Infinite Minigolf

I love the Nintendo Switch. I love it so much that I’ve bought a lot of games I’d never have dreamed of buying on any other system, but plumped for on the plucky little handheld-console hybrid. 1 2 Switch, Snake Pass, NBA Playgrounds, Super Bomberman R… the list keeps going. Some were misses, but others, like NBA Playgrounds, have provided me with hours of enjoyment. Infinite Minigolf is the latest game to add to that list.

Crazy golf, or mini golf, for me is something that I don’t mind seeing as a mini-game within a bigger thing. It’s simpler than golf (which I’m not a fan of at all), and it’s easy to get right. Even shaky games with poor physics, like PS1’s “Rugrats: Search for Reptar”, pull off mini golf to a competent, playable degree. And being a long-term user of the game development program GameMaker, I’ve seen a lot of well done mini golf games made in it as well, such as Shawn Noel’s “Mini Golf Pro“. But I’ve never bought a stand-alone game in the genre. So how is it?

Infinite Minigolf sure is mini golf alright. Fundamentally, the game is exactly as you’d expect. You place your ball in the putting area, aim left and right, and then hit it with a variable level of power. It bounces off of things. Some of those things are mildly comical. And if it doesn’t go into the hole, you have to hit it again until it does. And the game cruelly judges you based on the number of times you had to hit it before it went into the hole. Glad we got that out of the way.

There are a couple of oddities and changes. Every course, without fail, is always par 5. It doesn’t matter how complex or how trivial it is to complete it, par 5. The commonest score I found was the normally-rare Albatross, which is three under par, because on most of the built-in holes you can get the ball within an inch of the flag in your first turn. Hole-in-ones are also pretty common, especially once you figure out the gimmick of each place – most of them are designed to be hole-in-one-able even if you have to think outside the box to achieve it.

The game also has a few extras. Power-ups are featured fairly heavy and range from useless to comically useful. In the former category, you get things like the ball inflater which makes your ball bigger and does little else of use, and the weight increaser which makes your ball more prone to get stuck in dips and more likely to slow down before it gets to the hole. The worst offender of terribleness is a weird thing that looks like a golden snitch, and when activated, removes gravity on your ball. I don’t think that thing EVER came in handy, more often just resulting in my ball floating off into space.

In the latter category, however, you get the remote control, a power-up that lets you turn the ball left and right (and slows time to make it easier to control). In courses that mix this power with the boost power-up and/or boost pads on the track itself, you can pretty much always, with ease, nip around the track hoovering up all the pickups and plopping yourself into the hole. It’s a weird thing because it completely kills tracks that utilise it, but at the same time, it’s quite a lot of fun too.

Infinite Minigolf is a short game. There are just three themes – an overly-large boy’s bedroom, a haunted mansion driveway, and Christmas. For the built-in Tournament mode, each of the themes has four nine-hole courses, which must sequentially be completed on three difficulties to fully complete the game. And while a total of 108 holes (the difficulties only add/remove minor things) sounds like a lot, most holes can be completed in under two minutes even on your first playthrough. I breezed through the Casual difficulty in a couple of hours. Medium and Hard are still fairly simple (since on your second and third goes round, you’ll start noticing more shortcuts in courses), and I only found myself having problems when the three AI competitors got random bursts of luck and kept getting hole-in-ones with score multipliers.

The shortness leads into the “Infinite” of the game’s title, though. As with games like LittleBigPlanet, ModNation Racers and Super Mario Maker, Infinite Minigolf allows you not only to create new golf courses, but also browse through everyone else’s shared creations. And while this should increase the game’s longevity, it doesn’t really. Courses are still limited to the three overarching themes (which you’ll have seen to death if you’d played through all of the Tournaments already).

On top of that, the course creator is quite limited, only allowing you to create modular levels using a set selection of items (you can’t even cross themed items over, like bringing pumpkins from the haunted theme to the Christmas theme). This makes the selection of user-created levels, even when you ignore the fact 90% of them are basic and/or terrible, small, unvaried and not clever. No working calculators like could be achieved with LittleBigPlanet. No sweeping, meandering tracks like you could make in ModNation Racers. No intricate, entertaining auto-levels or ultra-difficult levels of death as in Super Mario Maker. Just… crazy golf courses.

The last component to the game is player personalisation. You can create your own golfer who will appear in-game. While this is okay, there are some really annoying limitations. For one, males get about double the options females do – more shirts, more belts, more extras. For another, there are odd limits on colouring things, especially hair – some of the hairstyles allow you to pick dyed colours, others only allow natural variants. And it’s strange that all clothing is gender specific – a lot of the shirts are listed separately for both, which isn’t an issue until you complete a tournament and it looks like the game is double-awarding you the same shirt, with no indication as to the reason why.

And the system for unlocking new clothing is weird – you have to complete a rolling set of missions to level yourself up, which gives you access to new items, but then you have to pay for them using “cards” which are earnt by playing courses and either beating certain scores or winning tournaments. You can acquire further cards by spending in-game money, which you also get by completing tournaments, and using them to buy card packs. I’m not sure if it’s accurate, but it feels like the game is an ex-free-to-play game that has had its microtransactions stripped out (it does not have any on Switch), but the goofy, ridiculous crap that infects modern iOS games like the dual virtual currencies has been held over rather than being replaced with something more appropriate for a premium game.

All of this is tied together in a menu system which is fairly clunky, although I can appreciate why they made certain decisions. Rather than picking your mode then picking your theme, it’s this weird hybrid system where you have one pair of left and right buttons to switch theme and a second pair to switch game mode. Push A before you’ve set both correctly and the game will throw you into a loading screen for a game mode you didn’t want. In spite of the in-game controls’ simplicity, the menu’s button layout is all over the place. And you can’t do anything with the touch screen in handheld mode, even though (in what seems like another indication that this used to be a mobile game) it seemed perfectly laid out for finger-prodding.

Still, I did have fun with Infinite Minigolf. Its golfing is solid, its courses (with a few annoying gimmicked holes as exceptions) are enjoyable to play through, and I imagine it’d be really good fun to play multiplayer while out and about.

It’s short, and you feel done with it quickly, but for the £13.49 price tag, it’s not the worst Switch purchase you could make.

Allison James

Independent game developer, font creator and occasional casual writer.

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