinMax properly pools their resources into this game, they could be on to an absolute winner. All of the important parts are already there. The game’s main mechanics work well, save for some minor mechanical issues, which can be easily fixed. The visuals are good, apart from the people (and to be fair, they’re not the focus of the game). That leaves them with a strong base game to build some expansions, DLC, or sequels around. Should they take this route with GolfTopia, they could take this good game and have their next franchise sorted for years to come.
*Product reviewed on PC. The publisher provided the game.