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Review: Infinite Minigolf

Putt putt DIY A video game about miniature golf is sort of strange, if you think about it. Minigolf is already an imitation of full-scale golf, reduced to putting and avoiding obstacles.

Making a video game based on minigolf just adds another layer of abstraction to the sport. Zen Studios made their name with Zen Pinball, a comprehensive pinball simulator you can play on pretty much every platform out there. The tables available tend to be mostly realistic with just a few fantastic elements to spice things up and remind you you’re playing a video game.

That’s also a fairly good description of their most recent project, Infinite Minigolf[1]. The studio branched out in 2010 with Planet Minigolf on the PS3, and Infinite Minigolf is a successor of sorts. Zen’s experience with ball physics translates nicely to their latest offering, but there are some strange design decisions that make me think the project may have bumped into some obstacles along the way.
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Infinite Minigolf (PS4, PSVR, Xbox One, Switch [reviewed], Steam, HTC Vive, Oculus Rift)
Developer: Zen Studios
Publisher: Zen Studios
Released: July 25, 2017 (all other platforms) July 28, 2017 (Switch)
MSRP: £14.99 A golf game like this is entirely dependent on its physics, and fortunately, Infinite Minigolf delivers in this area. The ball reacts just as you’d expect, and you can judge your angles and use geometry to your advantage if that’s what the course requires.

Instead of pressing a button three times to gauge power and accuracy, you simply aim your ball and pull back the left stick to determine how hard you’d like to hit it, then release the stick to take the shot. Courses usually have point bonuses and a power-up or two that can be collected by rolling through them, and power-ups can be activated by pressing the confirmation button. There’s a wide array of power-ups available but you can only hold one in reserve at a time, so it’s often advantageous to use them as quickly as you can so you can stack a few.

There are three course types you can play with, each of which has their own special hazards and decorations. The standard course is called Giant Home, and everything here is made of cardboard and duct tape, with large toys and electronic equipment providing obstacles. The other two courses are both holiday themed.

Nightmare Mansion has a Halloween aesthetic, while Santa’s Factory’s inspiration should be fairly obvious. Each of the different courses are unique and interesting, but it might have been nice to have a couple more options available. I wouldn’t mind having a standard, green turf option to play around with, for example.

Infinite Minigolf allows players to create and share holes online, similar to games like LittleBigPlanet or Mario Maker. The good news is, it doesn’t matter what system you buy Infinite Minigolf for, as player creations are cross-platform and compatible with every version of the game.

You can rate a course with what looks like an emoji when you’ve finished with it, or just leave the creator a virtual pat on the back. There’s also a decent selection of pre-made courses included, and these tend to feature interactive elements such as a dog you can jump your ball over, or a Yeti that’ll hit it with a snow shovel. The course creator is robust and easy to use, and there are several special features you can add to your course to set it apart.

Unfortunately, Infinite Minigolf has the same problem many creator-driven games have: most people who play this type of game aren’t designers. Player-made content varies wildly in difficulty and quality, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to separate the dreck from the good stuff. I can’t count how many holes I played in quickplay that were straight lines, obstacle free, and made so that a full power swing from the default position would collect all the point bonuses and guarantee a hole-in-one.

This isn’t Zen’s fault, but a better discovery system would be helpful here to encourage more creative experimentation. It’s not much fun playing Mario when the flagpole is three blocks from the start.

Since your abilities never change in Infinite Minigolf, Zen chose to make personalizing your avatar the focus of the main gameplay loop. Completing tournaments or beating the goal score on a player-made hole earns you cards which can be exchanged for cosmetic items for your character. The items available for purchase are gated by your level, which can be raised by completing challenges.

You can also earn coins by completing challenges, and these can be exchanged for randomized card packs. The whole thing smacks of a free-to-play system, but there doesn’t seem to be a way to exchange real-world money for additional cards or coins. It’s a strange design choice and makes me think Infinite Minigolf may have started development as an F2P game.

Multiplayer options are nicely varied, and you can play online or in the same room by passing a controller around. I didn’t get to try out the virtual reality functions since I was playing the Switch version, but all major VR platforms are represented. If you’re buying on the Switch to play on the go, keep in mind you’ll need a dedicated internet connection to play any of the player-made holes.

If you don’t have access, you’ll be limited to the built-in courses created by Zen. While the game plays well and looks and sounds pleasant, I did run into some annoyances.

If your ball fails to clear a hill and ends up in a dip, it’ll roll back and forth until all of its kinetic energy has been expended, and there’s nothing you can do but wait. The aspect ratio can’t be altered, and on the Switch, it’s optimized for the handheld mode. If your TV has a different ratio, some UI elements might end up partially off-screen.

And if there’s something between your ball and the camera, you’d better be good at guessing, because you’ll have to take your shot more or less blindfolded. I’ve never strapped a bulldog to my face before, but Infinite Minigolf let me simulate the experience. I was also less than pleased with the celebratory animations the player characters perform when they do something well.

They can be skipped if you press the confirm button while they’re playing, but there’s no way to turn them off entirely. The male avatar’s animations are pretty standard; fist pumps, disco moves, things like that. By comparison, the female avatar’s moves are sort of sexist.

She’ll turn her back and wink at the camera or take a series of selfies when she gets a hole-in-one. I played a few rounds with my wife, and she seemed thoroughly disgusted with this behavior by the fifth hole.

Infinite Minigolf shows a lot of promise, but in its current state it’s bland. Apart from the course creator, there’s just nothing here that stands out from other minigolf titles. Zen has always been good about supporting their offerings after release, and I’m hopeful Infinite Minigolf will continue to receive updates to improve the experience.

As it is, it’s a decent time, but hard to recommend if you’re not excited by the prospect of making your own courses. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]


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Infinite Minigolf reviewed by Kevin McClusky 6.5

ALL RIGHT

Slightly above average or simply inoffensive.

Fans of the genre should enjoy it a bit, but a fair few will be left unfulfilled.
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References

  1. ^ Infinite Minigolf (www.infiniteminigolf.com)
  2. ^ Login (www.destructoid.com)
  3. ^ Sign up (www.destructoid.com)
  4. ^ The Destructoid Reviews Guide (www.destructoid.com)

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