Planet MiniGolf Hands-On

We check out Zen Studios' latest game for PlayStation Network.

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You've probably played a round or two of minigolf in your day, but it's doubtful you've played a round on solid ice, or in a pirate cove, or in the middle of London's fashionable Soho district. That's one of the hooks with Zen Studios' upcoming Planet MiniGolf for PlayStation Network. Zen has made a name for itself with its respected Zen Pinball debut, which was released in 2009, and the same ball physics that made that game fun will be found on the challenging minigolf courses in this game.

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Planet MiniGolf will feature four different themed environments with four courses apiece of varying difficulty. With each course having nine holes, that adds up to 144 separate holes in the game, and Zen Studios' reps told us that they'll be adding DLC courses after the game is released. Courses run the gamut in terms of challenge--from easy starter courses to more difficult setups full of obstacles and moving parts that will require some tricky shots to find the hole. There are also so-called "wacky" courses that combine the precision of the harder minigolf holes with puzzles that you'll need to solve to progress. There are six preset characters to choose from, and you'll be able to unlock new clothing and accessories for each character by spending gold, silver, or bronze keys you earn while playing the game. You won't get attribute bonuses for new clothes or clubs, however--it's all just for appearances.

The game's courses are a far cry from the minigolf courses you've played at your local amusement park. For example, on the pirate-themed level, the holes are elevated off the ground. Instead of traditional minigolf Astroturf, you'll be rolling the ball on wooden planks that curve around. In some cases, you'll need to drop the ball from one level to the next, or drive the ball up a steep incline to a plateau above. It will take a light touch, but with three distinct control schemes (using the left stick to putt, using a triple-click option, or simply holding the button down to build power and letting go to swing), you'll probably find a setup you like.

You can use power-ups found on certain holes to improve your chances at lowering your score. One power-up makes your ball heavier (thus bouncing less), and another draws your ball magnetically to the hole. There's a power-up that lets you briefly steer your ball using the PlayStation 3 controller's Sixaxis capabilities and one that will cause your ball to expand in size (and be able to roll over obstacles).You can use a collected power-up at any time by pressing the X button and can even carry it over to the next hole.

In addition to featuring online play for up to six players, Planet MiniGolf will feature a flexible course editor that will let you design holes from scratch using any of the game's preset themes and objects. As DLC courses are added, new objects and themes will be added to the course editor. We got a brief glimpse of the course editor in action, as a Zen Studios producer put together a quick course in London, using a miniature drawbridge as its main feature. You'll be able to upload finished courses and share them with friends, who will be able to rate your creations.

Planet MiniGolf is due for release this spring, will cost $9.99, and will be compatible with PlayStation Move controls when Move is released later this year.

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