Thoughts on Electronic Arts' Mini Golf

by Erica Sadun

Last week, I paid up my $4.99 to download a copy of the new iPod Electronic Arts Mini Golf game. It was my first iPod games purchase. And, despite the limited iPod UI possibilities, the EA designers did a terrific port.

Visually, the game shines. The graphics are clear and vibrant. After each hole, the game "moves" you to the next hole. This between-holes animation is smooth, clever and fun to watch.

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The audio quality sounded fine, although I found it superfluous. It's much easier to play games without wearing headphones.

The game play itself was enjoyable. I found the level of difficulty to be modest, but my kids were entranced. It's a good match for their interest and abilities.

The weakest part of any iPod game is going to be the physical user interface. On normal computers and gaming machines, a variety of user controls provide all the fine motor interactions you need to execute game commands. On the iPod, you're limited to the scroll wheel. This means that game designers need to develop games that users can play with restricted interaction.

Here's how things work in MiniGolf. You scroll to set the golf ball's starting position and then click. You scroll to adjust the angle of your shot and then click. Finally, in the least-intuitive part of the interface, you wait as the swing strength oscillates between weak and strong and then click to set the power of the shot. It works, but it does feel more than a little clunky.

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Was EA Mini Golf worth my $4.99? Yes. We've had hours of fun so far without the game growing stale. I wish there were more than three courses, but there's only so much you can expect for a five buck purchase.

I'm curious to see what other games will debut for the iPod. Right now, there are 9 commercial titles available. I suspect that driving games may prove a good match. Penn & Teller's evil Desert Bus is just crying out for a port.

8 Comments

Nexuapex
2006-09-20 10:04:46
Only so much you can expect for $4.99, indeed, but also from less than a month. There's a reason for the limited course selection.
Matthew
2006-09-20 11:48:00
Like you, I ponied up and bought this as my first game. I love it, but I wish there are more courses. I think that iPod games could be a smoking gun for what the iTV system can support. Will games port to iTV and will they be better? Maybe yes and maybe no, you never know.


Until then, keep the games coming for the iPod. I love them.

Gordon Meyer
2006-09-20 12:05:21
Every computer golf game I've played, stretching all the way back to the Atari ST, has used that same click-strength/click-swing UI for swinging the club. I think EA would have implemented it that way even if the iPod had a zillion buttons and joystick.
Kut
2006-09-20 12:44:22
Look at it from this perspective. You could get a grande mocha latte for about the same price when you include tax. And it'll last you an hour. You've already made a good investment :-)
Erica Sadun
2006-09-20 13:32:25
Gordon, it's the oscillation thing that's wierd. You have to wait for it to oscillate to the right strength and hope that you hit the button at the right time.
Andrew
2006-09-21 09:15:26
Again, golf games have been doing that for the longest time. It's what makes it difficult to hit the exact same amount each time. Just like it's hard to hit the ball with the exact same force each time in real life. No power meter of course, but can you think of a better way to do it?

2006-10-02 05:03:25
You guys should have waited someone will find out how to put it on the internet soon and people will be able to Download them.
Mike
2007-01-15 09:34:40
What about football? I would love to play NFL footbal on my iPod.