I have been a major fan of developer Justin Smith of Captain Games ever since the arrival of “The Best Bear Driving Simulator in the App Store" Enviro-Bear 2010 ($1.99) on the iPhone more than a decade ago in July of 2009. What Enviro-Bear showed was that Smith was capable of creating games that were entirely silly on the surface but had a level of depth to their mechanics that kept players coming back over and over in an effort to master those mechanics, and indeed we’ve seen that with the various other releases from Captain Games over the years. One game where that sort of wasn’t the case though is with Desert Golfing ($1.99) that released on the App Store in 2014. This was a 2D side-view physics-based golfing game that was about as bare bones as they come. Each hole was just a single screen and you’d pull back on the screen to determine the angle and power of your shot and let loose. Get the ball in the hole, move onto the next hole, rinse and repeat.
What was strange about Desert Golfing though was that even though the mechanics themselves were dead simple and never evolved into anything more, there was this sort of hidden depth to the experience as a whole. I mean, first off, nobody really even knew if the game had an end or not. People would play through thousands and thousands of holes and the game just kept on going. One time in March of 2016 a player thought they made it to the “end" by way of the game generating an impossible hole at hole number 19,491. But as it turned out there were some who were able to get past that point and the true end of the game wasn’t discovered until later that year when a player came across a truly impossible endless ocean at hole number 64,465 and Smith confirmed that there were no safeguards to prevent the game’s procedural generation seed from creating an impossible situation.
So it was definitely kind of sad to discover that there was an end to Desert Golfing, but here we are six years later and that ending has led us to a new beginning… on Mars! Golf On Mars ($2.99) is the sequel to Desert Golfing and, well, it’s basically Desert Golfing but on Mars.
While there does seem to be some slight improvements this time around in terms of terrain variety and the like, what’s significantly different in Golf On Mars compared to Desert Golfing is how the levels are generated. In Desert Golfing every hole was procedurally generated but everyone played from the same seed, so essentially everyone played through the same exact holes. With Golf On Mars everyone’s game is totally unique from each other, and while Smith is coming right out and saying that this one definitely isn’t endless, there are also nearly 26 billion hole possibilities, and if someone traveled back in time and handed this game to a caveman who continuously played a hole every 30 seconds it would take over 24,000 years to play through every one of them. That’s what I like to call good replay value.
What was incredible about Desert Golfing was how it struck a philosophical chord with so many of its players. Why was someone golfing through a barren desert in the first place? Why does the background color subtly change over the course of hundreds of holes? What the hell is the meaning of life anyway?? You can read a bit more on the philosophical meaning behind the game in Shaun’s Classic Reload feature from back in 2017. Desert Golfing became a major cult classic in its time, and it will be very interesting to see if people can identify in a similar way with Golf On Mars. You can grab it for yourself right now for $2.99 on both the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store for Android.