It shouldn’t be too hard to get golf right. There are golf games that are getting on for forty years’ old, and – even now – they manage to deliver on the thrill of driving a golf ball onto the green, before slotting it for a birdie. But somehow – through bad luck or poor judgment – the last three golf games that we’ve personally reviewed have totalled a miserable 4 out of a potential 15 in review score (Smoots Golf and MiniGolf Tour are the other culprits, if you’re wondering).
Even more surprisingly, there’s not one, single thing that they each get wrong. They each find a new and terrible way to mess up the simple sport of golf. Minigolf Adventure – the newest to join the club – is true to form, and finds some spectacularly misguided ways to fail.
Check the Xbox Store page and you’d be forgiven for wondering what the fuss is about. Minigolf Adventure is extremely photogenic, and far more colourful and tactile than any of the golf games we’ve mentioned so far. The artists have sincerely done a good job here: it’s not showy or photorealistic. It’s just rather appealing.
It’s also £4.19 for absolutely swathes of content. Developers Revulo Games aren’t wrong when they say that there are 200 minigolf courses here. Not only are there 200, but some of them are stupendously, unusually long. One of the courses is a par-24, for example. You have a couple of PGA Tours’ worth of grass to cover.
So what’s our problem? It’s hard to know where to begin. We’ll start with the simple act of hitting a ball, waiting for it to stop and then hitting it again. Minigolf Adventures has the bright idea that this pattern isn’t appealing. It decides that you should be able to press A at any point and stop the ball from moving, well before it’s stopped.
Take a moment to consider and absorb that. Imagine that a professional golfer had the ability to pause their ball, and stop it before it overran the green. Heading for the water? Stop your drive mid-air and take a shot while floating in the sky. It’s utterly bizarre, and basically undermines the entire sport. Why make a good shot when you can whack it in the general direction and pause it at any point in its arc. We imagine it’s what it’s like to play golf with Donald Trump.
It can’t help but affect how you play. We found ourselves clobbering the ball at full power whenever we had the chance, because why wouldn’t we? If we overhit it, we could press the pause button before it went careening elsewhere. The finesse gets bled out, and it instead becomes a sport of leathering the ball in vaguely the right direction.
Assassin-like, it’s enough to send a bullet through Minigolf Adventure’s temple. But there are plenty more issues of a similarly gargantuan size. Gems, for example. In the game’s Arcade Mode – effectively the campaign of Minigolf Adventure – you are not just reaching the hole in a set number of shots: you are collecting a certain number of gems. If you don’t collect enough gems, you can’t complete the hole. And if you want stars to unlock visual effects and new balls, you will also need a set number of gems. They’re essential.
But they’re tucked in crannies of the level, which means – and here’s the rub – that you have to make poor shots if you want to complete the level. You’re not delicately placing a ball between the struts of a windmill and netting a hole in one – oh no. You are deliberately avoiding the hole-in-one so that you can potter around the fringes of the hole, picking up gems. It’s like playing a game of football, but you’re given goals for a sequence of passes. It’s not fun, and it’s certainly not football.
We were shaking our heads, trying to fathom why anyone would make these design decisions. Honestly, it’s a problem for the ages.
We’ve got a few more of these quirky chestnuts, but they’re nowhere near as good as those two. Whack the ball out of bounds and, instead of returning to a nearby spot, you are taken back to the beginning of the hole. Remember when we said there were par-24 holes? Yeah, returning to the start isn’t fun when you’re suddenly 24 shots behind.
The AI is a riot too. It often gets stuck behind or in walls, leading it to get locked in a loop, continuously ploughing the same shot out of bounds. Did they have to return to the start of the course? Of course they didn’t.
Oh, Minigolf Adventure, what an unfathomable mess you are. We’d have loved to have been a fly on the wall, watching to see how these decisions got made. We can only assume that they were rushed into the game as a last-minute fix for an even bigger problem.
Still, we can squint and imagine what Minigolf Adventures might have looked like without them. We have mentioned that the game looks great, and there’s certainly a lot of stuff here, so that helps. The courses, while a little flat and clearly made in some kind of simplistic level editor, are at least more than vanilla. There are boosts and obstacles on the floor which make turning a corner and evaluating the course more interesting. And there are multiple game modes, each offering a potential vision of a different Minigolf Adventures.
One of them is even playable. A Race Mode manages to work with the ‘press A to stop the ball’ mechanic to create a kind of frenzied multiplayer gauntlet. Up to four players are racing to get to the hole first in real-time, jabbing the A button to get a headstart on their opponents as they pivot round a corner. It works, albeit with the problem we mentioned before: falling off the course means you have to restart the whole shebang. Without that, it would have actually been fun.
Throughout our Minigolf Adventure, we were itching to get back to Golf With Your Friends. We wanted to get back to a game that knew what was special about golf; that could deliver a multiplayer knockabout. It’s where Minigolf Adventure fails, and fails spectacularly: it doesn’t deliver on the simplest of all demands: to replicate the feeling of playing a round of crazy golf. Now, that’s crazy.
You can buy Minigolf Adventures from the Xbox Store
- Tactile courses that are full of colour
- Stacked with courses and modes
- Pressing A to stop the ball is game- and fun-breaking
- Being forced to collect gems undermines the spirit of the game
- Buried under a mound of bugs
- AI is hopeless
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Purchased by TXH
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One
- Version reviewed - Xbox One on Xbox Series X
- Release date - 27 May 2022
- Launch price from - £4.19