A mini-golf game with a storyline…what’s next?
If there is one genre I am a sucker for it is mini-golf. Everything from Hot Shots Golf to smaller titles such as 3D Ultra Mini Golf and Golf Tee It Up are the kind of things I love to relax with between large action titles. If you are a Wii owner you know there has certainly not been a shortage of these titles on the motion-controlled system. From the original Wii Golf found within Wii Sports to the more recent We Love Golf from Capcom these quirky titles are usually loads of fun thanks to outlandish courses and goofy characters. Crave Entertainment has finally entered the running with their latest offering King of Clubs for the Wii and while the game certainly has a ton of personality, it does lack a few key items to make it stand out amongst this crowded genre.
One area where King of Clubs does differentiate itself from the herd though is that it actually attempts to give the game a storyline. I am not sure if it has become a trend in the industry lately, but it seems even the most inane titles are now trying their hand at storytelling. The plot revolves around Bubba, an Elvis impersonator who has recently come into a large sum of money. With his newly found fortune he decides to create a golf course in an abandoned amusement park. He also hires a colorful cast of ex-actors to work on the course thus giving us the rest of the players. What ensues is a wacky game of golf featuring some of the most stereotypical cast of characters you will ever encounter. While it does nothing to enhance the overall game itself, the story does provide a nice backdrop as to why you are putting down the green wearing a gawdy leisure suit.
The core game revolves around three sections that all feel very familiar. Career mode has you moving through the various courses by yourself trying to obtain the best score possible. Tournament mode mimics this for the most part with the exception of having an AI player to contend against. Finally Speed Golf has you not only racing against the clock, but still trying to make par. All three modes span over 90 different holes all themed after various locations ripe for a mini-golf game. There are five themes in all including a future theme, dinosaur island, tropical paradise, Egyptian motifs and of course Medieval Times. Trudging through the tournament mode will unlock each respective new course and even a host of multi-player modes including Party (which is exactly what it sounds like) and Golf Warriors (a random mode where everything is decided by chance such as your clubs, courses and rules).
So far so good, but the important part is still unknown: how does it play? Implementation of motion control in a Wii golf game should be rudimentary at this point, but for some reason very few have done it just right. King of Clubs implements a mixture of styles found in other games while adding its own twist that further complicates matters. To begin you press a button to start your swing, and then you pull back on the Wii remote to set the power. Once you have it where you want it you tap the button again setting the power. Then you thrust the remote forward to launch your swing. The problem lies in the inconsistency of the motion controls. When pulling back you will often times find yourself out of alignment or simply not getting the meter to go where you want it. This becomes an exercise in frustration quickly and completely nullifies the idea of a casual experience.
In the spirit of off-the-wall golf there are also power-ups and items scattered around each hole. These range from money that can be used to purchase new balls and items to weapons to utilize against your opponents. These are not far off from the items you obtain in the XBLA release of 3D Ultra Mini-Golf. These power-ups can shave strokes off your final score while the money can be used to purchase upgrades such as a rubber ball for more bounce. Trying to obtain these items during the normal course of the game can be distracting, but then again this golf isn’t meant to be serious. Overall they add a nice layer to the game, if for nothing more than to be entertaining.
Visually the game looks much like you would expect a game about a failed Elvis impersonator starting a golf course would look. Everything in the game is accented and over-proportioned while somehow managing to retain a slightly dull appearance. The courses are designed well enough, but they are certainly nothing special. Frame rates are solid, but you should expect nothing less from a game of this type and the sound effects are passable. The problem is that nothing really stands out and this looks like your typical Wii game, which to some people certainly isn’t anything special.
King of Clubs feels like yet another “me too” title in a sea of the same. It will likely entertain you for a weekend at most and is hard to recommend over the superior golf titles currently available on the system. If you adore mini-golf games as much as I do then you may find enough here to justify your purchase, just don’t expect anything groundbreaking. I have to give the developers credit for attempting to craft a storyline behind all of this madness, but even with this unique approach to the genre the game still doesn’t have anything to make it stand out from the rest of the pack.