Table Mini Golf
a review by @vdjomb
Developer: Four Door Lemon Limited
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
Platform: PlayStation Vita
Price: £1.59 (+ £0.79 for Toy Land Course Pack) Purchased by review
Like a lot of Yorkshire children who grew up in the eighties, I spend many a school summer holiday on the East Coast with my family. I would always harass my grandparents to play crazy golf with me. The seaside attractions of my childhood were never of the elaborate quality that American TV shows depicted but these little courses did often have obstacles, bends, hills and an occasional windmill. So imagine my joy when I saw that Four Door Lemon’s latest PS Vita game was Table Mini Golf and for less than £2 on the PSN Store.
If you’re foolish enough not to have bought a PS Vita then you may not be aware of how brilliant some of it’s games are, how reasonably priced and how innovative some of this portable system features are. One of these being the utilisation of it’s rear camera and Cards with symbols on to map graphics and characters on the screen that move in 3 Dimensions called AR (Augmented Reality), as you move the PS Vita around images enlarge as you get closer or shrink as you move further away.
Four Door Lemon were one of the first developers to create a game for this mechanism on the PS Vita, the launch title Table Football can be downloaded from the PSN Store for free. Since then they continued the format and stylings with Table Ice Hockey for the same price as this game £1.59.
AR games are a nice idea but can suffer from limitations such as having to have the AR cards with you, a flat surface and needing a decent lighting level. So not really appropriate for playing at night, traveling home on the last bus but if you get it set up it’s an impressive experience. I’ve been playing with a card on my thigh in the living room (so no table top required).
With all that background out of the way I’ll get on and tell you about this game. I could just simply advise you to buy it because you really should, instead I’ll save that to the end of the review.
Just like real golf your aim is to try to get the ball in the cup in as few shots as possible, and like crazy golf the courses are littered with obstacles that can hinder or aid your chances of scoring a hole-in-one. I love the spitting frogs and kracken tentacles awesome for getting you to the cup quicker. The game also scores you on the style of your shots, such as hitting objects, putting from distances, close approaches or completing mini challenges. The later has a similar feel to the ones in Jetpack Joyride where by completion of certain conditions awards a star or three which improve your overall rank. There are three specific challenges per hole and general ones all with varying difficulties, the frustrating one as the most satisfying to complete.
Graphics are cute and well done with excellent animations, I especially like the way the course renders from the card. The visual style reminds me of quirky cartoony Breakout clone Magic Ball on PS3 which I personally enjoyed. Each theme has two sets of nine holes, you get two themes Horror, Pirate and I purchased the Toy Land Pack for an additional £0.70 for another eighteen holes. The tracking of the AR cards works really well, moving around or closer to the card to get a better view of your golfer’s position. Adding another couples of cards improve the stability but it works fine with just one, you can move others around to get a better view of the terrain. I loved the fact I could easily rotate the card rather than my position. There is also a helpful warning given if you get too close, or have PS Vita too far from the card. You get a choice of three golfers, one for each of the three themes which look cute enough, if a little generic.
Controls are brilliantly simple the Left Stick is used to rotate your aim and holding down X Button creates a coloured arrow in the direction you want to putt. The arrow extends and retracts as you hold it to give an effective visual cue as to how much power your putt will receive.
You can play each course in a Free Play mode opening up the next hole when you manage to set a score on your current one. It can also be played by up to four players by passing the PS Vita around or you can add up to three AI players for a bit of competition.
After you’ve finished all the holes in Free Play it opens up an Elimination Tournament mode which pits you against three AI players that you don’t see but you get a visual representation of how they’ve played and score. The AI with the highest number of strokes is eliminated after three holes, this plays out over all nine holes until there’s a winner. I’m not sure if I’m just not great at it but on certain courses I got the feeling the AI was cheating. If you win your scores can be compared against friends or the whole world via Online Leaderboards. I’m a bit confused as to why I have to accept the EULA each time I try to compare scores, hopefully this bug can be addressed.
Sounds are nice with a satisfying clunk when the dimpled ball is struck, decent enough ambient noises, pleasing celebration sounds and a reasonable music track.
The game is exquisitely simple to play, it only took a few games before I was getting Birdies, Eagles and Hole-in-ones, the replay value comes from trying to finish every hole challenge. Progression works well in free play allowing you get some practice in before trying an Elimination Tournament and seeing how you fare against the world (at the time of writing I’m 20th on the first Horror Tournament scoreboard).
I feel a new Scoreboard being added for the competitive PS Vita owners here on JoypadAndMe. I am a little disappointed that it can’t be played online against friends, may be it’s something that could be added later and I personally would be willing to pay for such a feature.
Ok so this game is not Tiger Woods or Everybody’s Golf but neither is it trying to be and Table Mini Golf is a small fraction of the price of said games. I’ve already told you should buy it, so do it now, it’s not even two quid and you get to dig out your now dusty or boxed AR Cards. Let me know what you think and if you played if for three full battery charges trying to get all the trophies like me, I’m determined to try and 100% the twelve Trophies including a time vampire of a Gold Trophy.
I can see myself playing this for some time to come and if extra courses are added at £0.70 I’ll keep buying and playing. The quality of this title can only bode well for what future projects Four Door Lemon are working on especially considering they are confirmed to be on the list of developers for PlayStation 4.
A big thanks to Simon and Les from Four Door Lemon for responding so quickly with some of the images in this review, others were taken from screen grabs made during my playthough for this review using the PS Vita.