|System: PS3 (MOVE)||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Zen Studios||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Sony Computer Entertainment Studios||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: Sept. 17, 2010 (update)||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1-6||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Everyone 10+||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Andrew Groen
I have a lot of very fond memories from my childhood that involve miniature golf. In a lot of ways it's really the perfect group sport. It requires no physical prowess, it's inherently silly so nobody in their right mind could take it too seriously, and its rules are incredibly simple so anybody can start playing immediately. Some of these qualities translate well to the video game world, and others don't translate at all. The result is often a game like Planet Minigolf, a game that is generally fun because of its minigolf roots, yet oddly at its worst because its a video game.
Unlike other sports simulations like football or basketball, a miniature golf game doesn't satisfy the player's dreams of being an athletic superstar performing a the top of their game in front of thousands. Minigolf is available to just about everyone, and furthermore you can go play it...right now. Many minigolf games try to compensate for that fantasy aspect of sports games by introducing impossible courses with loops and all manner of imaginative hazards. Planet Minigolf is no different. Its successes are identical to those that have preceded it in the genre, and its failures are the same as well. Planet Minigolf will give you everything you probably think you're getting when you purchase a minigolf game.
The big inclusion now, though, is PlayStation Move support which allows you to use your Move controller just like a real putter. In theory. In reality it doesn't quite work as well. Don't get me wrong, it works decently most of the time, but there are a number of faults which keep it from being as fun as it could be.
The Move controller works similarly to an imaginary putter. You hold the controller downward towards the ground, swivel left or right to aim, and then swing the controller to enact your putt. All of this is fine, but there's a very simple problem with this control system. The amount you have to swing to hit the ball in Planet Minigolf doesn't match up with the swing size and speed of real life. It becomes a problem when someone who knows how a ball reacts when hit with a golf club tries to play the game. In order to get the ball to move even a foot, you have to take a several foot backswing and accelerate quite a bit. In essence, in order to get the ball to go 15 feet in Planet Minigolf, you have to use a swing that would make the ball go fifty or more feet in real life.
This is usually not that big of an issue. You sort of get used to it, and it wouldn't be a problem if the game were designed around these faults. But the game wasn't designed for PlayStation Move and it shows. Many challenges require you to apply between 75% and 90% power to a shot (for example) so that you make it over a ramp, but don't fly off the edge of the course. This is a simple challenge using the game's original control mechanism which uses a power gauge like in many other golf games. But when using the Move controller it is much harder to figure out how hard you have to swing to get it in that range. Furthermore, you can't know how hard you have to swing without first experimenting. Trial and error is a terrible thing in a game that can be won or lost by only one stroke.
But the trial and error isn't all that bad. The game is forgiving enough that it will only get under your skin once in a while, but rest assured it will get under your skin once in a while. Part of the problem, as previously mentioned, is that the courses are designed in a way that doesn't fit with the restraints of the new Move control system. There is too much precision in many places on even the easiest courses, and too many ways for the ball to veer off course. Putting the ball along a very narrow set of wood planks would be maddening if it weren't so amusing (that the developer put it there in the first place.) I don't often like to speculate on what the developer should have done instead, because it's impossible to know what was attempted and just turned out to be not much fun. However, designing the courses around precision seems to me to be a misstep. Timing-based challenges and physics/gravity challenges might have been more engaging and less frustrating.