Infinite Minigolf really wants to be a Mario themed party game. If it were a pubescent teenager, it would dream of growing a beautifully bushy crumb catcher, rescue princesses from angry tortoises during the day, and then kick back with a variety of sports and parties in the evening. From the bright and chunky cartoon visuals, to the pick-up-and-play gaming mechanics with more than a few inventive ideas, boost and power-ups, this screams Nintendo wannabe. But can the developers, Zen Studios, match the masters of the party game genre?
You get that party game feel thanks to the various power-ups. They take the form of rockets to boost your balls (innuendo fully intended), a magnet to attract your balls to the hole (innuendo fully intended), a joystick to take extra control of your balls (erm… I think the innuendo is intended?) and a spring to make your balls bounce (back to fully intended innuendo with that one). They become integral to creating depth within the simple golfing gameplay, and you’re encouraged to chain together these assorted power-ups to navigate the course, collect gems to enhance their score, and achieve an elusive hole in one.
Considering this is a party game intended for a broad gaming audience, Infinite Minigolf inexplicably drops the player in at the deep end. With no tutorial to explain the nuances of the controls and power-ups, let alone the basics of what button does what, its left to the gamer to figure it out. Admittedly, it’s rather straight forward, but having no option to ease in those new to video games seems an early miss-step.
Reduced to simply aiming left and right and controlling a power gauge to heighten or diminish the intensity of your stroke (I’ll stop with the innuendo now) there’s not actually a lot for the player to do. The inclusion of after touch and the ability to curve the ball would have allowed for the optional complexity of play that separates the great party games from the good ones.
The game is constructed around tournament single play, local and online multiplayer, as well as a course constructor for user generated content. It is the latter that provides the infinite amount of courses to play. As always with UGC, some are good, some are bad, and some are utterly, finger snappingly and eye pokingly horrible. Single player is basic but competent, leaning on the power-ups to provide depth to the gameplay.
It’s largely minigolf business as usual across a series of bright, cartoonish, and rather gorgeous themes: ‘Giant Home’, ‘Nightmare Mansion’ and ‘Santa’s Factory’. Each locale is filled with obstacles from the simple slopes and curves of the basic levels to the more entertaining; lifts controlled by rats, loop-the-loops and even helpful reindeer who will hoof your ball onwards to it’s destination. The visuals are certainly a highlight of the game and carry with them a bold, Pixar-like quality that made me clap my hands and giggle like a sugar-filled small person.
Whilst the courses are littered with detail, it does highlight a dreadful camera. A tap of the square button will pull the view back and reveal the entire course, which can be vital to succeed in the more complex courses, but this top down view is virtually useless as the camera is not free to move around the courses. It can’t even zoom in and out. Instead the player is forced to view the course from a fixed point, usually from too far away to even tell what is going on or where they should be going.
This problem continues for the third person camera when taking aim, with restricted views, limited camera angles and the big ol’ head of your avatar proving rather adept at restricting the player’s ability to see what they’re actually aiming at. It’s not a game-breaker by any means, but sufficient to provoke a hurled controller or two at a smug opponent. Fortunately that smug opponent is easy to strike if they’re in the same room.
This leads us to the local multiplayer, which is a real highlight. Any quirks, niggles and issues with a videogame can be eased with the unabated joy of experiencing them with another player that’s physically beside you. It certainly proves a refreshing substitute playing alongside a group of friends instead of strangers on the internet. Only needing one controller for play, passing the pad between up to four players, is a compelling feature to be recognised by any families fitting their video gaming experiences within a limited budget.
My final words go to the terrific course constructor, which in stark contrast to the limited in-game camera is easy to use and surprisingly complete. It allows for any player with an architectural streak to show off their design skills, and the proof of it’s popularity is already clear, with thousands of courses already constructed and available to be played on. Just be aware that quite a few of them do look a bit like genitals when viewed from above.
Criticising a party game like Infinite Minigolf feels a bit like kicking a puppy with cute, big eyes that’s super enthusiastic and just wants to be your friend, but I must. Infinite Minigolf lacks the gameplay variety and polish to take it to the top of the party tower. It’s mostly solid and dependable fun, but it only really comes to life in local multiplayer, so just don’t buy this game if you haven’t got any friends who like to visit.
Version Tested: PS4