It seems that a week doesn’t go by without somebody or another trying to snatch away a slither of Nintendo’s glory on Wii, whether it be with a mini-game collection ala Wii Play or a sports game to try and rival Wii Sports; debatably, none of which have been topped. One of the latest takes on the latter to try and best its golf game – could this be the one to topple it?
The Popcorn Arcade series of games that have been tipped out all over Wii have been of dubious quality, to say the least; cheap cash-ins would be an easy category to lump them into, if we’re being nice. Kidz Sports: Crazy Mini Golf (henceforth to be referred to as ‘Crazy Mini Golf’) is a member of this series, so it would be quite fair to be wary. However, it manages to be a cut above its brothers and sisters in actually providing a game that is, if you can ignore the woeful presentation, pretty decent. It’s not going to appear in lists of peoples’ recommended games, but if you’ve got nothing else about you’re at least not going to rip your own face off rather than play it.
Crazy Mini Golf is set over four worlds, each with an 18 hole course, and the title tells you all you really need to know about your objectives. The course design is suitably ‘crazy’, starting out with simple angled courses to get you into the swing of things, but soon the devious loops and twists start to come out for the real challenge; plus, it’s set in places like an island resort or the arctic, so you just know it warrants the first part of its title. You’ve got two options of control scheme in there as well: arcade and simulation. Both have you holding the remote pointing down like a golf club, face buttons outward, with the d-pad’s left and right controlling aim, with camera duties being afforded to up and down. The arcade setting has you tapping A when you’re ready, pulling the Wii remote back, golf club style, to set your power, and finally taking your shot by just tapping B with no swing. Simulation is the same except you follow through with the shot; you pull back, hit A, retain the same angle as best you can and swing forward. Both options are very sensitive in the movement that they pick up, perhaps even slightly more so than Wii Sports Golf, but sadly taking shots quickly isn’t an option if you want to remain accurate, as there is a slight lag between your movement and the adjustment on the power metre, meaning if you do it too quickly you won’t actually hit the ball with the power that you wanted. Ultimately we felt that the arcade set up was the best as it is difficult to judge the power of shots when using the simulation mode.
Aside the game itself, an interesting feature is that of Nuyus. Basically, these are the Kidz Sports series’ take on Miis; we’re not sure why they didn’t just, y’know, integrate Miis, but that’s by the by. The intention of the Nuyus is that you’ll use them in the same way as Miis: create them in-game, then use them in future Kidz Sports titles, or put them onto your remote and take them to a friend’s house. When you go to ‘create an all Nuyu’ (pun courtesy of the game) you’re presented with a menu that looks…pretty much exactly like the Mii creation menu. Some features look like they’re ripped straight from Nintendo’s version of the concept, such as the hairstyles, but others, such as the eyes, go for a more anime-inspired look which are actually improvements over Miis in some instances. They’re a bit more colourful too, and there’s better variation in clothing (if you wanted a Mii in an astronaut suit, here you go…). The randomiser can come up with some pretty decent combos of features, but overall they are a bit ugly compared to the simple and aesthetically pleasing Mii design. Plus, their expressions stay static and don’t actually change at all, even when they’re reacting to how the game they’ve just played has gone, including rocking out or, worryingly, beating themselves repeatedly and brutally in the face with their golf club when they’ve not performed particularly brilliantly.
We mentioned before the presentation in a negative sense, and that’s the area that Crazy Mini Golf really does deserve a thrashing. The visuals are low-end PS2 at best, with backgrounds that are really nothing more than low quality GIFs, the case being the same for water splashes. The music is bland, nice but forgettable, and the less said about the sound effects the better. A buzzing noise can be heard in the background on the first world, which actually sparked a debate as to what on earth it was meant to be. A bee? A boat? A plane? Oh, it’s a helicopter that’s only visible sporadically but insists on having its sound effect polluting our ears at all time. Having said this, at least the good sense was had to have a blue outline appear around the ball when it’s obscured by scenery, and the text, surprisingly, is actually some of the sharpest we’ve seen on Wii. That may seem like a minor thing to point out, but we don’t care. We get impressed by little things like that.
Crazy Mini Golf could have done with more time and effort, but you can have a reasonably decent game of mini-golf on it if you’re willing to put up with the presentation, occasional shots where you have to get your power just right or the ball won’t cross over the obstacle correctly and the load times, which are frankly appalling considering the low quality of the visuals. There are far better games on Wii, and it doesn’t best Wii Sports Golf, but it deserves some merit for wiping the floor with other Popcorn Arcade titles.
A decent game of mini golf to be had here, we say. One of the control schemes, arcade, works rather grandly; it’s a shame that simulation leans towards the side of ‘doesn’t work’ until you’re used to it, mainly because it’s difficult to judge the power of the swing.
Dreadful. The Nuyus are the best bit about it, and they’re not going to win any beauty contests. The backgrounds are just animations or still images, and the geometry of the courses doesn’t really raise above ‘simple’ either.
The music’s alright in a completely boring but inoffensive way, but the sound effects…we’re not even going to talk about those anymore. Crap.
You’ve got four courses to go through – it won’t last forever, but it should keep you entertained enough for a bit.
Crazy Mini Golf is not a game of the year, nor a game of the month, but it is a solid effort that, with any luck, shows signs of improvement in the Popcorn Arcade range of games. The gameplay as a whole generally works despite some niggles; it just needed to be tweaked and have everything else done again on the presentation side. It can’t be denied, however, that there are superior golf games on Wii, mainly with EA’s ever-improving Tiger Woods series. Or you could go out and play the real thing.