After spending much of the last decade making a name for themselves in building perhaps the greatest-ever pinball library with Zen Pinball 2, Zen Studios has moved on from creating exciting tables based on licenses such as The Walking Dead, South Park, Marvel, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and returned to a far less chaotic hobby. Minigolf.
It has been seven years since the developer released Planet Minigolf on PlayStation 3, and, having since continued to build on their expertise in physics-based gameplay and dynamic environments, now return with a successor in Infinite Minigolf. With Planet Minigolf having once promised an unparallelled minigolf experience with cutting-edge visuals and state-of-the-art physics, it looks more than a little tired by today’s standards, and so this sequel looks to modernise everything in its stead.
With your customisable avatar smiling back at you, your early time with Infinite Minigolf will be spent playing solo. There are multiple courses for you to putt around in either the Tournaments or Quick Play modes, each having been built around three themes whether that be shrinking the player to toy-sized heights in Giant Home, spooking them in a long-abandoned courtyard in Nightmare Mansion, or, somewhat fittingly for the festive season, journeying to the North Pole to visit Santa’s Factory.
These courses have plenty of character and interactivity, whether stuck together in a makeshift manner with cardboard and duct tape where you are having to weave your ball around a remote-controlled monster truck, slamming the ball in Lord Pumpkin’s direction so that he hits it around gothic ruins to help you, or see your ball sucked up a snow chute and spat out the other end. The developer has expanded on these since the game’s release with the Caribbean pirate town of Tortuga and the outer space-themed Hangar 37 – free downloadable content that 216 more holes to play through in new tournaments.
The player directs their aim with the Left Stick, to then pull back on the Right Stick to determine how much power you want to whack the ball with before releasing it – being careful not to overpower your shot to see it soar out of bounds.
Zen Studios tries to make everything a little more entertaining by throwing in power-ups to the mix. The Rocket can help propel your ball around the course, Glue can stick it in place to save you from an overpowered shot, a Magnet can pull your ball toward the hole, or the Joystick that can help you to steer your ball around obstacles.
Victory in Tournaments or completing Missions reward you with cards that can be used to unlock new hairstyles, clothes, accessories, clubs, and balls to customise your avatar with. These steadily become available to unlock as you accumulate points to level up from playing well – whether that be a Hole in One, trickshot, or stylish play – and crystals that you collect on each course. An in-game Store will let you spend exchange coins for card packs, .
Local Multiplayer can see up to eight players compete against one another, while Online Play will see you matchmake either for fun in Versus (1-on-1), Tournament (4-8 players), Classic (4 players), Hole or Nothing (4 players), and Crazy (8 players) modes, or Competitive – which has Versus and Tournament modes. Whether sharing a controller between family and friends or trying to outperform your rivals online, Infinite Minigolf has you covered.
And then, there’s the chance to create your own courses. With all user-created content being shared across all platforms, the developer’s hope for Infinite Minigolf is that they can build a community around it. While the course creator is comprehensive, robust and simple to grasp, the problem that it faces – as seen with Super Mario Maker – is that you can’t count on everyone that plays the game to be particularly talented at designing their own courses.
That can see you encounter some rather underwhelming efforts, Quick Play seeing you putting your way through some unimaginative and frustrating efforts with some genuinely clever creations nestled among them. As with Super Mario Maker, it can be a challenge to discover the best that discovering Infinite Minigolf has catalogued away, and that’s certainly an area that needs some work. You can rate each course upon completion with emoticons, but it’s unclear how the feedback is reflected in the game’s ecosystem.
The game has charm in abundance even if it can feel a little too minimalist in places, and, importantly, the ball physics are exceptional – reacting to your put as expected without much room for complaint. However, I did have some issues with my ball becoming caught in specific places, such as beneath Jerry the yeti’s snow scoop, that threatened to keep me off the podium.
Now some four months after it launched, Infinite Minigolf packs more than enough content to see you putt to your heart’s content for weeks. It all feels understated though, lacking the outlandish spectacle that we have seen from the pinball tables that Zen Studios has created. Not without charm, it, as always, is best enjoyed with others. Just keep an eye out for Rudy’s hooves.