Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Infinite Minigolf (NS, PS4, XB1, PC) Review

It's Tuesday, and for today's article on SuperPhillip Central I present to you the first review of August. It's the recently released Infinite Minigolf by Zen Studios. Let's have a swing at it with my review!

Not a hole-in-one as this game has some holes in IT.

I have fond memories of spending weekend afternoons with my dad. We'd occasionally take to one of the many mini golf courses around the area, now completely barren or gone in general. We didn't play seriously, nor did we even keep score. I just liked looking at the layouts of the courses and just hitting my colorful golf ball as hard as humanly possible, which for a 7-year-old wasn't too hard or impressive at all.

So when I get to relive my childhood and enjoy a round of mini golf I either take the chance to do so nowadays with friends or spend my time jumping at the chance to play mini golf digitally in virtual form. From the folks behind Zen Pinball comes a new mini golf game promising an infinite amount of potential playtime. It's fitting, then, that Zen Studios called their golf title Infinite Minigolf, available now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Though you can have infinite replay value theoretically with Infinite Minigolf's robust course creator, is that worth devoting a huge amount of time to the game for?

Who knew a banana could potentially give you a hole-in-one? This girl knew!
Infinite Minigolf comes with a whole host of tournaments featuring pre-made courses designed by the developers. The initial tournaments are incredibly easy, requiring basic putts to accumulate hole-in-one quite simply. This might lead players astray into thinking that the rest of the tournaments offer a low level of difficulty. This just isn't so. It's a shame that Zen Studios decided then to force players to complete each course theme's tournaments in a strict order. You have to play through one after the other in order, with the first four courses being beginner difficulty courses. Then, you take on the first course of the normal difficulty, which borrows the layout of the beginner courses but just adds more obstacles and increased putting challenges to consider and worry about. Again, you have to play each normal tournament in order until you get to the really challenging hard mode. Many players might not have the patience to stick with the tournament mode offerings because of this linear system of progression.

Mind not trying to chomp on my heels? I'm trying to putt over here!
Tournament mode in Infinite Minigolf has twelve courses for each of the three themes of the game: playing in miniature form in a teen or tween's room, a haunted Halloween-themed course, and a winter wonderland starring Santa Claus. The score system involves getting in the hole in as few strokes as possible, but the focus isn't on stroke play here. Instead, it's a combination of strokes, points, and collecting items. You get points from doing everything from getting it in the hole (whether that be a birdie, eagle, bogey, or whatever), collecting a purple crystal that bestows a 2,000 point bonus, nabbing blue gems, ricocheting off walls, and more. Your total points are added up for the hole, as you compete against three other players, in this case AI players, though this is merely told through point totals at the end of each hole. Getting a hole-in-one is a fantastic proposition, of course, but it also doubles the amount of points you earn in the following hole, allowing you to rack up a sizable amount of points in a jiffy.

It's only fitting that we use a hockey stick as our golf club of choice in this winter wonderland.
Outside of the tournament modes, there is quick play, giving players a choice to play by themselves or with other players. Thankfully, all that is needed for multiple players is one duo of Joycon controllers or a Switch Pro Controller to pass around to each player when it's their turn. Multiplayer is swift and fun, and it delivers a whole host of options to you, such as the elimination of items, the ability to change from the tournament mode rules to stroke play, and much more.

The controls present in Infinite Minigolf have a decent amount of precision to them. You line up your shot, which can be a bit troublesome at times because when you move the left analog stick to the right, for instance, your golfer might aim more to the right than you would have liked, so you're trying to force him into the proper position and not overcompensate. Swinging is as simple as holding back the right analog stick. The farther you hold it back, the more powerful your shot will be. On the Nintendo Switch with its small length of its analog sticks, turning down the sensitivity on the sticks is a must. It's very easy to be setting up your shot, pull back, and release at an inopportune time, either striking the ball slightly too hard or just too soft. That said, some better displays on how far your ball is going to be hit with your current set power would be helpful, as during the beginning hours of Infinite Minigolf, at least for me, it took a good deal of practice to sink into my mind how far I should hold the right analog stick back when I was preparing to swing.

Push the stick back and let go to swing, and hope your aim is true.
Infinite Minigolf is centered around customization, whether it's your playable avatar or the ability to build and create your own holes. Avatars start out with a small selection of clothing to choose from--everything from shirts, pants, shoes, golf clubs, golf balls, hairstyles, eye colors, glasses of both the prescription and the sun varieties, and types of belt wear, with a particular director of Kingdom Hearts would absolutely adore. As you gain levels of experience from completing specific goals, the amount of items you can buy increases. You also earn cards that can be used to purchase avatar items. Unfortunately, it's required to have a particular card type to buy something from specific avatar item categories. For example, you need 15 shirt cards in order to buy a shirt. It can be a bit confusing and the game does little to explain how this system works. That said, cards come by fairly easily, whether by winning tournaments or playing created holes online.

The amount of items your avatar has to begin with is limited, but with more levels gained, the options open.
That's perhaps the most interesting feature of the entire Infinite Minigolf package. Well, I sure as hell know it was the most interesting feature for me. While there are only three course themes to choose from at the date of this review (hopefully more will come, but nothing has been hinted at regarding this), each theme has its own obstacles, hazards, and objects to choose from. Better yet, placing pieces of course together is extremely intuitive. This is a good thing and a bad thing, as yes, being able to design a fabulous hole in a relatively quick duration is awesome, but as you can guess, this means it's much easier to post crappy holes to clog up the Infinite Minigolf course browser. Yep, I'm shifting through these "plz like", "fast way to level up", and "OMG this hole has no coherent flow or design whatsoever" type holes.

An example of a created hole you can make. Just don't make this one.
 It is mine. Original course: do not steal.
Infinite Minigolf has a modest presentation to it. The visuals don't appear to push any of the hardware, but at the same time, lots of usage with physics is present. It's a shame that it doesn't always work well. One particular Santa's Workshop level would periodically have a pyramid of ice blocks fall before I could even hit the ball underneath them. Instead, they blocked any opportunity I could make at passing them. Then there are some oddball collision issues, affecting how a shot would hit a corner or object in a way that would be baffling to say the least. However, physics issues are few and far in-between, but when they do rarely pop up, it can be quite frustrating. There are some performance issues as well, at least with the Nintendo Switch version, where the game would just crash with an error screen. This was a rare occurrence.

Overall, Infinite Minigolf is an affordable mini golf built with a lot of heart, and it plays rather well, too. I would prefer to have more course themes to it, less crashes, slightly better controls, and more consistent physics, but what Zen Studios has done is bring me back to a simpler time where I'd hang out with my dad and play "putt-putt." Well, if our putt-putt had werewolves, spirits, elves, Santa Claus, and more interacting with our putts... But you know what I mean.

[SPC Says: B]

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