I wanted to enjoy Planet Minigolf, I really did. I’m a big minigolf fan and I’ve really enjoyed other minigolf videogames from days past. It’s unfortunate that Zen Studios, the creators of Zen Pinball, chose to incorporate a lousy camera system, wonky power ups, and impossible hole setups to effectively destroy any fun that could be had from Planet Minigolf.
First I would like to address the camera system. In a minigolf game, it’s important to be able to view the holes and plan your method of attack. Planet Minigolf effectively makes this a game of trial and error. The hole is marked only with a single flag, and the camera never seems to move intuitively when in free mode. When actually putting, player’s get to enjoy a host of camera glitches. Want to see onlookers get cut in half? Have no desire for meaningful camera angles when putting? It’s all here, and in spades. My favorite glitch occurs when the character freaks out, and is unable to decide which side of the ball to put from, ending with them repeatedly switch sides(instantly and with no animation) until they finally end up actually putting the ball.
The power-up system isn’t anything to write home about either. Most power-ups are wildly unpredictable. Some cause the ball to rocket in the direction it is rolling (pro tip: it will end up outside the course), sprout wings (pro tip: it will end up outside the course), or move in the direction the controller is facing (pro tip: it won’t go the way you want it to). The most unfortunate aspect of these power-ups is that players will be forced to use them to finish some of the more difficult courses. Their unpredictable nature is a very real problem when there is only a small margin of error to play with. Some courses are painfully hard, many forcing players to retry repeatedly until they finally obtain perfection.
If the ball bounces incorrectly, it is typically fatal, making that particular hole impossible to finish without being over par by somewhere near 30 strokes. If the player does not beat their competitors’ scores at the end of the course, they won’t unlock the next tier of courses, meaning players will be restarting holes frequently and much to their frustration.
The pause menu works hard to ensure that players retry the entire course, instead of simply retrying the hole they are on. When the ball is moving, there are options to Reset the Ball, Restart the Hole, and Restart the Course. All of which are located underneath the Resume Game option. Once the ball stops rolling, that Reset Ball option disappears. With a little imagination, it’s easy to see how players can end up resetting the entire course both accidentally and repeatedly. This is absolutely rage-inducing to say the least, especially when 40 minutes have been spent getting to the last hole on the hardest course.
This doesn’t necessarily mean Planet Minigolf is a complete train wreck. It can be genuinely fun, and it does pack some awesome looking courses reminiscent of Zen Pinball‘s tables. Sure the announcer sounds like he’s from the NHL, but that’s part of the campy fun. Unfortunately the bad camera and broken power-up system will keep this game from becoming the fun pick-up-and-party title it tries to be.
Planet Minigolf is rated E10+ (Everyone 10 and older) by the ESRB for Comic Mischief, Mild Suggestive Themes.