capsule review

Wacky Mini Golf

At a Glance
  • DanLabGames Wacky Mini Golf

    Macworld Rating

French Mac game developer DanLabGames already had a mini golf game, but that didn’t mean the game’s designer, Daniel Labriet, didn’t think he couldn’t do better. Hence the company’s recent release of Wacky Mini Golf, the successor to Islands Mini Golf.

There certainly are similarities between the two games—both use an island motif with mini golf courses set on the water. Both games also feature cute animal avatars to use as players. But that’s about where the similarities end.

Wacky Mini Golf features 72 holes spread across four little archipelagos. Up to four players can play at a time—strictly in “hot seat” mode, meaning four players gathered around a single computer. (There’s no online gaming.) You can customize the look of your character using a variety of animal models—animated cats, frogs and other critters. What’s more, if you have an iSight or webcam hooked up to your Mac, you can use it to grab a picture of yourself and use that, instead (your face appears inside a cartoony-looking framed mirror with feet and hands).

There are three different rule sets for playing: “Classic” mode is where you try to finish each course in as few strokes as possible. If you’re playing against others, the one with the lowest score wins. There’s also “Star Hunter,” in which you must finish with the lowest score and collect stars along the way. (They appear on the course.) If you’re lucky enough to hit a star as you send your ball around the course, a point will be deducted from your score, so it behooves you to try to line up your shots well. There’s also “Crazy Challenge,” in which you must complete each hole with a limited number of strokes.

I am Tiger Kitty Mini golf victory is sweet, especially in these pants.

Wacky Mini Golf doesn’t have quite as many holes as Islands Mini Golf does—72 versus 90 (four 18-hole courses, compared to five). But the difference is that the courses in Wacky Mini Golf are much more challenging. There’s a greater variety of hazards that will keep you from the holes—critters walking about, such as crabs, and bizarre things blocking your way, like beach balls. The hole design is fantastic, by the way—there are some very clever, almost Rube Goldberg-like apparatuses for delivering your ball from one place to another, and sometimes you need to really thwack the ball to get it where it needs to go. There are constant water hazards and other pitfalls around, as well.

Aiming and putting is pretty intuitive—a stroke force meter shows how hard you’re going to hit it, and after a few holes, you get the hang of things. You can use either the keyboard or the mouse to control stroke force and direction and to hit the ball; there are also keyboard commands for changing the camera view (helpful to get an overview of the hole), or control iTunes music playback. The game features its own custom soundtrack, but if you prefer your own music, that’s your choice.

Wacky Mini Golf features five levels of graphic detail, and it’ll try to optimize itself for your hardware the first time you run it. If you’re running Mac OS X 10.4.3 or later, it’ll employ the GL Shader Language (GLSL) to provide really beautiful special effects—water looks spectacular, for example.

Wacky Mini Golf is a fun game to play, and it ran quite well on my hardware—although I was initially stymied by a QuickTime playback bug that Danlab wasn’t able to resolve. (Ultimately I fixed it on my own, simply by updating a third-party QuickTime component software on my Mac.)

DanLab could use a better English speaker to proofread in-game text, menus, and the manual. There are some odd turns of phrase (“strikes” instead of “strokes,” comments like “That bad!” if you’re badly over par) that might ring a faintly Gallic bell with you. But it’s nothing that can’t be overlooked for the fun gameplay.

The iSight support is a neat gimmick, but without networkable gameplay, the game falls a bit short—though Danlab does let you upload your goofy pics to its Web site, so you can share pictures of yourself with other Wacky Mini Golf players.

A demo is available; it lets you play the first five holes of each course.

The bottom line

Wacky Mini Golf improves upon Danlab’s earlier effort. The only things that would make it better would be network play and better proofreading.

At a Glance
  • Macworld Rating

    Pros

    • Hot-seat play for a foursome
    • Gorgeous graphics
    • Three gameplay modes
    • ITunes support

    Cons

    • Poor English proofreading
    • Glitchy QuickTime playback on test system
    • No network play
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