Void Bastards never lets you get too comfortable. As you explore spaceships, scrounging around for supplies to push yourself that little bit further, your strategy has to be flexible. An electrifying zapper is good for immobilizing some enemies, but it’s useless against those with shields. A lobbed grenade is handy against those shielded enemies, but it prevents you from taking more devastating firepower with you to fight beefier foes. Void Bastards forces you to make small decisions with each stop at a not-so-abandoned vessel, which makes these encounters challenging and exciting.
Void Bastards puts you in the space shoes of numerous rehydrated “clients” aboard a stranded personnel vessel, whose AI has had no choice but to rely on its dangerous cargo to repair the ship for a final jump to its destination. You are tasked with searching any nearby ships for special items and other resources, using components you find to craft new weapons and tools that will help you both evade and combat the numerous nasty enemies protecting these rewards. This encapsulates the main loop you’ll find yourself in throughout the 15-hour campaign.
The game hops between a frenetic first-person shooter when you board ships and a galactic exploration adventure outside of them. Your small vessel requires fuel to travel, while you need food to survive each passing day in the empty void. Both of these resources are found on nearby ships, which you can inspect from afar to identify its possible inhabitants, lucrative rewards, and unique modifiers before making a choice on whether to board or pass by. Modifiers can include anything from security systems being graciously offline to the hallways being stripped of lights to make your journey through them more treacherous. These small modifiers keep your ventures on ships exciting, providing knock-on effects for you and its enemies to play off of.
Punchy one-liners and some dark humor drive Void Bastard’s world-building, which is primarily conveyed by your AI handler and occasionally by intercom systems on ships you board. Neither expand on the lore enough to make the setting any more interesting than it is at face value, but it’s entertaining enough to earn a few chuckles throughout. The story is supported by gorgeous comic book-style cutscenes that bookend each completed objective. It has a distinct style that immediately gives Void Bastards an identity.
The comic book aesthetic transitions over beautifully into gameplay, where the action looks like it was ripped from the narrative panels preceding them. Explosions litter the screen with onomatopoetic descriptions of their destructive power, represented visually with bold colors and thick black outlines. Enemies move as if they’re 2D sprites living in a 3D space, rotating at fixed increments to face you. It’s a striking style that makes Void Bastards immediately recognizable and imbues its adventure with personality.
With its rogue-lite structure, Void Bastards is as much about staying alive as long as you can as it is about dying. You won’t lose all your progress when your current character expires, but you will lose any hoarded ammunition, fuel, and food. You’ll also lose your current character, who might be equipped with both useful and detrimental abilities. One might be capable of silently sprinting, letting you get by enemies faster without alerting them. Another could do the exact opposite by randomly coughing and giving away your position. It’s fun to work with and around these traits, but Void Bastards graciously lets you keep any weapon and gadget upgrades as well as objective progress intact should you lose a character early.
Crafting these items is streamlined, too. A clear and concise upgrade tree shows you exactly what you need to build a new item, as well as what components you should look out for to upgrade them a tier. You can even tag certain pieces of gear and have any possible nearby locations with their required components show up on the galaxy map, clearly charting you a course towards them. Void Bastards rewards you with items for upgrades frequently. You’ll likely have something new to craft after most dangerous expeditions onto nearby ships, which not only helps shake up each combat encounter with some new weapons and toys, but also expands your options for engagement with the numerous types of enemies you’ll come into contact with.
The game’s enemy variety is key to keeping each expedition surprising, and they start off simple enough. Slow-to-react but explosive blue alien blobs and dim-witted Janitors litter the halls of your first few ships, eventually giving way to quick and foul-mouthed Juveniles and skittish Scribes that run away from danger. As you descend into deeper nebulas with more rewards, the dangers increase, with formidable variations on previous enemies. Hard-hitting Stevs will make quick work of your health bar while Secs can quickly render your loadout redundant, as their impenetrable shields block everything you throw at them.
