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Planet Minigolf
 

Planet Minigolf

ESRB: Everyone - E
Platform: PS3
Category: Arcade
 
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www.planetminigolf.com

I’m sure anyone that’s gone on a road trip or vacation has stopped by at least one of the various attractions along the way. And I’d wager that mini golf is perhaps the most popular of these family-centric destinations, often located near a gas station or someone`s farm. In fact, I know some folks who plan their holidays around these types of places that are often equipped with an eatery and gift shop. Let’s face it – mini golf is fun, and aside from the crazy obstacles that set it apart from a real golf putting green, it’s an interesting way to practice your end-game accuracy.

Planet Minigolf by Zen Studios puts the action of mini golf right into your own home and in the palm of your hands. And for the low price of $9.99 at the PlayStation store, this is a great bargain. The obvious difference, of course, is that Planet Minigolf is an arcade style video game with wacky, detailed and often overly challenging courses - and it`s playable from the comfort of your couch.

Graphics:

I was actually fairly impressed with the visuals in Planet Minigolf. With a cartoon flair that you’d expect from something in this genre, the graphics obviously don’t drive the PS3 hardware to any extremes, but I would grade them solidly. The character modelling is respectable. The number of environments and large variety of courses, ranging from pirate ships to polar excursions and Mayan jungles, will keep you entertained. Zen put a decent amount of work into this game and it shows.

Sound:

It’s always difficult to critique the sound package in games such as these. Planet Minigolf comes with some pretty generic rock style music tracks, but the sound effects work decently. Overall, the production values are good for an online store purchase, and there’s even a commentator that calls your shots.

Gameplay:

The idea behind Planet Minigolf is simple - acquire the biggest, baddest gun possible, power the heck out of it, and annihilate your enemies until you’re crowned champion of the underworld!

Ok seriously. The objective is to challenge against opponents and finish a course with the best score possible, which in golf means the fewest shots it takes to sink the ball. But aside from taking the fewest shots, you have to contend with some pretty outlandish obstacles, such as nailing the ball up a hill and over a ramp, or placing it through a tight looped half-pipe and down a slope. You also gain points through multipliers based on control difficulty, and then there’s the various funky power-ups found on each course, which in some cases are required in order to finish.

Planet Minigolf offers well-over 100 predefined holes. You can choose from single player, multiplayer, or you can design your own courses. In single player it’s you versus an AI score card. In multiplayer you can play against friends in the same house, or you can go online against strangers or distant friends.

To start things off, there are five customizable characters to sample from, male and female. You have four world locations to venture in, and you can play these in any order at any time. These include: Buccaneers Hideout in Australia, Soho in Britain, Polar Station in Greenland and Ancient Valley in Mexico. Each location contains four courses with nine holes, ranging in difficulty, and although you can skip around and play any location you want, you have to finish the four courses at each location in order. The course levels are appropriately titled: Warm-up, Pro, Extreme and Wacky. You can also choose to play your customized courses, if desired.

The courses definitely become more challenging as you progress. But even some of the less difficult holes, in Warm- up for instance, can prove frustrating. Navigating through tight areas or hitting the ball just right so it doesn’t fly out of bounds can be trying. On some of the harder levels it’s almost downright impossible, with the physics proving to be pretty unrealistic, and at some points you absolutely must use the power-ups in order to finish. But then, that’s the nature of the game and it’s what provides the challenge to keep you coming back for more.

The camera system allows you to rotate and tilt your viewpoint for comfort before you take a shot. The only issue is that some holes become tricky to determine because at times you simply cannot judge where the flag is located, even with binocular view selected (achieved by hitting the square button). However, once you’ve played a problematic hole a view times this issue resolves itself.

The heart of the game revolves around the control scheme. It’s all about hitting the ball with the correct amount of power in the right direction, which you control via the d-pad or left stick (d-pad only on the hardest putting mode). You can choose from three types of control selected under the options menu, which include: Easy, 3-Click and Direct. The higher the difficulty, the greater the point multiplier (Easy gives you 1x, the other two give you 2x) - but I did find some issues with the putting controls. Of the three modes, I found Easy the least difficult (obviously), followed by 3-Click. Direct, on the other hand, seemed a little broken, and I started to wonder about its inclusion in the game.

With Easy you click once to start the power range and once more to hit the ball when the meter achieves the desired power. Fair enough. Under 3-Click you press once to set the power, once more to hit the ball, and a third time for accuracy. On Direct, the power of the stroke is applied by moving the left stick backwards then pushing it forward. Supposedly, the more you pull back, the more power you apply to the ball. However, it didn’t seem to work so well. Even with very light pull backs the ball would sometimes fly off the handle with far too much power. It wasn’t as intuitive as I’d have liked.

There are eight types of power-ups in the game; each is represented by a transparent coloured ball placed strategically along various holes. The power-ups include: Speed Burst, Magnet Hole, Flying Ball, Shockwave, Sticky Ball, Super Size, Heavy Ball and Guided Ball. The names are pretty self-explanatory. When you hit your ball through a power-up, you gain that power, and can execute it by pressing the X button. You can read about each of the power-ups and what they do in the instructions menu, but the problem is you’ll need to memorize them based on colour, because in the game there is no text indicator. It will take quite a few play-throughs to remember what each colour represents.

Lastly, creating and sharing your own mini golf courses adds a lot of depth to this game. You have access to each theme and tons of different pieces to build with. You can mix and match, and it’s pretty straight forward. The fact that Zen included this in a game at such great value is a huge bonus.


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