Can we call it a mulligan?
The Mario sports games have amassed large audiences thanks to their approachable gameplay. Many of us aren’t into soccer, tennis, or golf in real life, but put us into a match of Mario Golf and our interest goes through the roof. Simplicity makes it much easier for more players to get into, as opposed to the more in-depth mechanics of simulation sports games.
While that same level of accessibility is still present in Mario Golf: Super Rush, it generally feels too simplified. That’s the game’s biggest drawback: There isn’t a lot to do, making it tough to recommend, even if you’re a die-hard Mario Golf fan. It’s hard to recommend Mario Golf: Super Rush due to its lack of content and the conspicuous absence of a satisfying gameplay hook.
The general takeaway with Super Rush is that it feels...super rushed. What’s there works well enough, for the most part, but there isn’t much there.
There are three main modes to choose from, along with a lackluster story mode, but that’s about it. No tournaments, hardly anything to unlock, no difficulty settings, and certainly no incentives to keep checking back in.
When you first start, two of the six courses are available. That’s right, there are only six courses in Super Rush. While they do vary aesthetically and in configuration, only a couple of them stand out. When you’ve only got six courses to choose from, it’s way more noticeable when one does (or doesn’t) feel memorable. Sure, you’ve got fun Mario-themed courses like Balmy Dunes and Bowser Highlands, but aside from those, the options are lacking. And we can’t overstate just how disappointing it is to only have six courses available at launch.
Nintendo has said it plans to support Super Rush with post-launch content, which is great, but the age-old discussion of value comes to mind here. It’s as if only a portion of the game was ready at launch, while the rest will be disguised as “post-launch support” to keep it relevant. While this approach is evident in many other games, Nintendo is often known for providing plenty of value, so it's unfortunate to see Super Rush handled this way.
The game’s Story Mode, or Golf Adventure, is presented as the centerpiece, but it doesn’t do much to keep you invested. In fact, it feels like a training course that holds your hand the entire way. The idea of a training mode isn’t bad, but when it’s the main attraction, it’s hard to not feel disappointed.
In Golf Adventure, you play as a user-created Mii character, and as you complete objectives, you level up and can allocate different points to stats. This mechanic seems alright on paper, but since the mode is so easy, there isn’t much of a motivation to level up your Mii. There isn’t much of a story or challenge, and everything simply feels tacked-on, rather than constructed in a way that helps players meaningfully progress their skills.
We would have loved to see more variation in challenges, a greater incentive to keep playing, and a more thoughtful story beyond “this is a golf game, so you should golf!”
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Playing it safe
Arcade golf games have a ton of room for experimentation beyond simply wanting you to get the ball in the hole. Sure, that’ll always be at the heart of the gameplay experience, but without the constraints of realism, there’s a lot of creativity to be had from a design standpoint.
Super Rush barely feels like you’re playing a Mario game at all. The new mode being touted in this game is called Speed Golf, but unfortunately, playing it is more of a chore than anything else. In it, you’re required to hit the ball like normal, but then, you must run over to it quickly to continue getting the ball in the hole. You must do so faster than your opponents, hence the name.
Running around between shots feels more like an interruption than a fun twist on standard golfing. After each time we’d hit the ball, we’d groan at the idea of having to run over to it.
Beyond that is the new Battle Golf mode, which is essentially the same as Speed Golf, but with the ability to complete holes in any order. It’s pure chaos, but still misses the mark due to how luck seems to play a disproportionate role in the outcome. For instance, you could be doing well, but Bob-ombs could randomly rain down and knock your ball away as you try to swing. Mario Kart 8’s blue shells can change up the entire race in the final seconds, but the element of randomness isn’t as strategic — or fun — here.
The other thing you might consider doing in Super Rush is to tee up online. Here, you can play Standard Golf, Speed Golf, or Battle Golf against three other players. Though, as you might expect with a Nintendo Switch game, network issues tend to ruin the experience. Lag will sometimes interrupt a match, and in many cases, the connection will time out and cause the entire competition to end, which is undoubtedly frustrating. Because of that, it never felt viable to get into the online mode due to the likelihood of being kicked from a match.
With few things to unlock and the lack of a satisfying gameplay loop, there isn’t much reason to pick Super Rush back up after you’ve put a few hours into it. We would have loved to see a slew of unlockable characters, gear, and stages, along with more modes, and different ways to play. With the way it is now, you’ve pretty much done everything the game has to offer after you’ve finished the Adventure Golf mode, which can be completed in just a few hours.
The swing of things
Having said all that, Mario Golf: Super Rush looks and plays just as well as you’d hope. Its gorgeous visuals are vibrant and colorful, the animations are fluid, and the courses look distinct (even if they don’t feel distinct from a gameplay standpoint). The fact that it’s so visually appealing certainly helps.
As for the moment-to-moment gameplay, you’ll likely have fun with it, even if you aren’t a golf fan. The rush of beating your personal score or your opponents is satisfying, at least at first. Navigating through the courses is fun enough, even if you only have time for a few quick holes. So in that regard, Super Rush is great for brief pick-up and play sessions.
The best way to play Super Rush is with motion controls. Doing so offers enough of a challenge to make things interesting. It takes some getting used to at first, but once it clicks, it feels almost like playing the real thing. While you might always reach par while using the regular button scheme, it’ll take a lot more effort and focus to do the same with motion controls. That said, it still doesn’t make up for the game’s many downsides.
Mario Golf: Super Rush is a great foundation for what could be a superb package. We’ve seen just how creative Nintendo can get with its sports titles, so it’s disappointing to get a game that feels uninspired and lacking in so many ways. The moment-to-moment gameplay is fun and well designed, but everything around it is bland and will likely struggle to keep you coming back for more. 6/10
Mario Golf: Super Rush is out now for Nintendo Switch.
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