The randomized selection of enemies on ships and their increasing ferocity keeps you thinking about which weapons to take on board, as well as how they can combine for particular strategies. You’re given the choice of three items to bring with you as you dock, and your loadout cannot be changed once you’ve boarded the vessel, making your understanding of the perils aboard paramount to your selections. For example, if a ship’s security systems are down but it’s overrun with hulking Stevs, it might be better to leave behind a stun gun and bring along the autonomous and explosive Kittybots, which do a great job of distracting foes as you slip past. Ships with smaller enemies in large numbers might benefit from a weapon with a faster rate of fire over a semi-automatic pistol. Since each slot serves a purpose (weapon, explosive and gadget) it’s fun to play around with different combinations and see which combine in both creative and effective ways.
There are hundreds of weapons at your disposal, but the variety between them and the tools you have allows for this experimentation. It’s satisfying to use an immobilizing stun gun to freeze groups of enemies in place before launching a package of small grenades that bounce and ricochet off the walls of a narrow walkway to deal devastating damage. A silent dart gun can let you poison enemies from afar, letting you watch them slowly die as you soak up their incoming fire with a personal shield should you be spotted. Or you could take a more indirect approach by sucking up an enemy into your rift gun, placing them in an airlock and launching them out into space. The careful distribution of ammunition for each weapon prevents you from stockpiling enough for your favorites all the time, which pushes you to become familiar with your entire arsenal too. It avoids being frustrating because of how fun each weapon is to use in the right situation, but also makes you carefully consider when to use the right tool for the right job.
The ships you board can also throw up strategic combat options for you to exploit through their randomized construction. Simply being able to lock doors lets you create traps for enemies to wander into, letting you slide in a few explosives before locking them into a hallway with no escape. You can override security systems and make them fight for you if you have enough credits to spend, while environmental hazards such as nuclear spills and severed electrical cables can serve as nuisances or convenient traps depending on whether you see them in time or not. Void Bastards gives you maps for each of the ships you board from the start, letting you focus on the foes lurking in their halls rather than remembering how to get back to your exit. Resources are hidden between enemies and hazards; this keeps exploration fun and interesting while ditching the tedium of basic navigation.
Void Bastards succeeds because it keeps you moving forward and rewards you on the way, without feeling like a pushover as a result.
Void Bastards doesn’t introduce changes to its gameplay loop throughout its course, and its narrative objectives don’t shake it up meaningfully. But there’s a steady flow of new weapons and suitably challenging enemies to test them on, so you don’t get stuck in a rut. And because you maintain some progress between deaths, dying doesn’t dissuade you from jumping right into the next run. Void Bastards succeeds because it keeps you moving forward and rewards you on the way, without feeling like a pushover as a result.
This delicate balance highlights the assortment of randomized levels, enemy compilations and uniquely designed weaponry that all make Void Bastards an absolute delight. It’s wildly entertaining to go from ship to ship and eradicate enemies with constantly shifting strategies, and equally engaging to use your scavenging gains to make yourself feel increasingly powerful. It’s a satisfyingly stylish shooter that manages to play as well as, if not better than, it looks.
“This isn’t Agatha Christie. There won’t be a convenient set of clues leading to a tidy conclusion.” That’s what protagonist Edward Charles Harden tells his 17-year-old ward Lissie, and by extension the player, halfway through Draugen‘s fjord-noir mystery. A good ending is only as important as the joy of the journey to get there, but can a fascinating mystery succeed in its own right without a Christie-style “tidy conclusion”? Draugen’s conclusion is certainly an untidy one, but regardless of whether you like your mysteries neatly solved, the somewhat unsatisfying ending does not eclipse the fascinating characters, gripping story, and breathtaking town of Graavik.
It’s 1923 and Edward and Lissie have traveled from Hanover, Massachusetts to a fishing village in Norway in search of Edward’s younger sister, Elizabeth, who has gone missing. Everything you learn about these three central characters is through conversations between the stoic academic Edward and his vivacious young ward. The interplay between the two is delivered through naturally flowing dialogue; you can interject, begin conversations, continue them, or choose to stay silent. This enhances your involvement in embodying Edward, which is important, as he is otherwise a fairly single-minded character in a linear narrative.
