When it comes to sports there is only one sport for men. Not football, not baseball, or even that awesome sport of hockey. There is only one: Mini-Golf. “ËœReal’ Golf involves men chasing a small white ball across a large expanse of lawn. Yawn. I’m sure there are people that enjoy that sort of thing but as far as I’m concerned I prefer a real challenge. I’m talking about windmills, trapdoors, and narrow bridges to try and cross. A sport where dinosaurs and goofy looking mascots only exist in order to stare mockingly at you as you attempt to get par.
I love Mini-Golf.
In fact I’d like to give a shout-out to the Spring Lake Park Mini Golf Course near me in order to hopefully get a free game sometime as they are the best miniature golf in my area of Minnesota.
So when a mini-golf game comes to the Wii I sit up and take notice. After the golf game on Wii Sports demonstrates how golf is a sport that naturally lends itself to the Wii motion controls it makes sense that someone eventually created a Mini-Golf game for the system. But is it any good?
Well the first thing you’ll notice about King of Clubs is the fact that the game doesn’t look so good. The game is a port from a PS2 game that was released in Europe last year and the visuals weren’t upgraded to the new hardware, but even for a PS2 game it isn’t very good looking. If jagged edges in games bother you than you shouldn’t even bother to play this game since there are more jagged edges in the game than a broken window.
At the same time, the game doesn’t really need that much in the way of graphics. Sure, it’d be nice, but for the type of game this is it’s not like you really need a high definition experience in order to enjoy Mini-Golf. The character models are pretty generic, though the characters that represent they’re stages are pretty well done and are amusing. The courses are intentionally given this run down look, which works with the theme of the game. The game is set in a run down Mini-Golf course in Vegas, and the courses and backgrounds reflect this theme. Instead of Dinosaurs running around in the background of the Prehistoric themed level, instead they’re cardboard cut-outs of dinosaurs that are pasted onto sticks and move around on certain paths.
Personally I liked this touch as it really reflects what you’d see at a real miniature golf course. Had they used real 3D dinosaurs in the background of the game, it would’ve taken a lot more explaining. Still, even with these small touches this is not the type of graphics that you’d expect in a Wii title. The quality of the graphics, or lack thereof, is something that you’d expect to find in a first generation PS2 game.
At least there are a lot of modes to play around with. You can choose to play through career mode, which includes 96 different holes to play through, with 5 different themes for the courses. There’s a prehistoric level, an Egyptian level, a Medieval level, a beach level, etc. As you progress through the game’s career mode you will have the opportunity to earn more money in order to unlock items. If you are playing by yourself you have several different options of play, such as a speed mode, which is a mode that’s timed, or to just practice individual holes. There are also a whole bunch of multiplayer options. You can play Grand Prix, where you go through a course and if you hit certain icons with your ball you can force the other players to use random clubs/balls. There’s a simple party mode if you just want to golf without the other gimmicks. There’s the same speed run as seen in the multiplayer game. Plus, exclusive to the Wii version of the game, there is a mode called Golf Warriors.
Golf Warriors takes a little bit of explanation. You know how I said you could unlock items through the single player mode? These items include different clubs and different balls, each with their own special abilities. In Golf Warriors the game challenges you and the people you are playing with to play with a different club and ball for each time you swing. However you all get the same random ball and club for each swing. For example, if you have to start with the Glue Ball (on that sticks to surfaces and doesn’t roll as much) and the Silver Putter (a club that chips well, though reduces the distance that a ball is hit) than ever other player will start with that same combination. This is actually a pretty great mode as it’s balanced since it gives everyone the same random combination, and it also requires the ability to think about how to use the random combo that you happened to get.
While there are certainly enough holes to play through and enough modes to mess around with, no matter what course you choose or what mode you play there is one constant in the game. The background music is going to suck. Seriously, who thought that people would want to listen to the same loop of 30 seconds of generic recorded music? My best suggestion is to immediately go into the options and turn the background music down or to mute your TV. I chose to listen to the radio instead. Oddly enough, someone must’ve thought that the music was pretty good since you can choose to purchase each level’s soundtrack with money you earn in the game. Obviously I’d advise against this.
