There are few things as satisfying as sinking a long putt on a particularly challenging miniature golf course. This is as true in life as it is on the computer, and in recent years, there has been an explosion of mini-golf games for the Mac and PC (and even for
the iPod ). One of the newer entries in the genre is Minigolf Mania, produced by Top Meadow Games and available for download from GarageGames.
Developed using GarageGames’ vaunted Torque Game Engine, an inexpensive cross-platform game development technology, Minigolf Mania takes the familiar tack of providing you with several different 18-hole courses to play, chock full of hazards that you might find on a real course—windmills, tunnels and bumpers—along with a whole bunch of hazards you’re unlikely to see in the real world, such as moving force-fields, hot rivers of lava and icy fields.
You’re able to play the front or back nine of each course, or practice on a single hole, or play the whole course all at once. Although the game is only designed to support one player at a time, you can take turns at each hole as a foursome, just like in a real game of mini golf. Providing password information and an e-mail address to attach to each user account will also enable you to earn “Minigolf Mania Power Points,” which go toward a worldwide ranking system on the
Minigolf Mania Web site. The e-mail address also provides you with occasional notifications of new free courses that Top Meadow has developed for use with Minigolf Mania.
A Day on the Links This Minigolf Mania hole features “Booster Beams” that send your ball sailing off into the air.
Once you’ve set up your foursome (or threesome, or twosome, or single-player) you choose which game to play—Normal mode’s challenge is to get the ball into the cup with the fewest number of putts; Race focuses on getting the ball into the cup quickest regardless of how many strokes it takes. Safari mode makes you collect all the animals to open the cup, and Safari Race is similar to the regular race version, only with animals. The Safari variants are cute for kids, especially. The novelty wore off for me right away.
Minigolf Mania includes a tutorial mode that will get you up to speed with all the hazards and bonuses you’ll find on the courses. In addition to novelties like fields of lava or big stretches of ice on some courses, automatic teeter-totters and other strange objects, there are also things that can help you: Transporter beams that will send your ball flying to a different part of the course, for example, while “super stops” bring the ball to a grinding halt no matter how fast its momentum.
You can also earn balls with special powers, such as the ability to withstand the heat of lava for a few moments. You can also collect special balls that you can then use when you play the courses—some might bump upward if you click the mouse while they’re in motion, for example; others might be equipped with tire chains, so they roll more predictably on ice.
If you’re like me, you’ll probably last about seven minutes before shutting off the music for good. Music and sound effects in this game become annoying quickly.
Minigolf Mania’s lineage as a Windows application is readily apparent in its menu system—the big, squared off buttons and clunky sans serif button font smack unquestionably of a PC heritage. But having said that, I found the Universal Binary to be a well-behaved application that didn’t cause any problems while I was running it.
Options are few and simple: The obligatory windowed-versus-full-screen mode I’ve grown accustomed to looking for in all the games I play; separate controls for sound effects and soundtrack, and a checkbox that (inexplicably) optimizes performance.
The bottom line
Minigolf Mania isn’t spectacular-looking—the simple shaded backgrounds and stark environments speak “shareware” to me. But its cartoony 3-D graphics fit the subject matter quite well.