When Gummy Bears Magical Medallion, the game so confident it doesn't need a properly punctuated title, was released earlier this month we weren't exactly left clamoring for a sequel or a spin-off. Its controls were stiff and aggravating, its level design bland and empty, its coding sloppy and its 3D effect was the first to ever make us feel physically sick. Now, however, we have Gummy Bears Mini Golf, which addresses precisely none of the issues its platforming predecessor had. As you might imagine, we're underwhelmed.
It's worth noting immediately, however, that Gummy Bears Mini Golf is a better game, if only because it aspires to so much less. It aims to be a simple mini golf game, and it delivers a simple mini golf game. That doesn't mean it's fun, of course, but it does mean that it accomplishes its own modest goal, and that's got to count for something. Hopefully the Gummy Bears can do even better in their next spin-off (we're guessing it's either Gummy Bears: Bear-Knuckle Boxing or Gummy Bears and Ninjabread Man at the Olympic Games) but if this is anything to go by, we wouldn't count on it.
The game itself offers several modes of play — Free Play, Career, League and Multi Player — but they're all pretty similar to each other. In Free Play you compete against one CPU-controlled opponent, in League you compete against more. Multi Player allows you to hand your 3DS to a friend with the assumed intention of never speaking to that person again. Career Mode sees you controlling a solitary Gummy Bear who spends his afternoon alone, quietly putting his way through a silent, charmless series of holes, which, when you think about it, is pretty much the saddest thing imaginable.
The worst thing about Gummy Bear Mini Golf is definitely its 3D effect, which doesn't quite work the way it should and is literally nauseating to look at. With this game, Magical Medallion and Bowling Bonanza 3D all featuring 3D this broken, we really wish Enjoy Gaming would pay a lot more attention to getting this to work properly.
The rest of the package isn't as egregiously bad, but it's still not very good. You have four individual profiles to use, and eight avatars to choose from including all of your favourite characters from Magical Medallion, such as Purple Gummy Bear, Orange Gummy Bear and Purple Gummy Bear #2. Hooray.
Customisation doesn't get much deeper than that, though you can purchase a small number of hats, T-shirts and novelty golf clubs with the coins you earn in Career Mode. This may not sound like much of a bonus, but after you've spent an hour staring directly at the backside of a totally nude Gummy Bear you'll be grateful for any clothing you can find.
The controls are touch screen only, which is fine in theory but a bit irritating in practice. For instance, something as simple as turning your Gummy Bear should be easy to map to the Circle Pad, but instead you need to swipe the stylus over a small area of the screen. If you want your Gummy Bear to turn more than a single step or two, this means you'll be swiping over and over again to do something that should require nothing more than moving the Circle Pad or pressing and holding the D-Pad. This is even worse than it might sound because you will probably need to turn him around and around to see the entire hole before putting, and this reveals itself before long as a very poorly thought out design choice.
The power meeter is adjusted simply by tapping it — no timing necessary — and tapping the illustration of the golf ball tells your Gummy Bear to make his shot. There's a welcome lack of complication to the controls, but it also feels rather stiff and limiting when moving your Gummy Bear is such a chore.
Of course, a game of mini golf is only as good as its courses, and the courses in Gummy Bears Mini Golf should appear as illustrations in the dictionary next to the word "bland". They are featureless, dull expanses of nothingness, broken up by an angled shot or a loose piece of flat scenery gliding impossibly back and forth. Fans of real-life mini golf know that the more creative the obstacle, the more fun the shot. Gummy Bears Mini Golf, on the other hand, seems to assume that as long as there's a hole somewhere it's good enough.
Even if these boring layouts were acceptable, the physics are not. The ball slips and slides around like it's coated in butter and rolling across a surface of flat Teflon. There's almost no friction at all, so a light tap can sometimes find your ball coasting and careening around much longer than it should. This gets especially tiresome when you're waiting for your ball to slow down and finally come to stop — when it feels like it should have done a full thirty seconds ago — so you can putt again, or when you're waiting for a CPU's unskippable turn to end. It's tedious and an aspect of the game that should have been seriously tightened up. On a positive note, the long breaks between shots allows you to seriously question your purchasing decisions, which might lead to much better ones in the future.
The music is a bit uninspired as well — vague, bouncy nonsense — but it's still the best thing about the game. There may be worse ways to spend your money on the eShop, but at this point there are so many better ways that there's really no reason to waste it here. Believe us, your time is more valuable than this.
Gummy Bears Mini Golf lives up to its name: there are, in fact, gummy bears playing mini golf. If your expectations are any higher than that, though, prepare to be disappointed. Unreliable physics, mindless course design, flawed touch screen only controls and — once again — a literally nauseating 3D effect all contribute to an experience that's lifeless and forgettable at best, and sickening at worst. We're not exactly looking forward to whatever the Gummy Bears decide to do next...unless, of course, they decide to retire from video games altogether. That's something we'd get excited about.