Few activities bring up strong feelings of nostalgia like mini golf. Whether it’s a simple course or a miniature mountain, it’s pure and simple fun. Zen Studios has brought the light-hearted sport to the PS3 in budget-priced PSN title, Planet Minigolf. Has their endeavor resulted in a final product worth your time and money?
Planet Minigolf’s main menu loads players into an animated Caribbean shack. Your chosen character is sitting in a wicker chair, patiently waiting to hit the course. A total of five playable characters are available but represent stereotypical architypes: the curvaceous cowgirl, a massive bodybuilder, a blue-haired schoolgirl, a skater punk and the mall-rat blonde. It’s possible to customize your character with a minimal selection of clothing, putters and balls, but most items are locked until you play through much of the game.
Getting started is quick and easy because the load times are barely noticeable. It only takes 10-15 seconds to load a set of three hole, which keeps the action moving. Even the load screens provide interaction in the form of floating Plaroid pictures of the course that are moved about by slick six-axis control. Pausing in-game will allow you to reset the ball (at the cost of a stroke), restart the entire round, give up (finishes the hole with a score of 15) or learn how to play. Granted, helpful hints will pop-up when you first play or select a game mode. The problem is that much more direction is needed than what is initially provided, especially when it comes to the camera.
One of the biggest issues I have with Planet Minigolf is the camera control. Maybe I am accustomed to having a “fly over” or “preview” option while playing other golf titles or maybe I want to see the entire hole to plan my attack. Unfortunately, even the “binocular view” turns out to be unwieldy and downright useless in some cases.
What’s sad is that the camera controls (or lack thereof) prevent you from being able to inspect the detail on each course. Planet Minigolf contains 144 pre-made courses set in four different environments. Buccaneer’s Hideout is the pirate bay complete with sunken ships, treasure, and crabs. Soho is set in the heart of England with neon lights and helicopters flying overhead. The Polar Station adds slippery surfaces in front of a crashed UFO backdrop. Finally, the Ancient Valley puts players in a jungle as they hit through ancient Mayan ruins.
Zen Studios completely trusted their level designers and the end product shows it. Each locale is fully realized with wildlife and ambient sounds. Little things like the rails that keep you on the course vary by location from straight to curved to make you change your strategy. I was anxious to finish a hole to see what I would be challenged with next. Even mundane levels are spiced up with animals (ants, crabs, snakes, and more) that will interfere with your perfect shot. The characters that you aren’t currently playing as will sometimes be sitting on the sidelines watching you play.
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