Review: 101 Minigolf World (DSiWare)

This putt-putt is below par

Though there are already two DSiWare games based on serious golfing, putt-putt (or crazy golf to our European chums! - Ed) has remained oddly under-represented – until now. Teyon has brought us yet another DSiWare game almost straight from the PC: 101 MiniGolf World, featuring over 100 different holes to play, tons of different obstacles and a one-system multiplayer mode allowing you to share the experience with up to eight of your friends. It sounds like fun, but if you're the type to throw your clubs around when you don't make a shot, you'll want to have something handy while playing this game so you don't wind up throwing your DSi through a wall.

There are two modes of play: Single and Multiplayer. Of the six 'islands' in the game, each with its own 18-hole course, only the first is available at the outset. Once you've gotten past a hole, you may replay it at your leisure in order to lower your stroke count, as each subsequent island/course is unlocked by having completed at least half of the prior island's available holes at or below par.

As there is no tutorial available, the game begins by showing you how the camera works. Moving your stylus up and down on the screen zooms in and out on the ball, and left or right rotates the view. A marker appears while you're lining up your shots to help you aim straight for the hole. The camera is centered on your ball at all times, which makes lining up certain shots annoying, especially if they involve shooting your ball up a ramp and onto a platform farther away, but once you're ready to take a crack at it, tap the golf ball icon in the lower right-hand corner of the touchscreen. You'll then be told to slide your stylus upward to hit the ball. How much power you put behind your 'swing' depends on how fast you slide your stylus: a quick flick will send the ball flying, but a slow drag will give it the tiniest little bump. The meter to the right will light up after you've taken your shot, showing you how much force was really behind your swing. If you aren't satisfied with your swing, tapping the 'undo' button in the lower left corner will allow you to retake your most recent shot, though the undo button will not appear if your ball went out of bounds.

Some of the holes feature interesting obstacles – fans that blow your ball into the air, ramps with accelerators, and loop-the-loop slides – but the more traditional sand-traps, hills, and fallen logs are also strategically scattered about the landscape. There may also be multiple paths to the hole available to you, or shortcuts that can be taken to shave strokes off of your score, but however you get to the end, once you're there the game will tally your score for you and move on to the next hole. You may view your top hole-by-hole scores at any time from the main menu.

Unfortunately, what should have been a fun game of putt-putt golf quickly becomes irritating as the camera and swing technique combine to make this an overall frustrating experience. There will be shots you'll have to make where your ball has to go up a ramp and fly across the water to a faraway island, a feat requiring pinpoint accuracy and a steady hand. The camera focusing on the ball instead of moving freely makes it difficult to see how far away the landing spot is though, and there's no on-screen meter letting you know exactly how fast you're hitting your ball during the swing process – you'll only see that information after-the-fact. Together with the game not allowing you to undo shots where the ball lands out of bounds, you may spend quite a while trying again and again to get that last at-or-below-par stroke count you'll need to pass the first course.

Multiplayer mode is more of the same. All six courses are available at the outset this time, and you may choose how many holes you'd like to play. Up to eight people may play together, though only four of them may be profiles saved to the game – the rest will be guests. The player turns seem to be meted out not by strokes made but distance covered: once your ball has gone far enough or has gotten close enough to the hole, it'll be your opponent's turn. There's no pomp or fanfare between turns, so you'll have to be careful to watch out for which colour flag the ball in play is under and whose name is on the top screen. The top three players are awarded beautiful trophies and the scores from each hole played during Multiplayer, if high enough, will be added to your high score list if you played using your own profile.

101 MiniGolf World sticks close to the 'island' theme with flowers, rough-hewn logs, and palm trees scattered throughout each course, and of course the ocean slowly drifting past as you play. The 3-D graphics have little in the way of shadowing, however, so be careful to use the camera to thoroughly check your path for dips or hills as you play. As for the music, it's a repeating loop of inoffensive pop with a slight island flair thanks to the xylophone and drums. It's not the greatest music ever, but it won't really get on your nerves, either - not with the other problems this game has on tap.

As of this point in time, it must be mentioned that this game has a problem with locking up. The first time it happened was while attempting to load a new profile after having progressed through all the holes of the first island/course; the second while attempting to go back to the main menu from the middle of a Multiplayer game, and it was all downhill from there. The screen will go black, the music may or may not stop, and the DSi must be reset or turned off entirely. Once it's locked up once, it's all downhill from there; you'll gradually come to a point where the game must be deleted from your DSi and re-downloaded in order to play normally again, and all your scores and unlocked stuff will naturally be gone. Until this is fixed, in no way can this game be recommended in good conscience.

Editor's note: As always with our reviews, we try to be as thorough as possible and let you know of any major bugs we may encounter. Although we've done our best to highlight and replicate these issues, there is still the chance these bugs may be related to our technical setup and may not occur if you download the game yourself. We'll update this review accordingly if any new information becomes available.

Conclusion

Luck alone should not be a factor in progressing through a game like this, but unfortunately, that's the situation you'll find yourself in with 101 MiniGolf World. The fixed camera point and nearly unpredictable power behind your swing will throw precision shots to the winds, and the fact that you'll spend quite a while attempting to unlock each course will have you thanking your lucky stars this game didn't include the 1000+ holes of the original PC version.

Even if there were no issues with this game locking up and becoming unplayable, it's still more hassle than it's worth. If you really want to play some golf on your DSi, try one of the other available games instead and save yourself the headache.

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