Gummy Bears Mini Golf
3DS Download | Enjoy Gaming / Clockwork Games | 1-4 Players (local multiplayer) | Out Now (North America) | $5.99
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30th May 2013; By KnucklesSonic8
You could pretend Gummy Bears Mini Golf isn't a retail offering re-scaled for digital distribution and it would still be a fairly easy sell. At present, there's only one other competing selection, so it doesn't have to worry about getting overlooked because of a crowded market. But the interesting bit is that with Gummy Bears Mini Golf being designed for kids, the case could be made that the strict boundary system governing its competitor, Fun! Fun! Minigolf TOUCH!, puts it at odds with younger players. When you look at it like that, Gummy Bears Mini Golf seems to settle in just fine. Yet, why do I have this inkling to almost tear down the whole park and give it a much-needed makeover? If the hope is to extend a mini-experience and that visitors leave with a lasting memory, you just couldn't get that from Gummy Bears Mini Golf in the form that it's in now.
Awaiting players are 36 holes spread out across the four kingdoms of the in-game world. Through the game's Career Mode, the three nine-hole courses that aren't available by default will open up, but to accomplish this, a set quota of strokes must not be exceeded -- and, perhaps in a strange move, kids won't have a generous margin for error. While perfection isn't expected, the conditions are such that repeat plays will most definitely be required, trimming results with each successive session as you become aware of the avenues available to you in the way of shortcuts and the right amount of force to use on certain turns and pre-hill straights.
Similar to how the unlock system in Fun! Fun! Minigolf TOUCH! works, coins found on each hole can be redeemed for rewards at the accessory shop, which include hats, golfing equipment and profile emblems. The irritating thing is that for items that stock in different colours, separate sets of coins are required for each colour. Even so, the ability to dress up your character with these few touches is appreciated, albeit with the drawback (see: strange oversight) that customized players can't be selected for multiplayer play.
When not aiming to unlock everything, Free Play can be selected for tee-offs with a CPU rival. This can be furthered with League Mode, this game's version of a country club. What it doesn't tell you is that rather than reserving victory for the first to secure three wins as with a standard competition in other golf games, you must play to the very end of the full course. Then comes another surprise that the opponent is merely one in a line of competitors you're slated to defeat. Even though progress is saved, seven rounds against CPUs on the same set of holes with no variation or substantial progression isn't a good idea.
Getting into the mechanics, Gummy Bears Mini Golf replicates the same control setup as Bowling Bonanza 3D (another recent eShop release from Enjoy Gaming), with icons placed next to and above the golf ball for positioning or to apply rotations. Power is not determined by the strength of drags made with the stylus but instead by a slider or gauge you tap on before tapping on the ball icon for an automated follow-through. It's not the most intuitive, I must say, but it's not a hassle to work with and it becomes a part of the routine that you don't give much thought to.
Ball physics are delayed here, likely done to establish a slower pace where it's easy to track developments and observe changes in the ball's behaviour as it responds to small bumps and the like. Admittedly, this may unsettle anyone used to more realistic speeds, particularly as the ball goes off ramps and descends slowly as though gravity were lessened. It also doesn't help that trying to execute angled bounces meets with mixed success, with walls seeming more like they're made of cement and balls not responding accurately.
The physical layouts are where I take up more of an issue with the game, though. It should first be addressed that while I did mention shortcuts earlier, don't take this to mean that there's an added layer of planning to be had. In truth, a very, very small number actually present a secondary path to experiment with. (You do, however, have the ability to bounce the ball over borders.) All others are flat, perhaps not in the literal sense of the word, as there are inclines and whatnot, but in the sense that whatever few height elevations and twists exist aren't taken advantage of.
The only gimmicks present are corner bumpers, water hazards, and blocks that rotate in place or move horizontally like paddles. Courses don't actually use props in the background or those otherwise tied to the kingdom theme to enhance the experience, with rainbows, pastries, clouds and clouds being some examples of those that could've been integrated to make for a more entertaining scene. The crazy thing is that a considerable number of hole arrangements are identical to what I've seen before in other digital golf experiences, so this adds a near-essential onus on the game to, not necessarily differentiate, but also not demonstrate itself to be so cookie-cutter. And for the game's refusal to branch out, I do resent it to some degree.
That said, these flaws don't cause the fun factor to plummet, and I can still see kids having a good time with it. It's just that if they've experienced beginner-friendly mini-golf games in the past, Gummy Bears Mini Golf will be far from special. What is more, the whole situation surrounding the three locked courses is enough to prompt justified frustration over small errors in judgment or, more commonly, when the physics don't align the way they should.
In terms of presentation, kids won't get much out of the 3D use, though its impact is better than expected. The course settings, while going for an almost Alice in Wonderland atmosphere, aren't well-populated, with sporadic objects such as treasure chests and candy used in line with a specific theme but, again, never infiltrating the immediate space of holes. The base visuals are passable and don't offend, albeit they veer on being devoid of charm if you look at them from a technical standpoint.
Animations aren't as quirky as they could be, but they aren't stiff either. How your putts are registered on-screen will stay the same regardless of power application, but it's humorous to see your bear slam his putter in frustration because of a triple bogey, for it's probably true to the frustrations that may be experienced by kids. Music is appropriate: soft and fit for a leisurely stroll through a cartoon world. There's also chatter to be heard in the background, but this is artificial and doesn't relate accurately to your performance unless you narrowly miss a hole with a putt.
Competing against the likes of Fun! Fun! Minigolf TOUCH!, I can't say Gummy Bears Mini Golf is the better option, even considering the target audience. One key point that's hard to shake is that this costs $5.99, which is very reasonable when you think about its retail origins...but the game has the unfortunate downside of being compared to what's already been released digitally, and in this case, Fun! Fun! Minigolf TOUCH! is $1 cheaper. Though CPU opponents aren't present in that game, it's still a fuller experience and thus provides better value. By choosing this instead, essentially you'll be sacrificing what bits of depth Fun! Fun! Minigolf TOUCH! managed to infuse into its formula.
It's a fair assumption that Gummy Bears Mini Golf would be the more accessible title, and in some ways that is the case -- but not all. There are issues to be had with most areas of the game, and it's a shame that its decision not to bend the rules a bit will be its ultimate downfall. Still, the game delivers adequately, and though it would've been well-liked had it been less restrained, the state that it is in now will still be just fine for younger players to be briefly amused by.
17/30 - Okay/Average
Gameplay 5/10 - Physics are off and lack accuracy in places, ball behaviours unsettling to those with experience, amateur and cookie-cutter layouts
Presentation 5/10 - Passable graphics, lacks charm, animations could be better, soft music, doesn't take advantage of its atmosphere and themes
Enjoyment 3/5 - Young players will get frustrated over the unlock system, adequate delivery, less appeal and longevity than its direct rival
Extra Content 4/5 - Coins used to purchase accessories, League Mode isn't successful, multiplayer omits custom characters
Equivalent to a score of 57% (percentage score is approximate and based solely on the previously stated rating) - Our Rating System