GolfTopia: SimGolf’s Spiritual Successor

We have to go back over two decades to find the last noteworthy game in the golf resort management genre. Released in 2002, Sid Meier’s SimGolf was a charming little simulator that undoubtedly holds a special place in the hearts of gamers; I can personally attest to this, having lost a good chunk of my early high school years to this gem!

Developed by two-man company MinMax Games, GolfTopia aims to recapture the brilliance of SimGolf, while throwing in some sci-fi and futuristic elements. GolfTopia puts you in charge of your very own golf course, and you have a wide range of responsibilities that include designing and building the actual holes, managing the club, and ensuring your visitors are happy. 

GolfTopia aims to recapture the brilliance of SimGolf, while throwing in some sci-fi and futuristic elements

A fun and challenging golf course lies at the core of a successful golf club, and GolfTopia gives you all the necessary tools. With the circular design tool, you can begin designing your golf holes. The first step involves placing the tee and green, plotting the fairway, and adding some obstacles like sand traps and mud bunkers. I took a liking to the circular design tool as opposed to the modular one from SimGolf, and it almost feels like you are painting the holes.

Once the hole has been laid out, your job isn’t complete. GolfTopia introduces a new mechanic in Crazy Devices. From a Ring of Fire to Mega-Loops and Boost Pads, these devices can be strategically placed on your holes to increase their Craziness rating and entertain your visitors. While the Crazy Devices might be off-putting to SimGolf fans and purists, it adds some lighthearted fun and is sure to elicit a few laughs. The game almost ends up feeling like a hybrid between SimGolf and RollerCoaster Tycoon.

One thing I found quite frustrating is the inability to move Crazy Devices once placed, and the only workaround is to sell the device and place a new one. You end up losing a chunk of money in the process. Seeing as it takes some trial and error to get the Crazy Devices right, I’m hoping to see a Move option implemented in a future update. 

Every hole receives an overall rating, which is determined by the comments and attitudes of your golfers. While SimGolf measured success with a fun rating, cash is king in GolfTopia. When a golfer completes a hole, you receive a payout based on their mood. Their payout is also influenced by their membership level, so it’s in your best interest to look after the long-term happiness of your members. Holes can also receive awards, which will give you an instant–and quite sizeable–cash payout. Most of the structures around your course require a daily upkeep, so be careful of going into debt as your patrons will be nonplussed.

GolfTopia makes it easy to improve your course. There are several helpful overlays, for example the Complaint Overlay will highlight areas of your course where visitors become bored or frustrated. By clicking on the tee or green of a hole, you can see a summary that includes useful information, like how often certain comments were made by golfers. Metrics such as Difficulty, Craziness, and Decorations will also give you an indication of where the hole is lacking. All of this information can then be used to address the problematic areas on your course.

But building a fun and challenging golf course is only the beginning. Your golfers have other needs that must be tended to. Build snack bars around the course to ensure they don’t get hungry, place transport tubes so they don’t fatigue, and don’t forget about restrooms.

GolfTopia has a similar progress system to SimGolf. Your clubhouse can be upgraded from a zero-star building to a five-star mega tower, with upgrades becoming progressively more expensive. Each clubhouse upgrade will unlock an additional three holes, as well as give you access to better amenities and decorations. Clubhouse upgrades will also unlock Prestige Items, which range from a Putting Green and Driving Range to a Hotel and Buzz Lounge. There is even a Fireworks Dispenser that will create a dazzling fireworks show every day. Prestige Items will increase the happiness of your golfers and are a worthwhile investment.

That brings us to the bane of every manager’s existence: weeds. When a golfer complains, a tiny weed will sprout somewhere on the course, and it is your job to eradicate these pesky weeds before they spiral out of control. Weeds can be controlled with Drone Hubs and Turrets, but be careful when placing these as visitors will be revolted by the sight of them. The Weeds Overlay allows you to quickly identify problem areas on the course.

In addition to money, players also have Orbital Power. This rechargeable power can be used to purchase “power-ups”. Orbital Extortion will comically zap golfers’ wallets, giving you a quick cash boost. The Mysterious Happiness Beam will instantly lift the mood of your golfers, resulting in higher payouts. Another way to get a quick uplift is Skill Boosters. If you see golfers are struggling to find the fairway, place a Driver Booster. If there is congestion on the course, use a Hustler Booster to pick up the pace. You can also construct transport tubes around your course, which will not only speed things up but ensure your golfers fatigue slower.

GolfTopia recreates the charm of SimGolf to some degree, and your golfers are the beating heart of the experience. They will react emotionally to your golf course and their shots while speaking their adorable Sim-inspired Simlish language. The graphical style is minimalistic and colourful, backed by a relaxing soundtrack. With the futuristic setting, your manager will cruise around on a hoverboard, golfers will zip around the course in transport tubes, and Drones will fly around looking for pesky weeds. The club remains open at nighttime, requiring you to place lighting around the course that will additionally charge golf balls. 

GolfTopia is a stellar indie game, especially for those looking to scratch that SimGolf itch. It doesn’t do an awful lot wrong and I thoroughly enjoyed the game. But with that said, I would love to see MinMax release another version that stays true to the original SimGolf.

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