Mario Golf: Super Rush lives up to its name in most ways. This is golf where someone has leaned on the fast-forward button and the pressure to swing and slice as quickly as possible is just as important as accuracy. That pace also extends to the game’s design, where every mode feels like it’s been designed to be devoured swiftly instead of savored. Unfortunately, the one aspect where nominative determinism doesn’t come into play is the ‘Super’ part.
Release Date: June 25
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Although it’s been a while since Mario and his mates hit the green, Mario Golf: Super Rush will feel familiar to anyone who has played an arcade-y golf game in the past few years, such as Everybody’s Golf. It’s overflowing with color, from the vivid courses you play on to the cast of characters (and your Mii) who you play as, and offers up plenty of different rulesets so you know that this isn’t the sort of stuffy golf you see plastered over Sky Sports. Except, this outing for Mario on the links never captures a specific style, neither as a serious sports game that yearns to be mastered nor a whippy delight that craves to be played with mates.
Only swing when you’re winning
This identity crisis starts with how you play the game. Depending on which mode you’re playing, you’ll have a choice between traditional button controls or the arm-flinging of motion controls. Your button controls offer more command over where your ball goes, as you set power on a meter with a tap of A and add sidespin afterwards by nudging the left stick. While it’s not quite as simple as that suggests - a red gauge next to your power meter indicates how far a ball can curve unexpectedly if you put too much power on a shot - but it doesn’t quite capture the rhythmical compulsion of Everybody’s Golf, that sense of timing and strategy coming together. Meanwhile, motion controls are what you expect - swing your arms like it’s 2007 and you’re trying out Wii Sport for the first time. How enjoyable that is depends on personal preference, but I certainly made the most of an afternoon taking turns with my partner to see who could look the daftest while playing with them.
This does however highlight the game’s fundamental flaw of never committing to a style of play. Using motion controls leads to uncomplicated fun with friends, but doesn’t feel like it requires buckets of skill. It’s a gimmick essentially, which isn’t a bad thing, but it’s hardly something you’ll keep returning to. Whereas the standard controls offer up ways of giving the game a distinct flavor - such as your ability to curl shots in multiple directions, letting them bend to the left before hooping back to the right - but it doesn’t offer any compelling reason to really spend time getting to grips with it, considering the course designs lack opportunities to really test your skill and there aren’t enough modes to lose yourself in.
The main mode though is Golf Adventure, an RPG-lite, open-world career that starts with your Mii learning the ropes as a rookie with three other wannabes before heading out across other courses to learn more tricks and help bring some stability to the increasingly extreme places you find. While it’s clearly little more than a way of introducing the game’s various concepts and courses, it’s also the game’s biggest disappointment.
To begin with, there’s the lack of personality in the worlds you explore. It ticks off the usual variety of environments you expect to see - a placid beginner pitch, a gusty rural course, a tricky desert - without offering too much in the way of wit or inventiveness. That extends to the characters who you’ll encounter on your journey. Every so often, you’ll get the occasional laugh from a bystander you can chat with, but far too often, they’re there to simply point you in whichever direction you need to go in next. The brief moments where it delivers, with lines such as: “I’ve seen some pretty wild things and I’m a Pro Golf instructor”, only serve to show how much of a wasted opportunity this feels like. It feels hesitant to commit to being a mode where you rise through the ranks or a more surreal adventure, eventually splitting the difference and never quite succeeding to excel at either.
You won’t spend too much time exploring worlds though, as the game wants to quickly shepherd you towards the various qualifying rounds on each course. These largely work out as introductions to the game’s main forms of golf. So you’ve got Standard Golf, which is your typical game of golf and will transport you to where the ball landed. Whereas Speed Golf has you racing across the course to catch up where you hit your ball and where the fastest time wins. To add some extra spice, characters have the ability to Super Dash and knock their opponents out of the way, offering a sprinkle of light platforming to create Mario Golf’s most distinctive mode. It’s not revelatory, but it at least gives a sense of pace and action that makes up for the lack of complexity in Standard Golf.
Still, the only reason to see the Golf Adventure mode through is the fact you can level up your Mii’s stats. Each time your Mii gets a boost, you can decide if they can hit the ball further, straighter, or have more control over it, all having a pretty noticeable effect once you return to the course. Feeling your Mii get better over time certainly adds a bit of flavor, but it’s not enough to really rescue the mode’s story, which is seemingly two very different ideas stitched together. By the time the credits hit, I was genuinely confused as to how it had ended up where it did, with characters getting introduced and dropped quicker than some of the holes you’ll play on.
The only other mode of note is Battle Golf, where you fight in a coliseum to be the first to win 3 holes. It’s a chaotic take on golf, letting you choose which flags to aim for and, in short bursts, gives an impression of what this game could have been. But there’s not a huge amount to it, and in keeping with the rest of Mario Golf: Super Rush, there’s nothing here to keep your interest in the long term. While the online mode might keep you involved with mates, there’s just not enough incentive to.
As I said at the start, Rush is an apt word to define this game. At one point, where I sunk an entirely unexpected hole-in-one, I didn’t realize until my Mii started celebrating for a few seconds before the game moved on. There’s no replay, no moment to bask in the highlight of any golfing experience - just an unending rush where no moment is too noteworthy to reflect on. It makes for an entirely hollow solo experience. And because of this, Mario Golf: Super Rush never settles into a game that captures the fun of golf nor offers up a convincing alternative. Maybe next time Mario dons his Calloway jumper, there should be less haste and more speed.
Reviewed on Nintendo Switch with a code provided by the publisher.