It’s a rare thing in this day and age when everything you need to know about a game is right there in the title–and even rarer that said title is such an instantly appealing concept like 100-foot robots playing golf. And yet, even if 100ft Robot Golf is an inspired concept, the actual game is anything but.
That’s an unfortunate thing, too, because everything that isn’t gameplay overflows with charm and quirky, self-aware personality. It all starts with the game’s overarching presentation: 100ft Robot Golf is presented as if it’s the crappy American dub of a mid-’90s anime (complete with Dragon Ball Z-inspired cutscenes with fake watermarks that note the shady torrent site from which it was downloaded) about a post-apocalyptic world where humanity has just finished crawling back from the brink, building massive biodomes and skyscrapers to house their remnants.
Golf, the gentleman’s sport of the age, is now played entirely by massive mechs, driven by all manner of eccentrics–pudgy car salesmen, hijab-clad skateboarding teenagers, and five corgis driving five dog-shaped mechs who come together to form one giant mech, Power Rangers-style. A Corgizord, if you will. The cutscenes give some context for why and how these folks get roped into the golf tournament, which veer into such goofy non sequiturs that it’s almost worth the asking price of the game just to watch these folks interact.
Thing is, the only scrap of that bonkers setup that makes its way into the actual golf portion of the game comes from the running commentary of the McElroy brothers (of My Brother, My Brother And Me podcast and Adventure Zone fame). Their commentary ranges from the knowingly cheesy–bad golf puns about Ryan Gosling in Drive and Smash Mouth’s All Star, for instance–to the darkly hilarious. One particular line about Kermit the Frog not surviving the apocalypse is probably the deepest, most guilty gut laugh I’ve ever gotten from a game. The full-on breakdown over the aforementioned corgi mech joining the tournament is the most I’ve laughed at a game that doesn’t include Saints Row in the title.
Aside from the commentary, however, the game itself is fairly basic. The fundamentals are easy enough to pick up: You walk to the ball, hit X, choose one of your three clubs, use the left stick to adjust your shot, and swing away. Given that you’re playing as a giant robot, you’ll tromp through courses derived from crowded cities, desolate mountain villages, and underwater wastelands. If you want to be a jerk, you can use your body to block your opponent’s shot or knock down buildings and bridges with your club. Your robots have special abilities, too. Pressing L1 might fire a barrage of laser fire or missiles, unleash a giant sword instead of a club, or let your mech skateboard to their next shot in style. Robots can also occasionally unleash a special effect on the ball to gain an edge, such as making the ball bouncier to go further than where it was aimed, or turning it into a bomb that can destroy obstacles in its path.
That’s more exciting in writing than in practice, however. Aside from the admittedly well-designed mechs, the graphics are rudimentary blocky polygons, and destroying buildings doesn’t reduce them to smoldering rubble so much as it breaks them apart like giant Lego pieces that scatter around and then disappear over time. People and cars are in your path in the city, but they don’t react to the robots laying waste their surroundings.
Yes, you have special abilities, but the game has nothing in the way of a tutorial, so virtually everything is trial-and-error. But even when you do learn how to use these abilities, the vast majority are entirely unnecessary thanks to the poor abilities of your opponents. The AI in the single-player campaign is almost medically fascinating in its ineptitude, with more than one match won in my playthroughs because the AI opponent kept deliberately driving their ball into the ocean. Matches against humans are, of course, trickier, but none of the extra abilities are game-changers. It’s simply more enjoyable to play the game as a straight up mini golf title with your friends than it is trying to futz around with ineffective and poorly implemented superpowers.
The best idea in the game involves a twist on the traditional video game golf swing mechanic: Each mech is designed so that charging up your swing is a completely different little minigame with each character, making your choice of mech a much more personalized affair than the minutiae of overly technical PGA titles. There’s also PlayStation VR support that places your point of view in the cockpit of your mech. This gives the game an extra sense of scale, but even that feels like a slapdash affair, often obscuring your view below. What’s more, it makes some tasks–such as changing your club or seeing the arc of your ball before swinging–difficult, if not impossible.
Coincidentally, much of the game’s voice cast is plucked from the Youtube comedy/gaming community, which seems oddly self-fulfilling, since the game is likely to be more enjoyable watching other people comment and play rather than actually playing it. 100t Robot Golf is an elaborate, even hilarious, joke, that rather perfunctorily has a game attached to it.