Preview: Off the Chains Disc Golf – Not Just Another Throwaway Sports Game

It’s official, I suck at Disc Golf. There I am, standing in the perfect stance, arm drawn back with the correct flying disc in my hand. I whip my arm out, rotating my body into the throw, releasing the trigger button of my controller at the apex of the arm extension. It feels graceful, yet powerful. The disc falls to the floor a few yards in front of me. Deflated, I click the prompt to move on to the next throw. It’s not the game’s fault, it’s mine.

How do I know this? Because sometimes that action results in a beautiful arc through the air as the disc flies outward. My hand must have tilted at the last moment. The game’s engine is sharp enough to notice the difference between my hand being held flat, or at an angle, or even completely vertically. After each throw, along with a delightful cutaway video of the disc travelling towards the chained net, there are the stats breaking down the throw.

On the surface, this looks like it could be a game with more of an arcade feel, but it definitely leans towards simulation, especially when held up against other disc golf games available. As the videogame initially opens, you’d be forgiven for thinking this is just a throwaway sports game. Due to the physicality of virtual reality (VR), there is always a wealth of sports-based titles. 

With Off the Chains Disc Golf, there’s a surprising amount of depth to be found as play progresses; by unlocking new discs with varying speed and turning stats – playing well rewards you with links, which are spent in the game store – also unlocking new courses which pose steadily increasing challenges. This depth can also be found in the accessibility options, particularly in the throw sensitivity.

When I first started playing, my arms ached from constantly throwing. Within the options menu, you can adjust how sensitive the throwing action is. On realistic, you can expect to really put your effort into lobbing the disc, whereas setting it to low allows for a more gentle physical throw, translating into power within the game. Not only does this help with those sore arms, but it allows for sitting play also.

There are a few flaws to this otherwise entertaining videogame. The visuals are often lacking in differentiating the courses from each other. There’s hardly any sense of place for each course, which can be frustrating as it seems a lot of effort went into the sound design; everything from the whip of the wind to animal calls or babbling brooks add to the peaceful backdrop. There also seems to be a line across the field of view which moves up and down with your head. Above this line the graphics lose fidelity and become incredibly muddy, removing any sense of immersion.

In fact, most of the complaints can be levelled at the presentation of Off the Chains: Disc Golf; the menus are a bit of an eyesore and the avatars look out of place with their cartoon aesthetics – although I adored the tutorial robot who was incredibly creepy with its staring eyes.

This disc golf title is far from a bad game. The simulation aspect gives it legs as there’s plenty to learn and master. I only wish the game’s visuals matched up with the depth found within the gameplay. For a fully-fledged sports title made by a small developer, Off the Chains: Disc Golf excels in many areas, but don’t expect it to be the next ‘pass the headset’ party game.

Despite my lack of talent, I enjoyed much of my time with this App Lab release. Sure, it could be improved in places, but, as with every game I play in VR, I try to leave my feelings to one condition: was it a fun experience? In this instance, yes. After lots of practice and plenty of playtime, I got better and started to score more birdies and par efforts. And when you do nail a throw, it feels great. Though I’ll forever lament my loss of turning pro at disc golf.