We've seen our share of minigolf releases of varying degrees of fun and price released on the assorted console download services offering gamers a few choices to make for their miniature golf fix. This obviously leads to the question of what exactly does Planet Minigolf offer up on PSN that sets it apart from the crowd, and does the recently released patch that adds in support for Sony's new Move controller give the game an added edge?
As a miniature golf experience, Planet Minigolf offers up courses of varying degrees of difficulty in four completely unique regions of the world. You'll be able to enjoy putt-putt in areas ranging from Soho to a frigid polar outpost and everything in between. While these areas naturally offer up their own individual visual styles, their miniature golf surfaces and the challenges found on them are equally unique as well. Each course offers endless twists, turns, drop-offs and enough obstacles to get in your way to keep you swinging away in your attempt to get your ball in the hole, and with several levels of difficulty gamers of all skill levels should find a challenge they can handle.
The standard control method allows players to use the PlayStation 3 Sixaxis or DualShock 3 controller to take on the game. You can choose from three different putting mechanics that range from an easy-to-use single button putting system to a much more playable method using the analogue stick. There's not a huge difference between the three, but it's worth trying them all out to find the one that best suits your playing style. Tackling the holes themselves is fairly standard, but the game will toss various power-ups your way that you can roll your ball into and then execute that particular power with a simple press of a button. These range from a glue that will stop your ball to a floating power-up that allows your ball to fly and be controlled somewhat in mid-air. You'll soon find that these power-ups can become downright essential as you take on some of the higher difficulty holes.
If you've got a Move controller handy, the game will now allow you to also use it for putting. It's about what you'd expect from the controller and requires you to do little more than draw back the controller and swing, much the same way you would with a real putter. How far back you bring the controller and your swing speed will determine how hard you'll hit the ball, and you're even able to use the controller to aim your putts and look around the various holes from an overhead viewpoint. The motion controls are a nice touch but given how precise you have to be on many of the more difficult holes, it can make an extremely challenging game even harder, especially until you can start to get a good feel for how to control your swings.
If you find yourself getting a bit tired of playing the included golf courses, the game also includes a hole editor that will allow you to create your own miniature golf courses. You can even share your creations with other players if you so choose. The interface is fairly simple to use, but there's quite a bit of flexibility for those who take the time to flesh out all of the various features and put together some interesting holes to play. As with most level editors, what you put into it will greatly determine what you get out of it.
It's difficult to fault the control system much since this is a budget title, but some of the challenges and hazards on the more difficult holes can be a bit frustrating at times. It's nice that the game allows for not only local multiplayer but also online play, but it would have been nice to have a bit more help along the way, especially some type of idea as to distances from your ball to the hole to help you gauge your shots a bit more accurately. You'll soon find that being successful at Planet Minigolf requires a great deal of trial and error, and even with that you'll still need a little luck from time to time. The added Move support adds a nice gameplay twist, but it can make the game even harder than it already is in places.
From a visual perspective, Planet Minigolf is a bit all over the map. There are some great visual details in certain areas, but there are also a lot of jagged edges to be found, something gamers playing on a Playstation 3 in full HD will not appreciate much. The developers try to spice things up with a lot of moving objects and flashing lights, and while these items are impressive, they tend to feel a bit out of place within their surroundings at times. The character models look fairly smooth, but their animations can be a bit jerky and not terribly lifelike. It is worth remembering that this is a relatively cheap downloadable release, so it's at least forgivable that there are some rough edges throughout the game.
If you like soft rock and techno that tends to be more moody than catchy, you'll find a lot to like with the musical score of the game. There are some fun tracks and even though they don't always seem to fit the area they're used in, they still do a nice job of keeping the lighter mood of the game moving along. In fact about the only thing that brings down the audio experience is the extremely annoying voice announcer. Not only does his voice grate on your nerves from the first moment you hear him, but he's rambling on far too often and usually about things that you already know are happening. Thankfully you can disable the announcer and you'll want to do it as soon as you start playing if you're smart.
Planet Minigolf offers an enjoyable and fairly playable miniature golfing experience for Playstation 3 owners, and the Move support will certainly offer owners of the peripheral at least one more game to enjoy with it. While the game can be a bit frustrating at times, there's enough of a difficulty range to keep it within reach of most players and considering the game will only set you back around $10/£7, it's tough to complain too much.