King of Clubs Hands-On

We get into the swing of Oxygen Interactive's crazy new golf game.

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Why somebody first had the idea of taking the serious sport of golf, shrinking it down, and introducing lots of quirky--if not downright bizarre--themes is something we just don't know. But somebody did, and ever since, the curious appeal of miniature golf for first dates or family outings has been undeniable.

It's also been something that's transferred fairly well to the virtual medium, with Flash versions on mobile phones or the Internet readily available. However, it's not a subject for many off-the-shelf games, so Oxygen Interactive's choice to put together such a game might at first seem a little brave.

Hail to the king, Bubba.
Hail to the king, Bubba.

King of Clubs, in development for the Wii, DS, PlayStation 2, PlayStation Portable, and PC, takes the traditional notion of a crazy golf game to a new level. There are 96 holes altogether, along with a variety of clubs and balls, each of which produce different effects when used. There are also four single-player modes and five multiplayer modes. To find out more, we made the short journey from GameSpot UK's offices in London to spend some time playing the Wii version at Oxygen's base in Croydon.

First things first. The King is, in fact, a character called Big Bubba, an Elvis wannabe living in the dusty climes of the Texas desert. Having inherited a decent sum of money--with little to spend it on--he built a huge crazy golf emporium, hired some failed actor friends as club professionals, and went into business. Sadly, time hasn't been the best friend to Bubba, and his place is looking a little under the weather now. But the holes are all in good working order and sit across a number of themes, such as sci-fi, Egyptian, and medieval.

Each hole has a par and a course record. You can play through the single-player game by choosing from an initial selection of four characters and heading to the tee. As you play through the game, you'll win cash prizes for achieving various targets, such as making par or beating records, and with that money, you can buy new equipment.

There are several types of club available other than the standard putter, including two that provide either very powerful or very gentle shots, two that can chip the ball, two that swerve the ball either left or right, and one that provides extra accuracy. You can also purchase a selection of balls, from the basic rubber ball to one that rolls much further than normal. There's even a ball that sticks to any surface upon which it lands.

This means that once you've raised enough cash to buy the whole selection, a number of different options for completing each hole become available. For example, if one course requires you to negotiate your ball through a network of pathways, you might need four or five putts to get from tee to hole. But by using a wedge club and sticky ball, you might be able to jump directly in a single shot. Each of the holes can be made in one, and there's a special course ready to be unlocked if you can manage to make all the courses with one shot.

In space, no one can hear you putt.
In space, no one can hear you putt.

In addition to the various single-player modes, which include career and practice options, there are a number of ways to play offline with your friends. But currently, there's no plan to include online functionality on any of the platforms. There are standard single or multiple course face-offs, but we got to try out the mode known as golf warriors. This version of the game selects a hole at random, as well as chooses your club and ball selection. That selection is the same for each player, but it changes for each shot that is played, and some of the resulting combinations can pose quite a challenge.

For example, while one course might feature a hole that's on a raised platform, if the computer doesn't assign you or your friends a club that's capable of chipping, you might have to look quite carefully for alternative routes. We found playing through a three-hole challenge in this mode was good fun and could make for some great entertainment with friends.

The Wii controllers also play their part in the accessibility of the game. The menu options are accessed by using the D pad and the A button. You can use the Wii Remote's motion sensor in a straightforward manner to adjust the power of your shot and execute it. The game's not very fussy about how you actually take your shot and doesn't require any kind of realistic golf swing, so it doesn't punish you if you don't step up like Tiger.

The release date for King of Clubs hasn't yet been confirmed. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more information as it becomes available.

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