[12 May 2008]
I’ve never been one to judge a book by its cover, but let’s face facts, we all do. How many times have we seen a trailer for a film, decided it looked fairly low rent and simply dismissed it?
Sadly, it happens across all media forms, from the ignorant masses sticking their noses up to Pan’s Labyrinth to the glut of Wii gamers dismissing the superb No More Heroes, all due to the front cover art work not being what they expected. As shallow and as pathetic as that may seem, it is but a sad reflection on society’s obsession with familiarity and fear of being ridiculed by their peers. I mean what would the neighbours say were you to spend your own hard earned money on something that they’re too stupid to appreciate.
Step up King of Clubs, with a distinctly different approach to golf in terms of presentation, gameplay and aesthetics, in hope no doubt to distinguish itself from its contemporaries by radically altering our understanding of what makes a golf game. However, its different take on matters will test your tolerance nerves in a way only approached by the idiotic 12-year-old racists on Xbox Live.
Now I’m not one to bang on about graphics and polygons, because for me, art style is of far greater importance. From the intoxicatingly beautiful Okami to the Disney-like magic land that is Super Mario Galaxy to the beauty that is Metal Gear Solid 4, technology means shit and as the old saying goes, it’s not how big it is, but what you do with it that counts. Still, after seeing the artwork for King of Clubs in all its cheap, tacky, generic, revolting glory, a chill ran down my spine and then something hit me. Sometimes people look down on the unappealing, because they’ve been burnt in the past, and some of the time, if it looks crap, it usually is crap.
King of Clubs both looks crap and plays crap and no it’s not just crap because it looks crap, this genuinely is a crap game of golf, simply because it’s crap. The art work was just a heads-up warning to the crapness.
Disgusting art style, revolting characters, and stomach churning, vomit-inducing celebration of redneck culture that King of Clubs promotes aside, the actual gameplay remains probably the most broken example of the sport on a console that is just as much drowning in golf sims as it is in mini-game compilations.
Though matters have been stripped down to just putting and par and real-world golf courses have been replaced with crazy golf attractions that you’d normally associate with tacky beaches and seaside resorts, the simplicity in the premise cannot hide the disastrous shortcomings in the control scheme—the bread and butter of any Wii game.
There aren’t even any opponents to play against. It is simply the course (usually with some kerrazy theme like ancient Egypt, sci–fi, medieval, prehistoric, etc.) acting as your rival. The lack of any virtual opponent makes King of Clubs seem even more lifeless and bland, though when you see the guys and gals you can play as, it’s something of a saving grace that you don’t actually have to face off against one of them. It is also one of the few redeeming features that King of Clubs can proclaim.
From the Britney Spears clone, to the Elvis wannabe, to the dude with the tin blockhead, all are as brutally vile as the ones before them and they only serve to expose the severe lack of creativity on the developers behalf when resorting to stereotypes as a last resort as a means of creating ‘funny’ characters (though in this case it was probably the first resort!). And, in case you were wondering, there’s no gameplay difference between any of the players—it really depends on which one you find less offensive when picking your virtual golfer.
Despite its non-simulation-like presentation, one would naturally presume that the golf would play at a brisk pace, but no, it really doesn’t; in fact, this is quite possibly the slowest game I’ve ever played. Now considering just how shallow, pedestrian and unsatisfying the game is already, the slug-like pace just elongates the torture even more.
The courses are littered with traps and obstacles to halt your progress, almost at random it seems. None of the levels ever feel, well, ‘natural’. There’s something very forced about them, as if they just let loose some intern who got a little too excited with latest and greatest iteration of Level Designer version 4.7. You can revisit each course later to discover shortcuts once you’ve upgraded your balls and clubs, but doing so would be akin to sticking your head into a crocodile’s mouth just to see if it bites—painful, pointless and hazardous to your health. Just like playing King of Clubs.
If the level design doesn’t kill it for you, then the shockingly poor camera will; the lack of true 3D movement not only restricts your scope and the ability to study the course, killing with it any chance to plan ahead and strategize, but it also cuts off the chance to find any of the shortcuts. This means you spend even longer on the course, which as I’ve already said, is the worst torture possible.
However, if that still hasn’t buried the game for you, then how about this: not only does the camera suck royal ass, but it also handicaps you, thus preventing you from playing the shot you want to. Imagine playing Mario Kart and wanting to turn left, but because of technical incompetence you can only turn right! That’s exactly what this is akin to.
However the nail in this already rotting corpse is the aforementioned broken Wii controls, easily the worst I’ve experienced of any Wii game, from any genre. They never do what you want them to, are poorly explained, and simply put busted. That’s right, they just don’t work. It’s as if that snotnosed intern spread his expertise to control programming as well. What the hell happened, did this kid stage some sort of one man coup?
The mind boggles as to just how such a simple idea could go so horribly wrong, and not just in one or two things, I mean everything. If there is anything still clinging to life in the barren wasteland that it is King of Clubs, please, will anybody with a shred of humanity in them put it out of its misery?
Though I will continue to try not to make assumptions, basing my judgements on my own experiences rather than following the mindless hordes who buy anything a coke-sniffing celebrity tells them to, King of Clubs has seriously tested my resolve on such matters. This is a game that only reinforces the brain-dead masses’ belief that if it looks different, then it’s not worth their time. Perhaps, then, that will be its greatest legacy, a game made with incredibly stupid design decisions, that the stupid won’t buy, but will instead use to vindicate their own beliefs at the cost of more noteworthy examples of esotericism.
Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/king-of-clubs/