King of Clubs PSP Review

Finally, after tonnes of normal golf games, a crazy-golf game comes onto the market for the PSP. In theory a console version of crazy golf sounds great.

Lets forget about the tiresomely boring story – it’s largely pointless. An Elvis impersonator opens a crazy golf theme park based around 5 rather banal themes, such as the astounding “Prehistoric area”. Does it feature dinosaurs? No. The creator is a cheap skate and has decided to create all the courses from cardboard cut-outs. It’s probably a coy move by the developer so they wouldn’t have to program a stunning vista. That said, I appreciate that full scene landscapes are probably a bit excessive for a mini golf game. Anyway that’s all you need to know really.

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Onto gameplay and it’s the usual thing – hit ball towards hole a lot and en-route you can pick up money, which is then spent on upgrading your.. erm.. club. Yes, indeed folks, welcome to innovation central. This time it’s not your ship, gun, or space marine as seen in every other game, but your golf club. These abilities, once bought, can be used on the course to assist you. Some of them are simple things like colour balls and colour trails. You could have a yellow ball and a blue trail. Which is nice. Others are things like spongy balls that will stop quickly or go faster and this nicely brings me onto my first gripe.

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It’s really hard to get an idea of how far a ball will go. The power guide bar only has 4 points and they’re not very exact. I appreciate they are only there for estimates but they could have given you a few more markers given it fills the bottom of the screen. As is, it’s very hard to judge the strength and this is made worse by the power ups because they cause the ball to act better (or worse). So here we run into a problem. If you can’t estimate how good your shot will be normally – how the hell can you judge with a powered up ball? The use of these types of power ups on a mini golf course almost cancels itself out because by the time you get to Jurassic’s “back 9” – the courses are all over the place and awash with obstacles. This in itself is fine and exactly where the skill of aiming, power (and in this case timing) comes from, but it’s not fine being unable to judge where your ball will land. It’s made worse by the fact that many holes that are par 4 become puzzles in themselves at times. I’m not saying they are impossible holes but the course complexity is such that it becomes more of a puzzle game. Mini golf lends itself to quick playing levels and by that you don’t really want to be thinking to much but initially at least you’ll be doing a lot of that and it’s very off putting.

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There are also speed pads and these are bloody deadly. Like Wipeout, if the ball lands on one it’ll go whizzing across the course, causing you all manor of problems and wasted shots. These usually manifest themselves on the last part of a hole after you’ve already crossed a minefield of obstructions and so basically come across as unfair – more so if you land the ball after an amazing shot.

The graphics themselves don’t really help. Rather then take a cutesy Japanese approach as seen in the likes of Everybody’s Golf, the levels are basically cheap movie sets of what they represent. Some of it is funny in a Monty Pythonesque way – little cut-outs waving and so forth but you can’t hope but think the whole game would have felt much better played in their true environments as the overall design doesn’t really lend itself well to immersion. This is a small, even moot point but it makes a huge difference in normal golf games which replicate the likes of weather and ambiance to the point where they become enjoyable in themselves.

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The camera is awful too, following the ball to the letter. It doesn’t affect gameplay, but does look very amateurish, and if the ball jumps for example – the camera jumps as well, resulting in a jerking motion. I would suggest a static cam would work wonders, but alas it’s not to be. The hole naming is also a sham at times. You expect a course with a name like “Lava mountain” (I forget the actual hole) to at least feature some form of lava – but not here. And there’s others too. They all sound exciting without actually being so. Musically it’s pretty awful , the first track in particular, but you can buy other tracks.

Any positives? Well mini golf by default is fun and this translates fairly well. There’s also a nice selection of courses even if they are rather generic. The other plus is the sheer variety of obstacles; dips, hills, bridges, cut-outs, moving obstructions and blocks popping up and down. But in the end the annoying level design, poor utilisation of the aim and power-ups are the main bunkers that stop this title from being a hole in one.

5 out of 10
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