In stark contrast, Lissie has a wild and liberal approach to life. In fact, Lissie is the antithesis of Edward, a fact that becomes more significant as the central mysteries of the game wear on. On top of that, the strong performances behind each of the central characters bolster their personalities. In particular, Edward’s mutterings, pauses, and audible skimming through letters and selecting what to read aloud to Lissie makes those interactions feel more genuine.
The countryside village of Graavik is positively beautiful. Sunlight filters through glowing orange leaves on trees, shadows drift across your path, and the snow-capped mountain tops are such a bright white that they fade into the clouds. Lissie is animated with a loving attention to detail; the minor curve of her lips or a slightly raised eyebrow do much to convey her opinions and relationship to Edward. Alongside the stunning vistas, the sound design establishes a palpable sense of place; the wind is constantly roaring through the mountain valley and rustling trees, and there are rushing falls and singing birds. Everything is, in fact, so perfect that it feels unreal, and it’s no mistake that that is one of the central dualities that underpin the narrative. The town is, as it happens, completely empty, and all of that natural beauty gives way to a tangible tension as you uncover how deep secrecy and tragedy run in the otherwise unassuming village.
Because it’s a first-person exploration adventure, the familiarity of certain narrative tropes that have become expected in this genre–a creepy mine, an abandoned house, a curse, a gregarious companion–have less of an impact. Draugen is most effective when it steps away from expectation–when you engage in and explore the curious relationship between Edward and Lissie, when it calls upon you to second-guess the assertions of its protagonists, and when the imagined blurs with reality, sometimes imperceptibly.
The central mystery of the town revolves around unique and interesting characters with intricate lives, but it’s Edward’s personal character arc that takes precedence. Draugen deals in simple themes, like its noir whodunit narrative, and more complicated ones, like psychology, trauma, and the perils of isolation. The complex ideas are explored more thoroughly through Edward, forcing the base mystery into the back seat. Though this creates a more satisfying psychological journey for Edward, it rips the narrative away from the mystery of Graavik’s inhabitants at a pivotal moment. Edward carries a journal with him, though there are no consistent entries; rather, it houses an annotated map and his drawings of the town. Given Draugen’s focus on Edward’s evolution and motivations, it’s a missed opportunity that his journal doesn’t offer up a deeper analysis of his inner workings. But while some elements of the game’s mysteries remain unresolved, Edward’s literal and emotional journey is ultimately satisfying, and his character becomes extremely sympathetic.
To explain much more would be a disservice to the joy of unraveling Draugen’s mysteries for yourself. It’s exciting to piece apart the history of the abandoned town, and the horrors the befell it, even though it’s up to your interpretation to decide if there’s supernatural elements or foul play at work. There is a central narrative path to follow, though even if you pore over all of the intriguing newspaper clippings, handwritten letters, and other optional documents, the story comes to a close in three hours. The final chapters are somewhat abrupt, and while certain elements–like the character arc of Edward–are satisfying to see come to their natural end, it feels as though there’s too much left undone. My laundry list of questions upon finishing the game would be a frustrating final takeaway, were it not for the joy of watching Edward and Lissie evolve, running the gamut of serene to terrifying moments, and ultimately echoing one of Edward’s final utterances: “I almost wish we had more time to dig into the history of Graavik.”
Leaving questions unanswered doesn’t present a failure in the narrative, but rather the notion that Graavik feels like a town with so much more to say, whose inhabitants deserve to have more of their stories told. It’s a theme the game vocalizes through Lissie’s dialogue several times, and yet it rarely provides concrete answers as to what precisely happened in the town. In this way, leaving Graavik behind is disappointing–but more significantly, that feeling is a hallmark of how fascinating the world and its characters are. Graavik is beautiful and unforgettable, and the joy in watching Edward and Lissie grow and change is the core of Draugen’s success in character building and writing. The puzzle pieces of the central mysteries you can slot together are satisfying, and the picture they begin to create is truly captivating, even if you are left wishing you could see just a bit more of it.
