PEGBRJE: Golf Peaks and Spooky Ghosts Dot Com

Tiny sports and small ghost kitties

No matter how many times I’ve tried, I can’t go for the birdie ):

Golf Peaks is a sporting puzzle game made by afterburn, a solo indie dev who focuses primarily on smaller puzzle experiences. Players are a golfing wizard (that’s the only explanation for how good these shots are) as they attempt to ascend mountains via golfing. Players only have a certain set of moves they can utilize via cards at the bottom of the screen, and will begin to encounter multiple types of terrain as they progress throughout the mountain ranges of golf.

Probably one of the most effective uses of a sport to make a non-sporting game, Golf Peaks is the kind of puzzle game that could have its entire theme swapped out for another and it would still feel the same. As stated, golfing knowledge is not required at all to play, as the strokes players get are based on a number of cards rather than a ‘par’ system. Stripping away the golfing elements leaves a title that has players move along squares via pre-generated cards in the hopes of reaching the goal while learning of the new tiles that are introduced along the way. This is usually understood as more of a mechanics-based approach for design, forgoing the actual theming of the game to create a series of gameplay loops that can be applied to multiple themes, with some working easier than others. In this case, golfing makes the most sense for the player to move certain tiles to reach a single goal. Even if this weren’t the case and Golf Peaks was drafted as a coherent idea from the start, it’s this approach to creating a simple and effective gameplay loop that makes my next talking point so evident: the puzzles are so clean that the difficulty curve wasn’t even felt.

As with all types of video games, the difficulty curve is essential for players to feel that their knowledge is being put to use and tested while not frustrating them with outcomes that they could not predict or control. Golf Peaks is not only aware of this, but is able to straddle the line of being ‘easy because casual’ with ‘some of these are actually difficult and require thought’. Thanks to the simplicity of its rules and system, the puzzles can be iterated on dozens of times to ensure that they are in a location that the player can feel tested while not frustrated. Each new type of tile introduced has its own stage with little else, so players can understand how it functions and move on upon understanding. Each puzzle afterwards reintroduces older mechanics to combine and utilize the new tile as a playground of puzzles, with the last 3 being the most challenging to understand. The inclusion of not only a reset button but also a ‘last move’ undo is the icing on the cake for helping players constantly keep trying new ways to move their ball around the mountainous levels.

The puzzle would not be complete without mentioning the card system in a little more detail, as it is the brains behind the entire operation. Players will receive a fixed amount of cards with instructions on them, such as a movement card, a jump card, or a combination of both in any order (usually jump first). There are even little graphics on each card to give an idea of the style of shot the card will give. With a specific card selected, players can then choose the direction in which this card’s force will be added to the ball, and then the card will be removed. It’s these limited moves that bring out the puzzling nature of Golf Peaks, as it becomes a game of figuring out exactly why players were given certain cards and what to possibly use them for. Sometimes they’ll be used in ways that aren’t for the same purpose as previously thought, and that’s the joy of figuring it out.

It’s this combination of limited card operations and puzzle layout that makes Golf Peaks a surprisingly exciting casual game. I kept wanting to solve puzzles and find out what could be introduced next to the tile mechanics from the water tiles to the sand traps to the hilarious bouncy tiles. There are so many more levels to explore as stated, with about 120+ to golf through. Just like many other casual games in this bundle, it’s also available on every mobile device (I’m calling the Switch a mobile device cuz it is ok) so it can be taken anywhere. Even on a mountaintop that one may or may not be golfing on to make it even more meta. Golf Peaks is the perfect quiet game to relax to during a break or to wind down at nights when getting ready to sleep, similar to a good book or a crossword puzzle (if people still do those). If you are looking for a calming and fun activity to do during small downtime hours, give Golf Peaks a try on any device you see fit.

Spooky Ghosts Dot Com is a small metroidvania game made by Justin Forcier under his indie name Grizzly Wizard Games. Players get to play as Ruby the ghost hunter on a particularly difficult assignment for Hallowe’en; investigate a mansion riddled with ghosts and other spooky creatures. Armed with her trusty ghost blaster (I think that’s what it is, anyway), Ruby fights her way through the derelict building, petting cats and purchasing items from individuals with candy corn.

In typical fashion for a title in the metroidvania section, players will venture across dangerous territories looking for different clues and rooms that will help them find either new abilities (in this case, mostly health upgrades) or keys to unlock the next area. Bosses regularly guard keys and key areas of exploration, who can only be defeated by understanding their patterns and juggling between avoiding their attacks and attacking to destroy them. Enemies throughout are not difficult to defeat or understand, but punish miscalculations in jumps or attacks heavily as Ruby only starts with 10 HP and most enemies do 2–3 damage per attack. Couple this with levels full of traps around every corner and hazards that can only be avoided at all costs and Spooky Ghosts Dot Com comes together nicely.

It’s the feeling generated by the aesthetics that makes it so charming and almost cuddly in its spookiness, completely centred around Hallowe’en and other ghostly delights. Players need to find treat baskets to increase their max HP, while the main currency for purchasing items is in Candy Corn. Enemies are ghosts and other ghouls, with bosses being spooky references to Hallowe’en culture and the like, such as the Frog Witch who subsequently just throws way too many frogs at Ruby. By far my favourite part, however is that the fast travel is done via a giant ghost cat, which only asks that Ruby find their 8 lost brethren and pet them. Yes, petting cats is basically a requirement, you heard it hear first (okay maybe not really, but I’d like to believe).

It’s not a very long game, so I apologize if this explanation feels a little lacking in comparison — Spooky Ghosts Dot Com isn’t attempting to redefine anything about metroidvania styled games, but instead offer a new look and a fun time for all of the spooky Hallowe’en lovers out there. If you are on the lookout for more dungeon delving goodness with simple yet effective combat and way too many jumping skeletons, give this one a try and enjoy the goodness of ghost cats.

Game Dev who decided to take on the monumental task of giving an overview of all 59 pages in the bundle for Racial Justice and Equality. We keep going.