Mario Golf: Super Rush Review: Nintendo And Camelot Flub This Shot
Golf is not a game built around speed. Anyone who has spent time hitting the links understands that a big part of the appeal is the slow pace. Time spent with friends, savored, competing but in a leisurely manner. Mario Golf has always worked in that mode. The most fondly remembered game in the series slowed things down to the point that they made a golf RPG. With Mario Golf: Super Rush, however, Nintendo decided that golf needs to be a rush. This makes for a strange experience where a solid golf game finds far too many mechanics layered onto it, which simply don’t make sense.
Not The Adventure Fans Wanted
At first glance, those hoping for a return of the Mario RPG modes of past golf titles may be excited. Adventure mode offers RPG-style progression, but you’ll quickly realize that it isn’t what fans of those old games are looking for. You’ll play as a Mii, something that feels like it belongs back in the Wii generation. You’re dropped into a group of new recruits on the Mario Golf tour, looking to compete with the big dogs and make a name for yourself. You’ll do this by navigating the game’s six courses in a variety of modes of golf.
Beyond leveling up after completing challenges and getting stat points to customize your character, there’s simply nothing to adventure mode. This makes it feel more like a tutorial than a core part of the experience. The world is dotted with characters to talk to, but the only ones with anything worthwhile to say have an exclamation point over their heads. The only mini-games here are simple challenges like landing a ball on a target. There’s no imagination involved in any of it. The game has a giant arrow in front of your character the entire time, telling you exactly where to go.
Then again, there’s nothing about the world Nintendo created here that you’d want to explore. The world is incredibly bland and poorly designed, to the point where you actually end up glad the arrow is there because otherwise, you’d get lost constantly. Everything looks exactly the same. Camelot passed on far too many chances to add personality.
One of the few highlights of the Adventure mode are your fellow rookies, Boo, Chargin’ Chuck, and Toadette. There’s nothing deep about them, but they offer fun comments at times and have a lot of personality, making for solid rivals as you work your way to the top. You all share a house, yet when you enter their rooms, there’s nothing distinctive. They look identical to your own room. It’s a small thing, but a few decorations to go with their varied personalities would have been so easy to add, and they just didn’t bother. The whole world here feels like an extension of that.
At Its Best On The Course
Once you get out on the courses, things should start to turn around, but even that swerved wildly between birdies and bogeys. Camelot overhauled the golf experience for Super Rush. Gone is the three-click system of games past. Now you have a two-click system where you simply select your power. It works fine, though I preferred the old system.
The accuracy selection has been replaced by two new mechanics which actually work well. First, you now have the ability to curve your shots. When your spin ability gets strong enough, you can actually curve them in a variety of zones, allowing you to swing them all around in the air. It may not make a lot of sense, but it allows for a lot of control and feels great.
There’s also a new risk vs. reward system at the high end of your power. Areas of your power meter will be marked on certain shots as a danger zone. This is impacted by things like where your ball is and what club you’re using, so, on some shots, this may be only the tip of your power while others, it can be half of it. If you choose to hit your ball in the danger zone, it may go off track and lose accuracy. It may not, but you have to decide if you can accept that risk. The further you are into the danger zone, the higher the risk. This makes Super Rush a bit more random, which some won’t like, but I appreciated how it represents the challenge of hitting from rough terrain.
New Additions Make Little Sense
Everything around that core golf experience, however, doesn’t really work. The main way to play in Mario Golf: Super Rush is no longer standard golf. You’ll play that at times, but the big push this time is Speed Golf. Instead of moving to your next shot after your last, now you have to dash across the course to your ball. In concept, this seems like it could work, but in practice, it never makes a lot of sense.
There are relatively few ways to interact with your fellow golfers while rushing around. You can use a dash move, which you refill by letting off the run button or picking up power-ups. Hitting an opponent while dashing will stun them. You’re so rarely near your opponents, though, as you’re all hitting to different areas, that it rarely happens. The most common time to find yourselves back together is on the green at the end of a course. By then, though, you generally don’t need to dash. The entire game feels built around this concept, and it just never feels good. You spend more time running to your ball than actually golfing.
