Don’t let the name fool you, about the only thing that Pukka Golf has in common with the real sport is the ball and the hole to sink it in. You still have to try and reach the hole in as few shots as possible, but instead of a golf course you are presented with 2D, side-scrolling levels that have more in common with platform games.
Pukka Golf packs everything that you would want from a great mobile title. The concept is very straightforward to grasp, but tricky enough that you won’t be breezing through the game without a challenge. The levels are short enough that you can complete them in seconds, but contain multiple objectives that will keep you coming back and, most importantly, it is incredibly addictive. You can earn three stars per level, one for making par, one for sinking the ball in less than the target time and one for finding the “hidden star.” The latter is usually tucked away in some far corner of the level and requires a bit of exploration to uncover.
To provide you with a challenge, your route to the flag is not without obstacles. Some, like water, must be avoided at all cost, while others, such as ice, can actually be useful when aiming to make par. Later levels also introduce new elements such as sticky patches or surfaces that make the ball bounce. This keeps things fresh and the variety on offer is quite impressive considering the large amount of levels. Playing the game is as easy as dragging your finger over the screen to set the direction and launch speed of the golf ball and then releasing to make the shot. What sets Pukka Golf apart from other titles, such as Worms Crazy Golf, is that you can make your next shot while the ball is still on the move. This is quite a game changer as it means you can, and often have to, alter the direction of the ball mid-flight. There is a small “recharge” period, indicated by a yellow circle around the ball, to prevent you from hitting it continuously, but it means that the game requires a little bit more reflexes than you would typically expect from golf!
The objective that you are aiming for also changes the way you play the game. For example, aiming for the par score usually involves using the environment to your advantages and relying on surfaces such as ice or bouncing pads to propel the ball as far as possible with each shot. The time objective on the other hand is obviously much faster paced and since the amount of shots doesn’t matter you get to slap the ball around a lot more. Slamming the ball into the hole, basketball dunk style, in a few milliseconds less than the goal time is quite a rush. Missing out on the goal time a by a few milliseconds isn’t so bad either as levels are short enough that you can simply retry instantly. Playing for the par made the game feel like a puzzle title while aiming for the target time turns it into an arcade experience.
Visually Pukka Golf looks nice, but can feel a little bare bones. Everything looks clean and colorful, but it lacks the “wow” factor to draw players in. The clean background keeps everything visible, but also means that the game doesn’t have the visual variety or charm of something like Worms Crazy Golf with its themed backgrounds and diverse color palette. However, Pukka Golf was created by only two indie devs and it is free to play, so it would be unfair to compare the visuals to titles with much bigger budgets and teams. Likewise, the audio isn’t too obtrusive, but the limited amount of tunes are quite noticeable, especially if you play a couple of levels in one sitting. The touch-screen controls work well and are responsive enough that I never had any issues directing the ball on the fly.
In addition to being a game that is easy to learn and very entertaining to play, the best thing about Pukka Golf is that it is free to play. You can grab your copy from the Google Play store and play the majority of the levels without having to spend a single cent. You will have to put up with a few ads of course, but with a single in-app purchase you can remove these and gain access to the remaining levels. This is more than fair and allows anyone to play enough of the game to see if it is something that they enjoy enough to support the developers. It also means that I can wholeheartedly recommend the game as players have nothing to lose by trying it out. Thanks to the excellent level design and the replay value of Pukka Golf I still find myself going back and trying to earn stars for some of the harder levels. The ability to challenge friends for the leaderboard also increases the longevity of the game immensely.
While it might not be as flashy as other titles on the market, Pukka Golf definitely delivers when it comes to the gameplay. Despite a very straightforward concept, the game manages a great balance of fun and challenge thanks to its great level designs and the inclusion of different obstacles. The game had me hooked right off the bat and will probably remain installed on my tablet until I have earned every single star.