There are plenty of decent video game adaptations of sport and sport-like hobbies on the Wii, with the notable exception of this rather popular pastime played with mini-putters. Things don't get any better with the release of Carnival Games: Mini-Golf, which isn't anywhere near as fun as a good day on a real kiddie course, due to wonky controls, a dearth of goofy holes to play, and lackluster visuals and sound.
A lot of design deficiencies underline the game's bargain-basement production values. Just about everything here seems cut-rate, with the biggest problem being unresponsive Wii controls. The game attempts to mimic swinging a putter by having you pull back and push forward with the Wii Remote, but the sensitivity is so dulled down that short movements aren't registered. So instead of applying a fine touch like you would when using a real minigolf putter, you have to yank the remote back and then slam it forward hard like you were driving for distance on a par-five hole at Pebble Beach. Putting is a delicate art, yet here it comes with all the finesse of a two-by-four.
Hole design is another shortcoming. Carnival Games: Mini-Golf comes with just nine course themes, and each features only three holes to play. The themes themselves are nicely mixed up, taking in the usual minigolf concepts, such as fairy tales, barnyards, medieval knights, and haunted houses, but even this variety can't compensate for the small number of holes. Even worse, these holes are broken up into three different types that don't play much like real minigolf. Trick holes require you to figure out some kind of trick to score a hole in one, such as bouncing the ball off a wall or triggering an exploding barrel or something equally ridiculous to cause the ball to carom into the hole. You need to get really lucky and hit a precise shot here, which isn't easy to accomplish because of the gawky controls. Challenge holes are somewhat similar, although at least here you're allowed multiple shots to pull off some wacky objective like cracking a bunch of giant chicken eggs. Only the adventure holes play out like real minigolf, and these are so lengthy and convoluted that you have to play them through a few times and learn them like puzzles before you have a chance of beating them in a reasonable number of strokes.
All hole types are further loaded down with extra arcade gimmicks that get in the way of playing minigolf. Instead of trying to putt past crazy obstacles, you have to deal with a lot of visual glitz and impossible architecture. Every hole is also strewn with bonus and penalty coins that you can use to buy clothing and other accoutrements for your golfer and to unlock special goodies on the courses. Forget about outfitting your avatar with any funky plaid golfing pants, though, because clothing is insanely priced. You would have to grind a course for hours to come up with the coins necessary to buy something as basic as a T-shirt. A puzzle piece is also earned every time you finish a hole at par or under. If you collect them all on each course, you'll receive a special putter based on the theme.
The modes of play are really stripped down. You can play either solo or against your carnival host, Barker, and with up to four people on a single Wii, but golf-game staples such as tournament play are missing in action. Visuals and sound are bargain-bin in quality. Course graphics are nicely cartoony and imaginative, although the big-time jaggies all over the place pretty much wreck the appeal of the eye candy. Sound is limited; characters speak in a gibberish dialect, and the same boings and bangs of the ball rattling around the courses are repeated over and over. Barker himself is one of the most obnoxious characters you'll encounter in a game. He speaks with an over-the-top cadence about as pleasing to the ear as fingernails on a blackboard and taunts you in matches after pulling off shots that the lousy controls render impossible for you to match. So play solo or risk the temptation of throwing your Will Remote at the TV.
Carnival Games: Mini-Golf just whets your appetite for a real minigolf game that makes proper use of the motion-sensing controls of the Wii Remote. The Wii needs a better and more competent treatment of minigolf that deals with the real sport, minus all the gimmicky junk that gets between you and your putter.