Impressive backgrounds and fun artwork arenâ€™t enough to lift Carnival Games Mini Golf out of the mire. But letâ€™s tee off by saying that this game is pretty. The courses on offer herein have been well put together, with water features and many wacky obstacles and random pieces of eye candy for you to look at while youâ€™re fishing your ball out of a patch of mud, pool of lava or from the petals of a hungry flower. This gameâ€™s long on looks, but comes up a bit short where it matters.
It ainâ€™t all bad: pick from a range of courses, each one even harder than the one before it, and you can at least have a bit of fun, but itâ€™s short lived. First of all, the game canâ€™t decide whether itâ€™s a colourful piece of fluff or something a bit more sinister. Even some of the easy holes have you swinging and missing for some time. Playing to its appearances, Carnival Games seems like the kind of thing you can happily leave a child playing while you get about the business of adult life, but 2K might have missed their demographic.
The controls are nowhere near as responsive as they could be. Itâ€™s okay to have a power meter running on a wide bell curve on most regular golf games, with the ball rolling off the tee at one end and zooming into orbit at the other, but youâ€™d hope for some regulation in a mini-golf sim. Not here. Itâ€™s way too easy to overshoot (once you get used to the fact that it doesnâ€™t matter which way you jerk the remote, the meter records it as a swing) or undershoot. At first I thought it was me and my ham-fisted way with motion-sensitive technology, but it soon became apparent the creators didnâ€™t spend enough time considering the game mechanics.
At first you have three courses to choose from â€“ a psychedelic land of gnomes and pixies called Fairytella, Old McDoogleâ€™s (yes, McDoogleâ€™s) Barn Yard and Prehistoria; guess what giant beasts still roam the latter. Each (and the same goes for the other courses, unlockable as you progress) has three holes, consisting of an Adventure hole, a Trick Shot hole and a Challenge Hole. The Adventure hole appears to be the same as many in real life, although with the fantasy element theyâ€™ve injected here itâ€™s naturally that much more zany. For your Trick Shot hole you need to bounce the ball off or into something, or otherwise aim it a little differently than usual. Your Challenge Hole requires you to use your ball to perform a specific task, often with a pinball element to boot: flap the remote to flap the flippers â€“ which is actually kind of cool.
On each hole you can collect coins for use in the pro shop. Your character, created by you at the beginning of the game, can be customized from head to balls â€“ thatâ€™s golf balls, of course â€“ and as you stack up your coinage you will find yourself able to purchase more and more extravagant clothes and accessories. Along the way, thereâ€™s other secrets to unlock, many of them hiding a new pair of shoes or a ridiculous hat. Unlockable content, like in so many titles, is the syrup on the crumpet, and might keep you from getting bored too soon.
The other way to spin this one out is in the multiplayer mode. I must admit to liking the sabotage option, where you can shake your remote and have your opponent distracted in a number of ways â€“ cheating always tends to make a victory that much sweeter. You can also wager items you have collected throughout the game, whether that be in solo or multiplayer games. If cheating doesnâ€™t do it for you, maybe gambling will.
The sound in Carnival Games Mini Golf is disjointed and weird. The music flits around, and while the ambient noise is alright the first time through a course, it does get a bit repetitive. Dishonourable mention to the single AI character you can play against â€“ Barker â€“ who is also your host and tutor. His grumbling and mumbling as he lines up his shot is more annoying than someone who comments on green speed. You know the type.
If â€˜kidsâ€™ = X, and Xâ€¦ okay my algebra is worse than my mini-golf, but what Iâ€™m getting at is that children are sort of a wild-card this Christmas. Will they like it? Some will, provided they donâ€™t have too-short an attention span. Kids seeing the cover on the shelves could very well mean a few extra units get shifted, but if youâ€™re 12+ and maybe more a Call of Duty fan, Iâ€™d suggest walking right by.