Nintendo DS and Gameboy Advance owners ought to be familiar with Shin’en. The German developers are responsible for some of the best 3D programming on those two portable platforms. From the GBA launch title Iridion, to the wonderful Nanostray titles, Shin’en has created a handful of titles that serve as exemplars of the graphical and sonic capabilities of Nintendo’s handheld systems.
With the release of the eccentrically named Fun! Fun! Minigolf for Nintendo’s WiiWare store, the developers have made the leap to home consoles. As expected, the title is a graphical powerhouse and indistinguishable from full-priced, disk-based software. Beauty comes at a cost however, as this title won’t keep Wii owners busy for more than a few hours. We spent nearly as long clearing the required 308 blocks from our Wii’s memory storage, as we did playing through all the courses.
Fun! Fun! in the Sun! Sun!
The game contains twenty-seven holes of minute golf spread across three nine-hole courses. The US Course is appropriate for young children, with its uncomplicated layout, while the European course offers an immense challenge. In the middle of the difficulty spectrum, lays the Asian course, where hole-in-ones are a demanding task. Complicating the title is the game’s punishing ruleset- from the start of every hole the ball must be hit in a relatively small zone near the cup. Otherwise it’s considered ‘out of bounds’ and the gamer is required to redo the shot. It’s a needless regulation that puts a damper on the game’s enjoyment and removes a key strategic element. Playing it safe with a softer two stroke hit is no longer a viable option, one of the few interesting variables in an otherwise simplistic pastime.
The entirety of the Fun! Fun! holes stem from the types of layouts found at most amusement centers; the title clearly tries to imitate reality. Although we would have liked to have seen a course filled with improbable other-worldly designs, no such option exists. Individual holes offer geometric obstacles to keep the proceedings interesting, although they are all fairly simple. Aren’t diminutive castles requisite fixtures at miniature golf courses?
Victory poses all look a bit dorky, but are animated well.
Players who have visited the virtual links found on Nintendo’s WiiSports golf course, should feel right at home with the title’s control scheme. Players hold the Wiimote vertical, with the IR sensor pointed at the ground, as if the controller was the handle of a golf club. With the A button pressed, players tilt the Wiimote back to simulate a backswing. To connect with the ball, the player returns to the controller to the six-o’clock position in time with an alternating curve meter. When not holding the A button, the gamer can take a few practice swings to estimate club power. Although this sounds ineffective for a game with such a simple swing mechanic, judging the power of your downswing is easily the most difficult aspect of the game. After playing through the game twice, we still had trouble controlling the intensity of our swings.
Graphically, Fun! Fun! Minigolf offers the player picturesque courses filled with lush foliage, detailed buildings, all capped with dramatic lens flares. However, these elements are little more than eye candy- actual gameplay only takes place only on relatively small strips of virtual Astroturf. Gamers are offered the choice of four golfers, each with signature animation routines.
The rocks, flowers, trees are fences are all eye candy.
Overall, Fun! Fun! Minigolf is a scenic translation of miniature golf that offers a modicum of actual gameplay. The game presents twenty-seven holes, but without any unlockable characters, items, or additional diversions, there’s no motivation for a second play through. After playing the title, we wish Shin’en had worked on a full-fledged, disk based golf title rather than the reduced effort shown here. With more content, and a dash of complexity, the developers could have given the Hot Shots Golf franchise a run for the money.