Developer Shin’en isn’t Japanese, but it’s hard to remember that when you’re playing its games. The German developer is known for its shoot-’em-ups like Nanostray and Iridion, and when it isn’t making those, it’s putting out quirky WiiWare titles with names that usually only a Japanese person would come up with, like FAST Racing League and Fun! Fun! Minigolf.
Fun! Fun! Minigolf TOUCH!, the company’s latest, is an adaptation of the previously-mentioned WiiWare game for the slowly-building eShop service. The game features 81 holes of putting in nine locales, and it includes the now-requisite coin system and shop for buying items and unlocking new courses.
Shin’en does a good job of making minigolf feel distinct from its big brother here. Rather than a shot meter, the game uses the touch screen for control: you move a ring around the ball to rotate your shot angle, then pull back on the club for strength and let go when a moving dot is closest to the ball’s center for accuracy. It works fairly well at emulating the minigolf feel, and while there’s a button-only option to control the same interface, we actually found ourselves moving back to the stylus for the feel of it.
The courses themselves are interesting, and 81 holes seems like a good amount for a $5 downloadable. The execution is a bit strange, though: if your shot doesn’t make it inside an outlined area near the hole, it’s “out of bounds” and you have to start the next stroke at the beginning. We understand the intent: it takes skill to make it through the various obstacles and turns in one stroke. There’s already a reward for that, though, as it results in a lower score, and when you make it to the end only to have a bounce send you just slightly out of an oddly-shaped area, it’s frustrating enough to make you want to hit the Home menu and move on to something else.
For those who like a one-putt challenge, there’s also a trick shot mode that isolates those into structured events. (That said, that in-bounds line basically makes every hole into a trick shot mode already.) Still, it adds another reason to go back to the holes and, for a cheaper title, that’s a nice thing on its own.
The unlockables are okay: we understand progression makes people feel good. But some choices are just strange. The playable characters consist of a guy with an awkward-looking face and a girl with an awkward-looking face. Not much time was spent here, since the team wants you to just use your Mii (which fixes that right up), but for some reason the Mii option is locked behind a 500-coin shop item. That’s not much, and you’ll be able to buy it after one 9-hole course, but at that point, why not just make it available by default?
With every 3DS review, it’s important to mention the 3D, we guess. Thankfully, the depth perception advantages to judging shot power are an enhancement here, and Shin’en didn’t make the mistake some do of making the effect too strong or gimmicky. If you play with 3D off, though, you’re not missing much of anything. The game’s designed for nine-hole play sessions (and it really doesn’t have the depth for anything more anyway), so you won’t encounter too much eye strain anyway.
There are some disappointing elements here, but it’s hard to find better options if you’re looking to have fun and also have fun, and you would prefer to be playing minigolf while you do. Keep being crazy, Shin’en.
Pros: Interesting shot controls, fun courses
Cons: In-bounds areas are frustrating, Miis not default