Peel back the layers and there’s a clear connective tissue tying Layers of Fear 2 and its predecessor together. Both games are centered around an artist gradually losing their grip on reality. While the original game focused on a struggling painter in an opulent Victorian mansion, Layers of Fear 2 shifts art forms to tell the story of a Hollywood actor during the Golden Age of cinema, as he embarks on a new role in a movie being shot aboard a decadent ocean liner. Developer Bloober Team has created something more varied and ambitious than its past work, taking inspiration from iconic film directors like Georges Méliès, Fritz Lang, and Alfred Hitchcock. And while it is a visually striking horror game, Layers of Fear 2 struggles to establish its own identity and explore its themes of anguish and despair in meaningful ways.
The story itself is like a jigsaw puzzle; some of the pieces come together as the narrative unfolds, but others are scattered across the environment as notes, optional puzzles, sound recordings, and paraphernalia that provide new details on your character’s troubled past. You might not be able to put the whole picture together before the game’s conclusion, but it’s a familiar and clichéd tale that isn’t too difficult to discern once events begin to wrap up. Childhood trauma is the key motif, built around the relationship you had with your sister, but Layers of Fear 2 regularly uses routine horror tropes as opposed to something more personal. This decision doesn’t coalesce with the story to provide a sense that your character’s state of mind and past anguish are shaping what’s happening. During the first act you catch spectral forms out of the corner of your eye, and this eventually evolves into frequent appearances from crudely assembled mannequins and a formless monster that stalks you through much of the game. These creatures are unnerving, but they’re not really specific to the game or this character, failing to capitalize on the strengths of psychological horror and the inherent importance of a character’s fears and trepidations in manifesting intimate threats.
Similarly, much of Layers of Fear 2’s art design is wrapped around the classic films that inspired it, which doesn’t always come together in a consistent way. Saying it takes place aboard a ship is a tad disingenuous, as the setting is constantly shifting and transporting you to a variety of disparate environments. Overt homages to films such as The Wizard of Oz, A Trip to the Moon, and Nosferatu are littered throughout the game. Some of them are deftly woven into the narrative and the game’s own art style, but others lack context and fail to rise above being mere visual spectacles, foregoing any semblance of cohesion with the rest of the game. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly if you have an appreciation for this era of cinema, but it also makes Layers of Fear 2 feel like an inconsequential mishmash of film references without any clear significance to the story it’s trying to tell.
Much of Layers of Fear 2’s art design is wrapped around the classic films that inspired it, which doesn’t always come together in a consistent way
Your interactions with the world are very tangible, which helps ground you in the game’s setting even when the threads of reality are stretched thinner and thinner. The majority of your time is spent simply exploring each space, gathering knick-knacks to fill in the story, and solving puzzles to progress. The conundrums it places before you are never particularly challenging or memorable, whether it’s using a dial with 10 numbers to multiply up to a specific digit or manipulating a roll of film to create a doorway. Some of them are in keeping with the tone of the game and its cinematic feel, but others are so inane they just feel out of place.
What Layers of Fear 2 does do well is build atmosphere and an ever-escalating sense of dread. The score is ominous, utilizing string instruments to send a chill down your spine. But there are also plenty of opportunities for the sound design to breathe on its own, too. The creaking of wooden floorboards, rats scurrying past your feet, and the plip-plop of dripping water create tension despite their mundanity. It also makes you hesitant to simply turn around, as the environment toys with impossible spaces, distorting the world around you when you’re not looking. When you walk into a room and find a locked door with nowhere else to go but back the way you came, the suspense hits, tapping into that fear of the unknown–of what’s waiting to greet you once you turn your head.
