Pardon me while I wax nostalgic.
It is a rite of passage for teenagers living on Chicago's north side and northern suburbs to go out on a date to Par-King Skill Golf in Morton Grove. There may be a better miniature golf course somewhere, but Par-King, with its Mount Rushmore, roller coaster, and Prudential Building complete with elevator, has packed them in for more than 30 years. Weekend evenings with two hour waits to tee-off may be long gone (it's down to about a half-hour now), but it's still the place for wholesome fun.
And I wish I were there now because 3D Ultra Mini Golf is no substitute. All I can think of as I drag my putter through this unimaginative game is its unrealized potential. If you're a Par-King alum, I know you've conjured up numerous dream holes, and now, with all the power of computer graphics and sound, the mind quivers at the possibilities.
I'm sure the designers of 3D Ultra Mini Golf considered those possibilities, but they unfortunately settled for something much more mundane. Where are the pyrotechnics? How about some real surprises? And, most important of all, where's the fun?
That's not to say some of 3D Ultra Mini Golf's 18 holes aren't creative. Where else can you putt on a Moon Base, amongst dinosaurs, or underwater? But none of the holes offers anything that resembles excitement, and the feeble attempts at humor don't work. Multiple announcers with multiple accents explain each hole's objective with musical accompaniment. But a Jamaican accent and Reggae music for a hole set in an Aztec temple? Come on.
And not only are the holes uninspired, but the gameplay is kludgy at best. You have two putting speed options: either power meter controlled (like most golf sims) or pushing the mouse at variable rates. Neither works well. Lining up your putts is a pain since there are no variable camera angles. Your ball can be off to one side of the screen with the hole on the other side. In some instances the hole can be behind you, off-screen. This is equivalent to putting backwards, between your legs, with your eyes closed.
On many holes, you tee-off with no idea where the hole is. Why not display a little bull's-eye? Most holes have hazards that go so far as to blow up, disintegrate, crush, or ground your ball into sawdust, but none of the animations is entertaining. The graphics are decent, but how about a drop shadow for the ball or a ball's eye view or tracking cameras? These are standards in golf games; why should mini golfers expect any less?
If you see this puppy on the discount rack for $5 to $10, then snarf it up for its momentary diversion. Otherwise, head for Par-King.