Review: Planet Minigolf Stronghold Island
Planet Minigolf for PlayStation 3 recently gained Stronghold Island and PlayStation Move support to bolster its experience and as a game already known for its wide variety of selection in courses, things have definitely stepped up a notch with the latest expansion. The main premise of the title is, well, playing some minigolf! In a campaign spanning plenty of courses, each with Warm-Up, Pro, Extreme, and Wacky holes to endure you will find what is essentially the most creative, diverse, and challenging minigolf you’ve ever experienced in a video game or otherwise. Out of this world hazards and hole designs turn this game into a head-scratcher, and that’s before you even jump into the tons of custom courses created and uploaded by users online.
The graphics are pretty decent for a budget title that is downloadable from the PlayStation Network at little expense, though you may find things a tad too bright, they are for the most part good looking and vibrant. That being said, the camera angles really hinder the experience at times because no acceptable top-down view can be achieved while actually aiming your shots. You can use a zoomed-out view from afar which allows you to analyze a hole’s layout and this is essential to planning out a victorious play, though when you actually go to take the shot not only will the camera drop down to a selection of poor, ground-level views, you will also be forced to use an extremely short trajectory aiming line that does not indicate bounce off of walls and in all honesty should have gone a lot farther. It also does not calculate raised surfaces interacting with your ball’s path, meaning the majority of what you will do to figure out a hole is trial and error.
Overall the gameplay feels realistic to the real life putting experience. Long-time golfers will have no problem picking this game up and dominating, if they can handle figuring out how to use the game’s many power-ups and navigate the insanely designed courses. Some of the power-ups include a DualShock controller symbol which gives you full control of the ball in a fast-paced (semi-jittery) way allowing you to steer it like a car and even propel it in the air for a few jumps. There are also a bunch of others including rockets to speed up the ball dramatically, glue to slow it down when it’s in danger of rolling the wrong way (such as down a hill you just traversed or off the side of the course), feathers to give the ball wings and cause it to glide through the air, and more such as a lightning bolt and weight power-ups.
The game is pretty great overall but forces you to deal with mediocre camera angles and sometimes make things way harder than necessary by doing things like blurring out the pin (indicating where the hole is) even though you are within one shot of it. Another slight anoyance is the fact that the game is constantly telling you to aim the PlayStation Move downwards even when you are in the middle of aiming. Once you have learned how to play the game it should stop telling you such an obvious step, but alas there is no way to turn off this ‘hint’ so you will be frustrated by it at times and the delay it causes to each of your turns.
The custom course creation is great fun and has been enjoyed by a lot of people online already since the title debuted in June, which shows promise for the community lasting a long time. Some of the average courses have been played upwards of 15,000 times already. There are tons of custom courses, many of which are even more challenging and goofy than those found in the campaign mode. One course challenges you to bounce the ball off a wall just right in order to launch it between a female pirate’s legs without hitting her “private area” in order to get the best speed up the hill beyond and achieve a hole-in-one. There are many Par 5’s that challenge you to achieve a hole-in-one thanks to the built-in trophy for doing so in any custom course, and this is just one of the many fun reasons to go back and play the title over and over on custom courses.
Course creation is simple and easy, and as an added bonus uploading your best shots into YouTube from the game takes just a button press or two and can be achieved from the PS3 directly. You can play the entire game with just one Move controller (or DualShock 3) but when you go to create courses with one Move you will need to bust out a DS3 or Nav controller in your other hand to do so. Overall the game feels preferable on the Move and playing online against others is a decent experience as well, with the PS Eye automatically turning on to show you and your opponent on screen via Picture-in-Picture adding to the personal and competitive elements of the title (there I just warned you, now don’t play naked).
Onto the Stronghold Island DLC, which really provided a great addition to the game in terms of more challenge and more craziness. Neat course obstacles such as a drawbridge launching your ball to the green are seen in this expansion to the game. Power-ups are still a major part of how you will achieve completion on the courses of all difficulty settings. The extremely challenging courses the DLC adds are sure to satisfy even the best Planet Minigolf gamers and really seem worth the price tag. Some of the hole designs are a little ridiculous though, and it will take you almost all day to figure them out since they seem almost impossible. If you don’t give up though, you will have a great time and feel a major sense of accomplishment for completing them.
There are some risky obstacles like jumps in the middle of the hole almost as crazy as the catapult. You can choose to play through aiming for par or risk it all via these crazy moves. Overall, the game is not very forgiving and the AI can do a number on these courses, but one forgiving factor is the fact that you can retry a hole at any time without resetting the actual course. This will sacrifice your chance at the leader-boards, but can help with getting through the insane campaign set forth.
Some of the more ridiculous courses found in Stronghold Island include a ramp that you must send the ball up, followed by activating the “Flying Ball” power-up feather I mentioned earlier at a nearly impossible to achieve timing, only to grab a magnet immediately after and land in the hole. The magnet power-up is used to get in the hole quick, but only works out if you have the skill to grab one. It would be nice if you could control this “Flying Ball” power-up more, but the challenge is a good, healthy addition to the gameplay.
I must admit, I had my doubts when I first booted up Planet Minigolf and its Stronghold Island DLC. The controls take a little while to get used to, but once you do they are realistic and intuitive for a Move minigolf title that is meant to deliver serious challenge. With a few minor gripes addressed this game could be really perfect for golf enthusiasts, though it will probably be too frustrating for the casual gamer who may pick it up by accident expecting a quick and easy bunch of trophies. The custom course creation and online multiplayer adds a whole new element that is social and by all means enjoyable. If you are looking for something to get your mind in gear and provide a robust and detailed experience, definitely pick this up, especially if you have PlayStation Move and have ever indulged in a round or two of minigolf.
- Title: Planet Minigolf Stronghold Island
- Platform Reviewed: PS3
- Developer: Zen Studios
- Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
- MSRP: $9.99 ($2.49 for Stronghold Island DLC)
- Release Date: Available Now
- Review Copy Info: A download voucher to the game and DLC was provided to DualShockers Inc. by the publisher for the purpose of this review.