Unfortunately, these anxiety-inducing feelings diminish as the game progresses and it leans too heavily on tried and tested tactics. The aforementioned mannequins are consistently impressive due to their creepy stop-motion-esque movement, but they’re featured so heavily that their effect as something to be scared of is severely diminished. This is a problem with Layers of Fear 2 as a whole; the protracted playtime of around 10 hours struggles to maintain its early momentum through the last couple of chapters. The formless creature that oftentimes stalks you adds some urgency to what is otherwise a methodical affair, but the most terrifying thing about the chase sequences is the threat of having to redo them if you fail. Sometimes the monster’s arrival comes so suddenly that you’re dead before even realizing what’s happened, and these cheap insta-kills mean you’re frustratingly subjected to the same death animation over and over again.
There are remnants of an excellent horror game submerged just below the surface of Layers of Fear 2. Horror icon Tony Todd–of Candyman fame–lends his bassy growl to the disembodied and omnipresent voice of the film’s eccentric director. Each word he bellows is a sonorous treat, no matter how terrifying his performance is. The art design, too, while disjointed, conjures some breathtaking imagery that you can’t help but marvel at. It’s just a shame that Layers of Fear 2 frequently pays lip service to the films and games that clearly inspired it while struggling to find a voice of its own. The story is too hazy to latch onto until the latter stages, and then nothing about it is particularly engaging, with its central mystery building towards something we’ve seen numerous times before. It occasionally hints at interesting themes but fails to go anywhere with them, falling back on telegraphed jump scares rather than delving deeper into the psychological horror it can only tease at. For every piece of good work there’s an analogous aspect that lacks focus and direction. Layers of Fear 2 feels lost at sea.
In Observation you play as SAM (Systems Administration and Maintenance), the AI assistant of a space station that represents the joint efforts of Europe, China, and Russia. Your abilities are limited by your absence of a corporeal form–for most of the game you’re controlling the cameras dotted around the station and interacting with any computers or digital panels within their range of vision. You have access to a station map that expands over time, and you’re able to jump between cameras across the entire ship at will. It might sound like a limiting conceit, but Observation uses your unique position of omniscient claustrophobia to craft a compelling, creepy, and extremely original narrative experience.
The year is 2026, and you’re on the station with Emma Fisher, a European crew member who awakens at the game’s beginning to find that she has no contact with the rest of her crew on board. It’s immediately clear that something catastrophic has happened; the station is no longer in Earth’s orbit, and no-one is answering her attempts at communication. To say much more would be to spoil elements of a plot that are best left to surprise you–the first major twist happens within about 20 minutes. Suffice it to say that Observation’s narrative unfurls slowly across the entire length of the game, with its mysteries growing all the more complicated and your sense of dread deepening as the game goes on.
Observation absolutely nails its distinct lo-fi, sci-fi aesthetic. The cameras crackle and jump as you shift between them, and the stylistic film grain and distortion over every visual emphasizes your slight removal from the reality of the situation Emma is facing. Like many science fiction works of the last forty years, Observation is indebted to Ridley Scott’s Alien–some of the tech aboard the space station feel like antiquated products of a decade long past. This aesthetic, paired with the game’s too-near future setting, gives Observation the pleasant feeling of an uncovered classic or remake of an ambitious, older piece of work. SAM is far and away the most advanced piece of technology on the station, and even when you load up your own system menu (which lets you view the map, check system alerts, and perform other functions that unlock during the game) you’re treated to some pleasantly analog and retro buzzing and whirring sound effects.
You experience most of the game through the slow panning and zooming cameras, an effective tool at creating a creeping sense of tension, although the occasional cutscene is used to better capture action at a crucial moment. It’s not about jump scares or personally being in danger; again, to say too much more would be to spoil the game’s clever pacing, but it’s a game that’s incredibly effective at building dread more than overt terror.
The actual gameplay is, for the most part, pretty simple. You need to explore the ship as much as you can from your various vantage points, scanning every document and inspecting every laptop you encounter, opening and shutting hatch doors, and interacting with the station’s equipment. The bulk of the puzzles boil down to figuring out how to operate SAM’s interface, finding schematics to help you operate certain programs, and learning the necessary procedures for the instructions you are given.
