Part of the initial allure of Golf Story – a golfing RPG reminiscent of the legitimately excellent Game Boy Color Mario Golf game – was its unexpected Australianness. Here was a game where characters spouted ocker slang across a map that, you eventually came to discover, was shaped like Australia. There’s even a scene early on where you’re given the option to heat up a meat pie in the microwave, like every (non-vegetarian) Australian kid did the first time they were made to prepare their own lunch.
This became a talking point among journalists and media. “Who are these folks”, we asked one another, “and where did they come from?” There’s an aura of mystery to Sidebar Games – the developer’s names are not even listed in the game’s credits – but (in my experience) the team is good at responding to emails. According to Andrew, the guy on the other end of their email address, they “keep to ourselves for the most part”, and “don’t know much about the Brisbane development scene” (so we know where they’re based, at least).
Golf Story has been a global success. Talking to the Wall Street Journal in April, new Nintendo president Shuntaro Furukawa casually mentioned Golf Story as a recent favourite of his, which is extremely good press for the team. “We weren’t expecting a golf game to be super popular, but it ended up doing quite well”, Andrew admits. “We always made sure to emphasise the story and adventure aspects of the game the most, and I think they looked appealing enough for people to subject themselves to golf to see what it was all about.” All the Australianisms in the game’s dialog don’t seem to have hurt them abroad. “I wasn’t sure how much I could get away with and tried to limit using phrases people wouldn’t understand. I thought there were just a few things here and there, but the game was accused of being Australian immediately. It actually went over well, and I’ve seen a lot of people using some of the Australian catchphrases - albeit incorrectly most of the time.”
The game was originally in development for the Wii U, but was transferred to the Switch soon after the console was revealed and a dev kit was acquired. “We went with the classic strategy of sending unsolicited tweets to Nintendo sta on Twitter”, Andrew says. “This was encouraged by Nintendo at the time. We said something along the lines of “Hey, I’ve got a sick idea for a game. You interested?” Their response was ‘Please tell us more,’ so we explained some general features (and how we wanted to use HD rumble), which secured the dev kit.” This anecdote is very much in keeping with the irreverent spirit of the game itself.
Golf Story, I’m told, will stay exclusive to Switch for now, so that the team can focus on making their next game rather than focusing all their energy into a port. True to form, Andrew is cryptic about what’s coming next: “It’s going to be a bit dierent so we’ll see what happens.”
You can’t see it in these images, but this might just be the most ‘Aussie’ game you play on the Switch.