Who can’t resist the allure of miniature golf? I say, let the Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmers of the world have “fun” hitting a ball over 200 yards inside boring, stuffy country clubs. I want my golf courses made up with giant windmills, elaborate castles, and tricked out gorilla statues that light up and make sounds whenever you get a hole in one. I love mini-golf: there’s nothing better than spending an afternoon with friends as we putt our way across zany courses made up with all sorts of fun obstacles and pitfalls. Zen Studios, purveyors of the fine Zen Pinball and accompanying tables, step out of the arcade and give their take on a favorite pastime of mine.
Infinite Minigolf offers two ways to play: Quick Play and Tournament. Tournament is the most straightforward of the set and features competitive play against friends or AI in nine holes of minigolf. There are three stylized courses available that are designed around the theme of a child’s bedroom, a haunted mansion, and Santa’s workshop in the North Pole. Now, miniature golf shouldn’t need an introduction, but just in case, it is merely a shortened version of actual golf. The goal is the same: get the ball into the hole at the end of the course while dodging or strategically using obstacles to reach the hole with the shortest amount of swings. Courses get more and more complicated as you get closer to the ninth hole and often require some creative thinking and smart use of the game’s wild power-ups. These items allow the player to do crazy things such as remotely control the direction of the ball, give it a rocket powered speed boost, toss it up into the air, double the ball’s size, and stop it on a dime. Completing each hole gets you points (with extra thrown in for good play), and finishing an entire course grants special cosmetic rewards for your avatar.
Tournament's biggest problem is that it gets boring really fast. I thought it strange that you’re forced to play through all four courses in Casual mode in order to unlock Normal (and play through it again to unlock Hard). Casual offers little in the way of challenges, as there are mechanics put in place that help the player make a Hole in One nearly every time. Once I unlocked Normal mode, I was disappointed to see that each course uses the same holes for each difficulty setting. Quick Play is more interesting because of its variety. Unlike Tournament, these courses are a random collection of user generated content. As a result, they tend to have a lot more personality than those designed by Zen. The deviousness and creativity on display paint a picture of a community that has made good use of the included level editor. If I have the patience for this sort of thing, I could see myself really getting into the practice of designing my own minigolf courses.
An issue I noticed that was consistent across Quick Play and Tournament mode was the swing system. The practice of hitting the golf ball is a simplified version of those used in "regular" golf games. Pulling back on the analog stick adds power to the swing, with more added the longer it is held back. I found the setup to be far too sensitive for my liking. No matter how gentle I pulled back, I’d always have more power than I needed, which would then throw off my game. There were even a few times when the game failed to register a response to the actions being done on the controller. What all this accomplishes is to make precision shots and tricky maneuvers harder to pull off than they should.
Although it won’t stand shoulder to shoulder with other visual powerhouses on the PlayStation 4, Infinite Minigolf is a colorful game that bubbles with personality. I like the design of the stylized avatars and the animations that make up the background elements in each course are really fun. I noticed sometimes, especially when the camera zooms in on the course and the characters within, that the game has the look of a remastered PlayStation 3 or iOS game. The added VR mode for PlayStation VR owners doesn’t do enough to justify the time spent putting it into the game. All it does it put you at the same height of the third person camera. There’s really nothing immersive about the virtual setup, making it feel tacked on. All that said, this is a type of game that ultimately doesn’t need to dress to impress.
At the end of the day, Infinite Minigolf is one of those games you’d play once or twice before putting it aside, occasionally bringing it out when friends and family come over. Passing the controller around for each hole would be a lot more fun that blitzing through the courses by yourself. The included level editor will surely attract the kind of person that loves to spend hours crafting elaborate stages in games like LittleBigPlanet and ModNation Racers. With the limited content provided by Zen Studios, I do feel as if they are relying on the community to keep the game alive. It’d be nice to see Zen support it with additional content. As the only minigolf game available for the PlayStation 4, Infinite Minigolf isn't perfect, but it manages to get the job done.
Librarian by day, Darkstation review editor by night. I've been playing video games since the days of the Commodore 64 and I have no interest in stopping now that I've made it this far.