The Puttbuster Initiative: Spacetime Golfcrush by Philip Armstrong
Warning! Review may contain spoilers!
As everybody knows, golf is an incredibly dull and tedious game. The only way it can be saved is to add humour, violence and interdimensional space travel. As it happens, this is exactly what we have here! The Puttbuster Initiative: Spacetime Golfcrush is an extreme golfing gamebook from last year’s Windhammer prize winner, the delightful Philip Armstrong. And it’s every bit as bonkers, creative and original as you’d expect a game of extreme golf to be.
There’s an absolute cracking introduction to this gamebook. The background and rules are brought about by a bit of banter between the two commentators of this year’s SpaceTime Golfcrush. This is a fine addition to the gamebook; one of the things I truly enjoyed is how their interjections pop up throughout, commenting on how you are performing. If anything, this wonderful mechanic is underused. I would have liked to have heard them natter on all gamebook – for some holes they become a little mute, which is a shame.
While we’re on wonderful mechanics, I might as well say this gamebook is full of them. It’s a really good game – you cram your golfer full of performance enhancing drugs to improve his drive/accuracy/attack (dangerous stuff this golf), which determines how far you can hit the ball, if the ball will veer off course, if you will die horribly on the putting green. All this by selecting a square on the map of the hole and rolling dice. You then look up where your ball has actually landed and turn to that section (and probably die horribly). All in all it is a really clever game. But does it make a good book?
You’re lining up your next shot when you feel a tickle on your leg.
You look down to see that a segment of the grass and loam has raised up and emerging from a black
hole is a stick-thin claw. It’s a trap spider, easily the size of a pitbull. You feel the claw tug at your pants
as the spider begins pulling you toward its burrow.
It’s wonderfully illustrated, it is clever and it is funny. But it doesn’t feel like a gamebook. What it would work incredibly well as is an app – nudge Tin Man Games – it could hide away all the mechanics and keep score for you, and most of all bring in animations and touch screen capabilities, and pop up the little sections as you land on squares. It’s also massively expandable – in the age of DLC we live in there’s no end to the extra holes you can grow the base game with. As a pure game, it’s great.
But as a gamebook, I found it a bit limited. Other than where to hit your ball next, there aren’t that many choices to make. It’s slightly too random, and the battles can be unforgiving. It’s a little too episodic and gets a bit repetitive. Some of the holes are wonderfully creative, but even the golfing novelty wears a bit thin by the 9th time we have to to repeat it.
But don’t get me wrong. There’s good writing and good game here – it’s a very strong entry from Philip Armstrong and he’ll be up among the prizes again this year.