In trying to understand Vertiginous Golf, I turned first to my trusty internet dictionary for the definition of ‘vertiginous’. Aptly, it means “causing vertigo”, which is probably a good descriptor for what my experience playing this game was like. It’s a dizzying, confusing, and difficult form of two-club golf with steampunk-inspired aesthetics and a nightmarish mini-golf style course. The basic idea of it isn’t too far removed from, well, golf, but the trappings and decorum create a unique and nigh-impossible task.
A spiritual successor to Kinelco’s Vert Golf series, Vertiginous Golf prides itself on it’s unusual play and unique look, and on being completely insane. Facing steep carpeted hills, levitating platforms with great distance between them, spinning discs, and more absurd obstacles, the goal is pretty simple: get the ball into the hole in as few strokes as possible. Each hole has an established par, but I was never anywhere near to it on a single one of them; the confusing paths to the goal and difficult barriers to overcome left my final score somewhere around +200 or so. In addition to the two clubs (putter and chipper), players have a couple of interesting tools at their disposal, which I probably could have used more to improve my play. First is the hummingbird scout, a free-flying lookabout that players can control to scope out the course at any time. Secondly, a rewind feature – powered by using the putter – allows you to “take back” a missed stroke without penalty, so long as you’ve got enough charge to do so.
Despite these advantages, it’s still incredibly difficult to get anywhere meaningful or to make any solid forward progress with reliability. I spent a lot of my time in Vertiginous Golf simply hoping that I was pointing in the right direction, and swinging wildly with whichever club I thought would help me get to where I thought I was going. Each hole is pretty non-linear, and I think there’s almost certainly more than one way to reach the green, but I’d keep plugging away at whatever path seemed most evident at any given time. In addition to the guesswork and the repeated attempts, the controls were a struggle to get the hang of, as well. Being sure you’re aiming a ball in the right direction is difficult, to say the least, when you’re fighting a camera angle that’s pushing up against a wall or, worse yet a corner; the angles notwithstanding, there was a lot of guessing as to how far the ball would travel with a certain level of swing power behind it that didn’t seem terribly consistent throughout.
All in all, I think there’s some promise here that’s just lacking polish. Vertiginous Golf is still in alpha, so there’s a good chance that some of the kinks get worked out before it’s entirely complete, and if that happens I’ll be more than happy to give it another go-through. Until then, though, I wouldn’t recommend jumping in just yet, unless you’re really into new ways to play frustrating yet unique golf-type games. One the game is complete, I imagine there will be a pretty significant opportunity for some fun with multiplayer, Steam leaderboards, and other pieces to really jump up the competitive nature of it. Vertiginous Golf is set to release on Steam on March 7th.