Dan­ger­ous Golf

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PC, PS4, Xbox One

For bet­ter and worse, Dan­ger­ous Golf is ex­actly the game you ex­pect it to be. Built by a team of ex-Cri­te­rion devs, it’s a game that owes a large debt to the stu­dio’s most fa­mous se­ries. It is to the sport what Burnout’s Crash mode was to rac­ing: tan­gen­tially re­lated at best, with a sim­i­lar unswerv­ing fo­cus on ex­plo­sive car­nage. The ac­tion may be on a smaller scale, but the sheer vol­ume of on­screen ob­jects makes it look ev­ery bit as spec­tac­u­lar, if not more so. Squeeze the right bumper and time will slow to a crawl, al­low­ing you to wit­ness cham­pagne corks thud­ding into a tower of gob­lets, your ball’s fiery glow light­ing them up as they cas­cade grace­fully past the cam­era. All that’s miss­ing is a trilling so­prano to cel­e­brate such oper­atic chaos.

This is a golf game with­out a swingome­ter – or even a vis­i­ble club. Tellingly, the ball is fired from the tee: later you’ll gain a laser sight to aim more pre­cisely, but to be­gin with you ro­tate the cam­era with the right stick and flick the left for­ward to send your ball ca­reen­ing around the room. Cu­ri­ously, the cam­era stays static dur­ing that first stroke; pre­sum­ably as you’ve no way of in­flu­enc­ing the shot once it’s been hit. That changes once you’ve knocked down enough ob­jects to trig­ger a Smash­breaker, where­upon the cam­era zooms in and you take aim once more, al­beit this time with the abil­ity to in­flu­ence where it goes. And boy does it go, blaz­ing a lit­eral trail through work­shops and wash­rooms, kitchens and al­ley­ways. Pots and pans clang and crash, while paint tins spew their con­tents across lushly car­peted floors and or­nate china. Hit the pumps on a garage fore­court and they’ll ex­plode, though that’s never quite as sat­is­fy­ing as top­pling one statue into another and then another, a se­ries of mar­ble domi­noes quickly re­duced to rub­ble. It’s in these mo­ments that the aus­tere re­al­ism of the set­tings be­gins to make sense: there’s a cer­tain mis­chievous fris­son in ad­mir­ing the messy af­ter­math. Sure, it might look more like the re­sults of a wreck­ing ball than a golf ball, but in es­chew­ing car­toon­ish­ness, Three Field En­ter­tain­ment taps into some­thing de­li­ciously trans­gres­sive. De­stroy­ing a con­ve­nience store might not be as tense or care­fully or­ches­trated as a GTA heist, but the thrill of the il­licit re­mains.

You can halt the may­hem at any time; in­deed, it’s some­times best not to let your Smash­breaker run dry, lest it leaves you with no di­rect line of sight to the flag for your sub­se­quent putt. Fail to hole out, and half of the dam­age you’ve ac­cu­mu­lated will be struck off your to­tal. Again, the cam­era is un­mov­ing, though it will cut to a close shot of the pin as the ball rolls to­ward it. You’ll soon re­alise this is a con­scious com­pro­mise, de­signed to al­low for ou­tra­geously gen­er­ous re­bounds and ric­o­chets. While your chances of suc­cess would be re­duced with­out such as­sis­tance, the oc­ca­sions where the ball comes to rest on the lip af­ter a mod­er­ately over­pow­ered putt are all the more frus­trat­ing; like­wise when an un­for­tu­nate de­flec­tion off an ob­ject that nor­mally yields to a power shot leaves the ball clat­ter­ing around an al­cove. And while there’s a de­gree of ten­sion as the ball bounces around and you wait to dis­cover whether your tally is about to be boosted or halved, the process is much less ex­cit­ing than the pre­ced­ing stroke – the equiv­a­lent of Burnout ask­ing you to re­verse park your ve­hi­cle af­ter caus­ing a 20-car pileup.

Then again, af­ter the first few tours (of a gen­er­ous ten, each with ten holes), you may well ap­pre­ci­ate the change of pace. To its credit, Three Fields finds plenty of in­ven­tive ways to shake things up. Warp points carry you to new rooms, while glue al­lows you to stick a suc­ces­sion of shots from one wall to the next, let­ting you tar­get ob­jects on all sides of a room, or to plot out a route to a dis­tant tar­get. You’ll plant bombs and dodge haz­ardous floors, or even in­di­vid­ual ob­jects: one stage asks you to de­mol­ish sev­eral boxes of or­anges with­out dis­turb­ing a multi-tiered cho­co­late gâteau. The same spa­ces are re­pur­posed for fresh ob­jec­tives, though that fa­mil­iar­ity be­comes a boon: the more you get to know a place, the bet­ter placed you are to un­cover its se­crets.

And Dan­ger­ous Golf cer­tainly isn’t shy of those. It de­lib­er­ately gives you min­i­mal in­for­ma­tion, pre­sum­ably in the hope you’ll be sur­prised at how many ways there are to in­crease your score. Load­ing-screen hints clue you in on some of these – such as the fourth-wall shot that sees you bounce the ball off the cam­era for a small bonus – though they don’t give ev­ery­thing away. You might, for ex­am­ple, break a lock on a door to dis­cover that the stage was far more ex­pan­sive than you’d an­tic­i­pated. Land­ing a ball on a trol­ley or in a wheeled bucket, mean­while, gives you a Smash­breaker boost with the added bonus of a run­away ve­hi­cle to top­ple more tins or glasses. Stages never reach a Rube Gold­berg level of in­tri­cacy, though a num­ber en­cour­age you to ini­ti­ate amus­ingly sprawl­ing chain re­ac­tions, for which you have a front-row seat.

There are trade-offs for all this pan­de­mo­nium. A plum­met­ing fram­er­ate af­flicts ac­tion on the busiest stages, but less for­giv­able is the fact that the cam­era is ac­tively un­help­ful at times, swing­ing wildly as you vainly at­tempt to steer your ball away from dan­ger, or zoom­ing so close to the ball that you can’t see any­thing else. And the game’s ap­peal as a high-score chal­lenge is di­min­ished by ex­ces­sively long load­ing times: few will have the stamina to earn ev­ery plat­inum medal when restart­ing can take twice as long as a failed at­tempt. Yet none of these ob­sta­cles is quite enough to per­ma­nently halt the mo­men­tum of this con­cert­edly sin­gle-minded game. At heart, Dan­ger­ous Golf sim­ply wants you to make a big, beau­ti­ful mess, and it’s an in­vi­ta­tion that proves sur­pris­ingly hard to re­sist.

One stage asks you to de­mol­ish boxes of or­anges with­out dis­turb­ing a multi-tiered gâteau

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