The game does an excellent job of taking complex ideas and procedures and presenting them as simple operations. Everything from opening the airlock to securing the doors between sections of the station boils down to a few button presses; occasionally you’ll have to take part in what is essentially a timed mini-game, but for the most part, you’re just following basic instructions. The main challenge comes from figuring out how the different parts of the ship all work together, and reasoning through the impact of your actions and what information you do and don’t currently have access to.
At certain points, you’ll need to control a spherical droid that can float around the station–and, more excitingly, outside the station–freely. It’s a bit of a pain to control in tight spots, and it’s easy to lose your bearings because the concepts of up and down are relative in zero-gravity environments. But there’s a real thrill in breaking free from the static cameras and floating through the station, and in getting used to the sphere’s limitations. Observation doles these sections out expertly, using the droid when it needs to make you feel more a part of what is happening. It plays on the droid’s symbolic sense of place extremely well; it’s the physical element of SAM that sells Emma’s growing friendship with him.
Often what you need to do next, and how to do it, will be spelled out extremely clearly, though the game’s instructions could stand to be a tad clearer in a few sections. One time it seemed like I had hit a particularly abstract puzzle, but it turned out that I’d actually encountered a glitch where a certain event didn’t trigger properly, which necessitated a quick checkpoint reset. This was a pain, as the game’s checkpointing can be a bit strict–you keep any information you’ve collected through scanning objects, but it doesn’t save after major actions, so it’s hard to know exactly what you’ll have to redo when you exit out. But it’s not too big an issue, as I never lost more than a few minutes of progress.
Slowly discovering every system on board, inspecting every room, and unlocking more menus and commands within SAM’s UI is an absolute treat. Observation is a visual stunner, with only the odd lip-sync issue occasionally distracting from the level of polish and craft on display. Later events ramp up the inherent creepy isolation of a space station perfectly, too. The story is compelling and exciting right up until the credits roll, and the game doesn’t let up on revelations, twists, or the increasing tension of knowing that the game is building towards something wild. Observation also achieves the extremely rare feat of containing audio logs that are both compelling and make sense within its world.
Observation is a wonderful example of how to do focused, self-contained science-fiction storytelling in a game. It’s well-written and clever, and nails the sci-fi tropes and aesthetics it both plays to and builds upon. It’s a game that demands to be analyzed and thought about further once you’re done with it, and while the internal world of the game is small, inhabiting it is a real pleasure.
The newest game in Sony’s long-running golf series, Everybody’s Golf VR is the second to launch on PS4 and first to bring the series to virtual reality. The transition isn’t without its bumps (there’s a noticeable lack of Everybody’s Golf’s traditional competitive modes), but the PSVR golf game does deliver a fairly realistic golfing experience that’s both accessible to play and fairly challenging to master.
Everybody’s Golf VR abandons the franchise’s usual third-person view for a first-person perspective. The three-click swing mechanic (commonly seen in most of today’s golf games) is also gone. Instead, you swing your clubs with a PlayStation Move or DualShock 4 controller, hopefully in one smooth motion. The direction of the ball is determined by the angle you hit it, and distance is calculated by how hard you swing. There are other factors to consider when you’re on the course as well, such as wind direction and your elevation in relation to the hole.
Actually swinging your arms to hit the ball takes a bit to get used to, but the motion controls are remarkably responsive with a DualShock 4 controller. Once you’ve got the form down on your swing, you’ll be able to reliably hit the ball the way you want to. The same can’t be said for the PlayStation Move controller. Occasionally, the Move controller works fine, but I found myself more often than not being unable to even reach the ball with my club while swinging the Move. I ultimately just had to stop using it, as it became too frustrating to play a near-perfect hole only to be stopped short just because my club would not reach down far enough to hit the ball no matter how much I crouched.