Even Interesting Ideas Don’t Pan Out
Adventure Mode offers a bunch of other unique ways to play, but they’re either not in the rest of the game, or they’re simply not useful outside of it. One course has you needing to manage your water in the heat to keep golfing. Others have you skimming your ball across the water, something that almost never makes sense.
Probably the most interesting level is one where all nine holes are on a larger world, and you need to get them all in one go, teeing off each time from the last hole’s green. There’s a lot of potential there, but this course is practically ruined by navigation. You travel up a variety of cliffs using conveniently placed tornadoes. They don’t work consistently and will often send your ball off in the wrong direction or simply not pick it up. You not only don’t end up where you need to too often, but now you’re usually not even in position to try again. Instead, you’ll need to use more shots to line up a shot on the tornado again. Not a lot of fun, but cool courses could definitely be designed around this concept, and I wish they’d pushed it further.
I’d say to skip all but the start of Adventure Mode, but you’ll actually want to push through. Doing so allows your Mii to be used in other modes. This is a big deal because, by the time you finish upgrading them, they’re easily the best character in Super Rush. They’re almost too good, and for those who allow them online, you’ll want them. Playing through Adventure Mode is also the easiest way to unlock Super Rush’s six courses.
A Mix of Success And Failure
Things get far better once you get into the rest of Super Rush, but a lack of content still really brings the experience down. Speed Golf is still the default, but you have the option to turn it off, which I appreciated. You can choose from the game’s sixteen characters, all with unique stats. There are things to unlock for the whole cast as well, who span the Mario franchise and include some deeper cuts I appreciated. Just getting to play regular golf with Mario characters is a lot of fun, but just playing exhibition matches repeatedly is only going to keep your attention for so long.
Perhaps my favorite part of Super Rush’s entire package is Battle Golf mode. This puts you and three opponents into a smaller arena with nine holes. You’ll compete to work your way through the area, with the first player to capture three holes winning. It’s a lot like that course from Adventure Mode, except the area is far smaller with no annoying cliffs to navigate. The smaller arenas actually mean you’ll spend more time around other players, making it the one mode in the game where running after your ball actually makes sense. You have more chances to interact and have to dodge a variety of obstacles as well. It feels more like an off-shoot of Mario Party than a part of Mario Golf, but it’s fun, and I’ll definitely be playing more of it.
Online play is fine. Traditional lobbies for each of the game’s modes are available, with a lot of options to customize rooms. Don’t want to play against overpowered Miis? Turn them off. Want to play standard golf instead of Speed Golf? That works. Want to take your shots one by one instead of all at the same time? You might be a sociopath if so, but you do have that option. Lag is rare, though when it does show up, it can have a significant impact on a shot.
There’s just so little to do online, however. You can play the golf however you want, but only in standard rooms, with friends, or with random online players. There’s no special ranked mode. No tournaments. Nothing that will keep you playing for a long time. This is another issue the entire game has. Six courses is on the short side for this series. Nintendo has promised more as free DLC, but the game feels bare at the moment.
At least the courses here are mostly good, featuring challenging holes that require strategy. A few of them are a bit on the boring side, but a couple of the later ones do have the personality, so much of this game is missing. Even the sixteen characters leave some strange omissions. Toadette, for example, isn’t available, despite being one of the featured characters in Adventure Mode. She could be DLC in the future. How exciting will that feel after already having spent so much time with her?
Mario Golf: Super Rush isn’t an unplayable game. The core golf is actually quite good, despite some changes, which will have a mixed reception from players. Almost everything around it, however, is either poorly thought out, lacking any personality, or lacking in content. Perhaps down the line, more content will fill it out enough that you can have fun playing only the parts which work, but Camelot has a lot of work to do to get this one to par.
Final Verdict: 2.5/5
Available on: Nintendo Switch (Reviewed); Publisher: Nintendo; Developer: Camelot; Players: 4; Released: June 25th, 2021; ESRB: E for Everyone; MSRP: $59.99
Full disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of Mario Golf: Super Rush.