Beach Mini Golf 2D

Putt It Like You Mean It

While the likes of Tiger Woods PGA Tour and Vijay Singh Pro Golf have done a great job of porting the professional sport to our mobile phones, some gamers like their pitch-and-putt action to be a little less stuffy. Enter Beach Mini Golf 2D from Digital Chocolate, a cell phone version of those seaside goofy golf courses we all remember from childhood holidays–although you’ll have to provide your own cotton candy, and there are no spoiled crying brats replaying the same hole over and over again.

The game’s tournament mode features three successive courses–Beach Life, Sea Fun, and Windmill, all offering nine typically goofy holes. Up to four players can take part on one handset, each choosing from a selection of cartoon-style avatars. The computer takes control of any characters not represented by human players, so you’ve always got a full roster to play against (although you never see the computer golfers taking their shots, so if you’re playing alone, it’s really just you against the par).

The control setup is as basic as they come: 4 and 6 aim left and right, and pressing and holding 5 selects power. You can also use the 1,3, 7, and 9 buttons to scroll the camera around and get a good preview of the hole. The gameplay is mostly based on overcoming corners and gradients. The skill lies in getting the angles and speed right: Overshooting can send you down a dead end that takes ages to putt out of, while underhitting, especially when approaching a steep incline, can actually send you right back to the beginning. Luckily for the uninitiated, there are handy tips before each hole, imparting sound but silly golf maxims. “Remember, the shortest route to the ball is not always the best” is almost Buddhist in its simple wisdom.

As the game progresses, new features and obstacles are added to the experience. For instance, sand patches slow the ball down, and escalators carry your ball up steeper hills. Most of these can be an advantage or disadvantage depending on the situation. A kindly positioned sand pit may prove a great help if you need the ball to stop in a certain position, but a down escalator placed beside a hill that you need to get the ball up can prove to be a frustrating little trap. There are also ramps to jump, and on the final Windmills course you get, yes, windmills, that old miniature golf favorite. Here you have to time your shots just right to avoid the swirling blades.

Finishing each course on or under par opens the next (and when a course has been completed, you can go back and play any hole you like in the practice mode). It’s not a great challenge, to be honest. You could always go back and attempt to improve your par for each hole, of course, but really any longevity you get from the game will be because of the multiplayer mode, which provides a fun challenge for both gamers and complete novices.

The isometric graphics are cheerfully bright and simple on the Nokia 6600, with only a few scenic features to flesh out the environment. The sparse styling works just fine, though. The aim display–a dotted white line that emerges from your ball to show where it will go when you hit it–can be a little misleading. Sometimes it suggests you have a clear shot on the hole, but when you play, you clip a wall or obstacle. Sometimes the opposite is true, and you pass on a shot that may well have been there for the taking. With experience, however, you learn how to compensate. Beach Mini Golf doesn’t make the most of the 6600’s sound capabilities, but the in-game effects and music suffice to remind you that you’re playing miniature golf.

We would like to have seen more courses, or even a construction mode, but no doubt memory constraints got in the way. As things stand, Beach Mini Golf is an entertaining little diversion that’s best enjoyed with friends. It certainly doesn’t have the depth of Tiger Woods PGA Tour, and more often than not, the solution to the hole is “don’t aim–just hit the ball as hard as possible.” It would have been nice if more of the holes had offered multiple viable strategies for completion.

But if miniature golf is all about smacking the ball really, really hard and then laughing sportingly when it comes straight back to you or flies off onto another hole, this is a very accurate simulation. As Bill Murray proved in Caddyshack–and, in fact, as all professional players prove every time they dress themselves for a tournament–golf doesn’t always have to be serious.

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