The game controls using the Wii remote, but in a different way than any other golf game that is on the system. Instead of just swinging backwards with the controller and then pushing forwards, what you do in King of Clubs is line up your shot, then press the A button. After that you choose the power of your shot by swinging the Wii remote backwards. At least that’s the theory. In practice it’s more about wrist movement than actually swinging your arm backwards. One you have chosen what power level you want to use you hold down the A button and swing forward. The biggest difficulty of the control scheme stems from the fact that only certain areas of the power bar are marked, for the rest of the bar you have to use your best judgment on how far 8 feet is. This leads to some frustrating moments where you will hit the ball right to the edge of a hole, but not enough to make it into the hole. While this isn’t exactly the most accurate control scheme that could’ve been used, it still works well within the game and had they more accurately marked the powerbar it would’ve led to there being no guesswork in the game at all. Maybe I’m just used to playing Mini-Golf in real life, but half the time in real life when I swing the putter I have no idea where that ball is going to end up. At least in this game you have a pretty good idea.
One of my biggest grips with the control scheme is the fact that every player is required to have a Wii remote in order to play. Considering that this is the type of game where only one person can go at a time, it doesn’t seem like it’d be that hard to program the game in such a way where everyone could just pass around the same controller.
In one of the ways King of Clubs most impressed me is in the balance of the game in terms of course design. I’ve played a lot of Mini-Golf, and much of that on courses that are just plain bad. Some people think that if you put a windmill onto a putting course you’ve created a Mini-Golf course. Not so. There is a certain balance to how you create a hole and its hazards in order to create a hole that is both challenging, but designed in such a way that a person can also achieve a hole-in-one through a Rube Goldberg-like process. It is in this way that King of Clubs succeeds over anything else. The music may suck, the graphics might be dated, but damned if these people haven’t created some fine Mini-Golf courses.
What is even more impressive is that these courses not only work as courses that are amazing with a standard putter and standard golf ball, but it’s also balanced to the special clubs and balls within the game. In some ways each hole is in itself a puzzle with the goal being to find a way to use the hazards within the hold and special clubs and balls in a way to either score a hole-in-one, or even a hole-in-none!
Though the courses are great, the order in which they are presented is sort of confusing. The beginning level is also one of the most difficult to play, especially as when you continue through the career mode you unlock more special clubs and balls in which you can overcome obstacles with. Because of this I found myself sweating in order to make Par on the first few courses, but easily making under par in the later ones.
Multiplayer is balanced by just making it so that each player has a large sum of money to spend on different special clubs, or Mulligans in order to handicap themselves.
Other than complaining about the graphics or the music, or the slightly twitchy controls there is one issue that above all made me want to stomp on the game. The save system. In the beginning of the game you have the ability to create your own profile, but nowhere in the profile creation is there an option to save, nor is there anything in the options screen. The game does not have an autosave feature and nowhere in the manual does it mention how you are supposed to save your game. You can only save after you’ve played a hole and during the score screen you are supposed to press the 1 button. I could not figure this out to the point where I had to email the developers in order to save my game. The text informing you to press the 1 button is small and easy to miss. Also when you load up your saved file the game will ask you if you want to load your save and the default answer is No.
Personally I don’t understand this method of saving. Considering so many titles are auto-save, or stop you from proceeding until you choose whether to save or continue, it seems weird that the developers chose this route with the save system. It certainly caused me a lot of frustration, and from message boards I know I’m not the only one.
Also, the manual is just terrible. The mascot of the game is an Elvis impersonator and the ENTIRE manual is written in an imitation of how Elvis Presly talks. So instead of “You might want to try your luck against the our pros” the manual will read “ya might wanna try yer luck aginst ahr course pro there”. Hey, it was cute for the introduction, but the whole manual written like this? Overkill.
And since people seem to enjoy looking at pictures of other people embarrassing themselves with the Wii here’s some pictures that were taken while I played the game with two other DHGF reviewers Alix and Adam:
Modes: Above Average
Replayability: Very Good
Final Score: Mediocre Game
Short Attention Span Summary:
This game was one of the hardest I’ve had to review. In many ways it’s not a very good video game. The graphics are dated, the sound is awful, the controls are passable, and the save system is mystifying. But as a fan of Mini-Golf, the courses are great and I enjoyed playing this multiplayer with other people and I will probably be playing this game a year or two from now just because I like the courses. If those that developed this game ever give up game design and make a Miniature Golf course in the real world, I’ll be there in an instant.