Kidz Sports – Crazy Mini Golf Wii
There are few things in this world that really scare me. Granted I have an inexplicable fear of emus and Barry Manilow, but aside from that I regard myself as a fairly fearless sort of guy. The continuing success of Data Design Interactive’s ‘Popcorn Arcade’ series of games, however, is the sort of terrifying phenomena equal only to Nuclear War and the Bee Gees. For those fortunate enough to have avoided the likes of Billy the Wizard, Myth Makers and the excellently titled – but diabolically torturous – ‘Ninjabread Man’, Popcorn Arcade is a budget range for the casual market, notorious for lacking in any sort of quality whatsoever. Imagine then, my delight upon opening Crazy Mini Golf, to see the Popcorn Arcade logo plastered all over the place.
It’s difficult for anyone to approach a game from a series of such notoriety with complete neutrality when previous experiences have been so incredibly dire, but going by the almost tasteful presentation box the initial impression of Crazy Mini Golf was that this could be the one to break the mould. The latest entry in the ‘Kidz Sports’ sub-brand, for around 25 pounds Crazy Mini Golf boasts four different courses of 18 holes each, and comes bundled with a telescopic golf club controller that cradles the Wii Remote which according to the box provides ‘the most realistic golf swing ever’. It doesn’t.
In fact for a large portion of the game swinging the club isn’t even a requirement. The game is split into two parts, Arcade and Simulation. Both feature the same courses and holes, giving the choice of full 18, front nine and back nine, but involve completely different control methods. Going by the reading on the on-screen power meter, in arcade mode the real-life golf club must be brought up to the point at which the desired amount of power lies, followed by a simple press of the B button to initiate the in-game swing. For anyone just starting up the game and jumping straight in to the arcade version of the game, the exclusion of real-life physical swinging is completely baffling, until you start up simulation mode, that is.
I’m not sure how many of the team over at DDI have ever played mini golf in real life, but the only thing they manage to simulate here is the utter frustration of having to play it in the first place. Utilising ‘the most realistic golf swing ever’, the process of hitting the ball in simulation mode consists of; bringing the club up just past the hitting point so that the game doesn’t assume you’re trying to hit it, holding the button at the desired point on the power meter, adjusting the the power once again when the game decides that the remote has been moved even thought it’s been held in the exact same place as before, swinging the club with right amount of force to hit the ball at the right speed, starting again when the game interprets the swing incorrectly.
This process continues for the entire length of simulation mode, usually resulting in bogeys, double bogeys and more often than not, forfeits following too many attempts. The inclusion of arcade mode becomes clear, when you consider that the three courses unavailable from the beginning can only be unlocked by finishing the course under par. An achievement that seems impossible using the simulation mode’s shoddy golf swing interface. It renders the game practically unplayable, and Arcade mode’s answer of loading the swing and pressing the button comes about as close to fun as rubbing salt into your eyes. The only saving grace is that some of the holes feature quite interesting obstacles, but given the lack of control, it’s never possible to fully appreciate them for what they are.
It would be bad enough if this was the only issue with the game but the overall presentation is shockingly poor, considering what can be, and has been done with the Wii’s hardware. Despite the sunny Caribbean settings, visually it manages to continue the trend of earlier games in the series by being both graphically unimpressive and in many areas downright broken. The ball often appears to be submerged in the ground, the characters clip through scenery and there are times when the ball can pass through objects on the course. The soundtrack consists of four or five MIDI tracks looped throughout, the most noticeable being ‘Guantanamera’ which after the hundredth time of hearing is likely to have you committing yourself to the local asylum, possibly embodying the ‘crazy’ part of the game’s title.
Interestingly Crazy Mini Golf does introduce Popcorn Arcade’s previously absent ‘NuYu’ system. Not so dissimilar from Nintendo’s Miis, the NuYu (new you – do you see?) is an on-screen representation of the player that can be saved to the Wii Remote and used in upcoming Popcorn Arcade titles, should they be fool enough to invest in them. It offers a few extras over Miis with a wider range of customisable clothing and hair styles, but the creation interface is far less streamlined and can feel rather clumsy. At one point during the creation process I spent ten minutes attempting to remove a hat, only to discover I would have to back out and start again to get rid of it.
The one thing they manage to get right is the telescopic golf club peripheral that comes with the game. It’s sturdy, fairly comfortable to grip, and is designed for both left and right handed players, unlike the game itself which doesn’t support a left handed option. Whether this could be considered enough to warrant a purchase however is pretty unlikely.
As it stands, Kidz Sports Crazy Mini Golf represents everything that is wrong with the Nintendo Wii’s casual market. There’s plenty of potential for fantastic games, but companies like DDI are more than happy to churn out any old rubbish, chuck in a plastic accessory to pique interest and watch as the easy money comes rolling in. To mention Wii Sports in the same sentence as Crazy Mini Golf is something of a travesty, but the former is a million times better, far more accessible and comes free with the Wii console. Crazy Mini Golf however should be avoided at all costs.