Though the virtual mini-golf market is crowded, there’s at least one game coming in well under-par. Matt Codd reviews Infinite Minigolf, the putt-simulator for the discerning golfer.
When I was 10 or 11 years old, my family went on a trip around New Zealand. Though most details of that holiday are hazy (it was a long time ago!), there’s one thing I remember clearly, and that’s going to a mini-golf place in Christchurch called Caddyshack City. It might be a stretch to describe a little, out-of-the-way putt putt course as “life-changing”, but in an odd way, it was. The place is set up like a miniature city, with each hole designed around a different landmark: an airport where you put across a runway and up into a plane; a mountain range with a river for the ball to float down; a theme park with a fully functional miniature roller coaster. Caddyshack City showed me that mini-golf could be so much more than green felt and windmills.
At that time, I’d been playing a lot of Theme Park and messing around with what can be called “game design” only by the most generous definition. So, naturally, I set to work designing a mini-golf game inspired by my experience with Caddyshack City – one with all manner of different themed courses, quirky obstacles, and the freedom to build whatever course your heart desired.
Fast-forward a couple of decades and my game is still a daydream. Luckily for me, the good folks at Zen Studios have been hard at work creating a game that’s almost exactly what I’d envisioned as a kid. Enter Infinite Minigolf, a themed mini-golf game full of oddball humour, one in which creativity is king.
Out of the box (in a figurative sense, at least – it’s a download-only game at this stage), Infinite Minigolf gives you 100-odd holes to play across three themes. There’s Giant Home, where you’re the size of a mouse and play on holes made of cardboard, littered with toys, homework, and other such obstacles. There’s Halloween Mansion, with its cartoon macabre aesthetic and courses adorned with graves and ghouls. Finally, there’s the snowy wonderland of Santa’s Factory, with its festive decor, busy elves, and icy courses.
Three themes may not sound like a lot, and I’ll be the first to admit that I wish there were more. But given the $24 price point and the level of polish that’s gone into what’s already present, it’s hard to be too upset. These aren’t simple reskins of the same basic pieces. Each theme has dozens of unique obstacles, many of which players can interact with – like a remote control car driving around on Giant Home courses, or a ski lift for Santa’s Factory. Even though it’s something you probably wouldn’t pay a huge amount of attention to, the backdrops for each course are incredibly detailed and bring the whole experience to life, especially when played in VR. Even the standard elements that are functionally identical across themes feel unique thanks to the care put into creating a unique visual identity for each.
As much fun as the different themes are of their own accord, the thing that really lets them shine is Infinite Minigolf’s best feature: its editor. Here, you can build the mini-golf course of your dreams, and then share it online for the world to enjoy. The editor tool is surprisingly intuitive and easy to use, and the extensive choices available give you near limitless options for what you create. You can make a hole so easy that it’s literally impossible to not get a hole-in-one (I did this. You’re welcome.) You can make a nightmarish gauntlet of loops, jumps, and other trickery. You can string together “gimmick” pieces to create a Rube Goldberg machine. It’s up to you.
Even if you’re not feeling creative, the power and ease of the editor means that there’s a wealth of courses available to play; at the time of writing, that’s 7,597, and that number will only go up. Better yet, they’re shared across platforms, so you don’t need to worry about having an artificially limited pool to choose from based on your chosen game console. Nor do you have to worry about people trolling with intentionally impossible holes, because creators have to finish them themselves before they can be shared. It’s very easy to find levels, too, from a quick match option that just selects one at random to a search tool with a wide range of filters. You can even create select a bunch from the player-made pool to create a custom 9-hole course.
Rounding out the package are robust multiplayer options and extensive character customisation. As you might expect, you can play online in a range of different modes, both fun and competitive, but there’s also offline multiplayer – in 2017, that’s a novelty. You don’t even need extra controllers because the turn-based nature of mini-golf means you can just pass the pad around to whoever’s turn it is. As you play, whatever mode your choose, you unlock new items with which to personalise your avatar; you can even swap out your golf club for a baseball bat, if you’re that way inclined.
Mini-golf games are dime a dozen, but good mini-golf games are a rarity, and Infinite Minigolf is up there with the best of them. Most of all, I’m glad that someone managed to bring to life a game I’ve been dreaming of for decades – and lord knows Zen Studios have done a far better job than I ever would. I’m sorry, 10-year-old wannabe game designer me, but it’s true.
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