As I wandered around the PAX show floor this year, I discovered a bunch of games that I’m keen to get my hands on in the future. From platformers and shooters to puzzle games and Soulslikes, there’s a lot to look forward to in the indie gaming space. In saying that, there’s one title in particular that I got hands-on time with that will threaten my friendships and eat away at the hours of the day.
Developed by It’s Anecdotal, a one-man studio out of Christchurch, Up To Par is a roguelite party minigolf game that offers cooperative play and, more importantly, a cutthroat competitive mode that’ll raise your blood pressure. Like many similar minigolf games, you’re tasked with sinking your ball into the hole at the other end of the course by aiming with a thumbstick and setting the power of your hit with a face button. Simple, easy, familiar.
The thing that separates Up to Par from the others in the caddy is its creative roguelite elements that add a bit of spice to the green. Instead of aiming for par (or birdie if you’re a crack shot like me), you have a number of shots to use before failing. Obviously, if you run out of shots it’s curtains for you, but if you manage to drain the ball with shots to spare, they carry over onto the next hole, giving you some wiggle room as the courses get harder.
Adding another roguelite layer to this sporting affair is the Pro Shop. Popping up once every six holes, the Pro Shop lets you purchase upgrades such as an extended preview of your shots, or the added insurance that no matter the speed, the ball will always go in if it hits the hole. Some buffs are limited to a number of uses, while others are permanent, but how do you purchase these game-altering upgrades, I hear you ask? Well, you’ll need to part with your precious banked shots.
The balance between playing conservatively to amass a buffer and spending your hard-earned shots on snazzy abilities is an entertaining one, and it’ll get even more so with additional players. Alongside a co-op mode that will see up to four players taking turns using the same shot pool, the game will also support competitive play for up to 16 players, ensuring that the course will devolve into absolute chaos.
When speaking with It’s Anecdotal about the insane player count, they assured me that collision doesn’t need to be on, but you can certainly choose to enable it for maximum shenanigans. In order to keep games feeling fresh, each of the courses spread out across multiple locations, is procedurally generated, meaning you won’t be putting on the same greens over and over. During my short time with the game, I knocked around courses of varying shapes, sizes and difficulties, giving me confidence that I’ll want to play for a long, long time.
While I only had a few minutes of hands-on time with Up to Par, I was playing alongside a good friend of mine who I play all kinds of party games with, and we instantly got into the competitive zone, throwing trash talk and mocking each other for missing “easy” shots. For a competitive party game to elicit that response in such a short amount of time fills me with confidence that the finished product will be a good time.