In Everybody’s Golf VR, the golf balls behave as they’re expected to, obeying the laws of gravity when it comes to the arc of your shot or elevation of a slope, and their roll realistically heeds to changes in friction when the terrain is affected by different weather patterns, like rain. As previously mentioned, the motion controls are pretty precise. The camera measures whether your swing misses the ball, glances off of it, or makes full contact, and then takes the angle and power of your swing into account. Shifting too much of your body weight to one side or curving your swing typically results in a lousy shot, while maintaining good form sends your ball flying straight as an arrow (provided there are no environmental factors to take into account as well). The game isn’t an exact representation of reality–you don’t have to swing nearly as aggressively as a professional golfer to achieve distances like one–but Everybody’s Golf VR sells you on the experience that you’re actually playing golf in your living room.
There’s a welcome variety of customization options in Everybody’s Golf VR, allowing players of all skill levels to enjoy time on the course. If you’re having trouble putting, for example, you can turn on vacuum holes–which suck the ball in provided you get your shot close enough. For a more challenging experience, you can tee up on longer versions of the courses where it’s harder to hit par. There are some nice accessibility options as well, such as the choice to play while standing up or sitting down, the option to change your dominant hand from right to left, and the freedom to choose between several sets of clubs–including one that makes it easier to hit the ball straight if you have limited mobility in your arms. There’s plenty in Everybody’s Golf VR to make the experience appealing to all types of players, and helpful tutorials give newcomers a chance to grasp the basics of the sport until they can get the swing of things.
Everybody’s Golf VR’s courses are populated with everything you’d expect to see in a golf game, like sand traps and trees, as well as a few things you might not, like dinosaurs. Occasionally, a bee flies in your face or the sound of a wave crashes onto a nearby beach. These sights and sounds are never distracting, but via a PSVR headset and headphones, they do make it feel like each golf course is full of life. Decide to look closely enough, however, and you’ll notice the golf resort’s reception area and each course is always eerily empty save for your character and either the receptionist or your caddie. It’s a tad unsettling.
Each distinct environment provides more than just a cosmetic change, as a course’s aesthetic translates into different environmental hazards to deal with; the Seaside Course is very windy, for example, and its holes have a lot more sand and water traps for your ball to be blown into. A course’s hazards aren’t enough to force you to drastically change how you play, but they do provide just enough of a welcome challenge to encourage out-of-the-box thinking. It’s fun learning about how a new course works and satisfying to successfully deduce how to adapt to it. In the Seaside Course, for instance, you can risk timing your shot to a powerful gust of wind in hopes it will send your ball flying over an out-of-bounds area–which could save you an entire swing in the long run.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many courses for you to play on. And other than Practice Range, the only game mode in Everybody’s Golf VR is Course. In Course, you do have the choice of whether you play a random three holes from a course, the first nine, the last nine, or all 18. But with only three courses total, you’ll end up replaying the same holes repeatedly in order to unlock all the in-game rewards. It gets tedious after a few hours.
The lack of additional modes in Everybody’s Golf VR is a step back in comparison to previous titles in the series, many of which have one or two modes where you can face off against NPCs. As is, the only thing you can do in Everybody’s Golf VR is play a course by yourself while your nearby caddie yells words of encouragement. Everybody’s Golf VR does lessen some of its tedium with those caddies, though, as the eagerly helpful Riko and teasingly friendly Lucy help make your repeated trips out to the same collection of courses far less lonely.
Replaying courses allows you to unlock additional outfits for your caddie to wear, which is a fun cosmetic reward to chase after. You can also unlock a handful of Events by partnering with a caddie long enough. Some play out like romantically-charged mini dates, but most are just goofy distractions good for a laugh or two. Each caddie has her own unique set of four Events, and though their unlock rates are spread out enough that it will take you a few hours to see them all, once you do there’s nothing compelling to work towards in the game.
Despite the lack of different activities in Everybody’s Golf VR, the one thing it does do–provide a means of playing golf without actually having to go outside–is relatively enjoyable. Though it runs out of steam quickly, Everybody’s Golf VR is fun while it lasts, and there are satisfying goals to chase for a time. Everybody’s Golf VR’s best feature is its assortment of customization and accessibility options, though, as they allow both golf newbies and veterans to curate their desired experience and just enjoy playing a round.