Review: Electronic Arts Mini Golf
Company: Electronic Arts
Title: Mini Golf
Players: One to Two
Compatible: iPod 5G
Golf games have come a long way in the past fifteen years, but you wouldn't know it from playing Electronic Arts' Mini Golf ($5), an overhead-view rendition of miniature golf that's visually a few steps backwards from the golf games released for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo back in the late 1980s and early 1990s. EA has stripped this title down to the aesthetic core, doing away with split-screens, 3-D presentations, and special effects, regressing to a level that's not even close to par for the iPod's course. Only if you can ignore its poor audiovisual presentation will you realize that there's a somewhat fun, though way-too-simple golf title here.
Mini Golf has three courses - Tiki, Egypt, and Sideshow - each of which is a large, flat overhead map divided into 18 miniature golf holes. With very little animation, the game drops moving dot guides onto each hole to let you position your golfer and his or her club, then take quick shots from the tee to the hole. The only timing you’ll need is a single quick click on a power meter that makes the club swing harder; in part because this is miniature golf, EA has done away with multiple clubs, wind, putting screens, and other features that add depth to other golf games. Up to two players can participate in a Pass ‘n Play mode which lets you hand off the iPod to another person between shots - as with all multiplayer iPod games, a headphone splitter or add-on speaker accessory will be the second player’s only way to enjoy the audio dimension of the game.
Sometimes, the utter simplicity of the presentation is thoughtlessly bad. Trying to putt next to a hole occasionally posits your character’s icon right in front of your target, limiting your visibility and screwing up your shots. The game’s only special effect is a once-per-hole rotation of the overhead map from its initial orientation to the starting position of the next hole; simple ambient sound effects are heard in the background as you’re putting away. Poorly animated obstacles such as pop-out snakes on the Tiki course and buzzsaws on Sideshow create most of your “Out of Bounds” impediments; if you shoot poorly and fail to match the par (“average”) number of shots for all 18 holes combined, you can’t unlock the next course.
We’ll admit to being long-term fans of golf video games, and having played dozens of golf games over the years, this is amongst the least engaging we’ve seen. The only real challenge here is that, according to the promotional page, each hole is a “unique geometric puzzle,” so you can “find the hole-in-one solution” if you want to achieve a great score. Our feeling is that it’s not ultimately worth the time. Other titles released for the iPod have clearly shown the difference between cell phone gaming technology and the iPod’s superior hardware; Mini Golf instead challenges you to keep caring from stage to stage, something that you’d need to be a golf fan - and then, not one who cares that this is only stripped-down miniature golf - to do. Given EA’s storied history of golf video games, currently dominated by the popular multiconsole title Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf, Mini Golf’s simplicity is more a curse than a blessing; this is barely worth the low asking price.