Overall Score 73%
I'm a bit of a minigolf afficionado myself, and this together with my penchant for computer games, Dungeons & Dragons and astronomy were the main reasons I was relieved of my lunch money quite a lot in the school playground all those years ago. I used to ride my green dragster bicycle down to the local Putt-Putt minigolf centre with my mate from across the road and we'd play a couple of rounds before throwing all our pocket money into the Pac-Man and Frogger machines, and eat sno-cones until we got stomach cramps. Ahh, the good old days...
Unfortunately, I find that minigolf games tend to have a hard time simulating the feel of their real-life counterpart, unlike say, snooker games which can do this quite well. Although I am impressed with the sleek playability and visual attractiveness of Minigolf Mania, I can see an issue with the longevity of this title.
Firstly, any minigolf game needs to offer a plethora of courses or an easy to use course editor to keep things fresh. Minigolf Mania does not boast the former, but offers 3 courses of 18 holes each, which are admittedly quite different from one another. However, all 3 courses can easily be played in less than an hour, and after a couple of playthroughs, I must say the 54 holes provided are just not enough. The first playthrough was the most fun for me. With a simple mouse driven interface that casual gamers will feel at home with immediately, the game felt instantly accessible, and allowed me to concentrate on strategy for each hole rather than fumble with a dodgy control setup. The included tutorial levels (available in the demo) teach the player all that is needed to play with ease. Top marks for this.
Secondly, some of the hole designs are quite elaborate, and with all the moving platforms, lava, traps, jumps and such, increase the amount of luck needed by the same factor as they decrease the importance of strategy. Despite this boosting the fun of the hotseat multiplayer mode by being a great leveler for players of all skill levels, it can also induce keyboard mashing fits of frustration, as your ball hits an oddly angled boost pad and flies off into the adjacent tundra, ruining your high-scoring round. But hey - that's minigolf, I guess.
Lastly, the lack of a career mode or story mode limits the longevity more than anything else. Minigolf Mania presents itself as an action game moreso than a simulator, and a mode that gradually increases difficulty or introduces competition in a single player game would have been welcomed. On a positive note, the game does offer (aside from standard play) 3 other game modes. Race mode sees the player try to sink the ball in as little time as possible, stroke count being a much lesser consideration. Safari mode makes the player collect various African animal models placed around the hole before the cup is opened up to allow the ball to be sunk. Safari race mode is a manic combination of both as you may have guessed. All of the modes are fun for a while, but there's just no hook there to keep the player coming back for more.
Not all game content is available right from the start, and the player needs to accomplish various tasks to open up the courses and bonus golf balls. The annoying part of this is, there's no way of telling either what needs to be done to unlock things, or after they have been unlocked, what has been done to trigger them. Courses and balls will just appear in the menus after a game is completed, and as a side note, after a couple of hours play, I have unlocked most of them. There is seamless online connectivity to display the best scores of the day, and of all time so that you can compare your efforts to the rest of the community.
Aside from the colour palette which I personally find a little drab, the graphics present very favourably. The game has an intended cartoony feel to it and I especially like the hand drawn backgrounds. Minigolf Mania visually appeals from the well designed menu screens to the fireworks effects triggered when a ball is hit into the cup. Sound effects are realistic, and plentiful which also add to the overall experience. Music consists of a few repetitive ditties which after you've heard for the 50th time, will probably want to mute in the options menu. Either that, or risk having family members catch you humming them in the shower like that blasted commercial you heard on the radio the other day.
As far as minigolf games go, this is a fairly good one overall. Despite it's flaws it does boast excellent pick up and play appeal, good graphics and sound and an easy to navigate interface. Minigolf Mania is at it's best when played in hotseat mode with a couple of other players. Some of the unlockable balls can do tricks on command like spin left or right, jump up, speed boost forward or backwards or even zot other players balls in play. In solo play mode these tricks are either not very useful, or so powerful that it feels like cheating. In particular, the ball that pulls momentarily in the direction of the cup is really overpowered. In fact, multiplayer mode is so much better than solo play in this game, that it's a wonder (and a shame) that network multiplayer play options were not included.
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