It wouldn’t be the Christmas period without Home Alone.
This year, however, we got something different. There’s no Kevin McAllister or Wet Bandits in sight. Instead, a humanoid golf ball is the star of the show. This eShop exclusive, which launched at the dirt-cheap price of just 44p, is a short experience, but its online leaderboard, which is perhaps the best use of a leaderboard anywhere on the Switch so far, will keep players trying again and again.
Fans of the excellent eShop title Party Golf, which played out golf on a side-on, 2D scale, will be somewhat familiar with the controls of Nicky: The Home Alone Golf Ball. You must make use of an arrow to whack the ball through the level, with things coming to a natural conclusion once you manage to sink the ball into the hole. Where the two titles differ is that Nicky involves just the one elongated level, and while Party Golf gives you a clue as to the trajectory of your shots, Nicky’s arrow is minuscule, and but for the slightest of advantages in being able to shift the camera across an inch or two, for the most part you’ll be hitting the ball into the unknown.
Of course, Nicky is closer to crazy golf than it is to the traditional game. Starting off in a house, you need to hit the ball around a range of obstructions, from towers of books to a football, to timing things right so the ball flies through the gap in a rotary fan. You can use X and B to raise and lower the power of your shot, looking to initiate just the right amount of momentum so that the ball lands precisely on top of an obstacle putting within range of a platform on higher ground. You can restart at any point, but there’s no undos – meaning making a mistake, or wasting too many shots, can lead to a whole bunch of cussing.
Things in the house alone are pretty difficult, but later in the game the challenge becomes even meaner. You’ll need to perfectly land the ball on Super Mario World-esque moving platforms, or chip it perfectly so it doesn’t strike any metal objects in one section, disturbing a sleeping dog in the process. There’s nothing quite as agonising as nailing the ball with inch-perfect precision onto a series of moving platforms, and then missing the last one and watching the ball sail all the way back to the bottom with nothing you can do about it.
Your shot count is always on-screen, which builds the pressure with every stroke. Also on the screen all the time is the top world leaderboard, which is really Nicky’s finest feature. You really feel part of a community trying another run and seeing a new leader. On the game’s launch night, this reviewer’s first attempt saw him sail into the top spot with a final score of around 430. The following morning, someone had blitzed around 150 off that total, and despite the game only having the one level, the urge was immediately there to go for it again.
At 44p, or even at the game’s full price of 89p, you can’t go wrong with adding a game like this to your collection. Yes, it requires skill and can be immensely frustrating, but it really does make you want to attempt another run.
Nicky: The Home Alone Golf Ball £0.89
Nicky: The Home Alone Golf Ball is a clever, budget title that costs next-to-nothing and keeps you coming back for more. With time it’ll be harder to crack the leaderboard, so give it a go as soon as you can.