Developer: Black Mountain Games
Release Date: TBA
Many people spend their free time on golf courses, and even more tour the links virtually with games like Tiger Woods PGA Tour and Microsoft's Links series. Where does that leave the rest of us, however, who don't know a five iron from a curling iron? What about those folks who get their kicks from going to places like Golfland, Scandia, or Putt-Putt who prefer their games of golf to have balls in bright pastel colors? Black Mountain Games apparently saw that lack of quality miniature golf games on the market that weren't made in Shockwave or Flash, and decided to step up to the plate with Putt Nutz.
Putt Nutz follows the mini golf adventures of the Putt family, a gathering of vaguely Plympton-esque folks who, from the newborn baby Chip to the geriatric Birdie, are all a wee bit too excited about mini golf. At least, that's what the instructions and the mildly annoying country-folk twang at the opening screen tell us. The family certainly has a lot of putting ahead of them, naturally, but the courses are far from the windmills and multi-tiered shots we all remember.
Holes are complex, tricky, and perhaps even a bit gimmicky, as they retain the same winding yet ultimately tiny feel of a normal miniature golf course, but instead incorporate things like yawning chasms, rain-filled Bigfoot tracks (as water hazards!), critters that go out of their way to screw up your shot, and even the occasional volatile powder keg. No, this isn't your typical miniature golf. However, there are also power-ups spread about – icons which remove strokes from your hole count, give you tokens to use in the arcade (more on that later), or give you balls to use on later holes.
Those colorful, pastel balls we all remember our fondest mini golf memories with are present, as well, though with a bit of a twist. The default "junior" ball is a boring, generic white, fitting for such a boring, generic golf ball. Each other color, however, holds a hidden power, or rather, the special balls are color-coded. A pink Stop ball allows the ball to stop itself instantly with the press of a button, an orange Jump ball will hop over obstacles, and the obligatory sea-foam green and brown golf balls that nobody usually wants to get are now the useful Boom and Armored balls, respectively, which are immune to the effects of otherwise ball-incinerating explosions. Each special ball has a limited supply; each time you use one for a hole, it's gone, and if you somehow knock it into water, off a cliff, or into a mine... then oops! It's time to get another ball.
Extra balls are thankfully relatively easy to get; putt a hole with a score of par or lower, and you get a bonus ball to use. In addition, there are always ball power-ups strewn around holes which provide extra balls. Balls are awarded for longest putt records on each hole, and you can always earn more by going to the Gopher Arcade and putting a few times. Games in the Arcade each cost tokens to play (usually one per round) and vary from Gopher Darts (basically a putt challenge which awards you points for how close you get the ball to the pin) to G-Ball (which is, like it sounds, a golf rendition of skee ball). The points you earn in those games translate to extra balls for you to use in the normal game, ranging from one ball per token to 64 for an exceptionally played game of G-Ball.
Courses in the game are few but varied. Starting on the deck of the SS Putt (the Putt family's yacht, but where are they getting this money if all they do is play miniature golf?), you travel across the untamed jungles around the strangely named Mt. Ballcano, only to then venture under the sea (all Disney cracks aside) and then to get shrunk to the size of a penny. Only after performing well on all three 18-hole courses do you then get to go to the Putt's private island (seriously, did they win the lottery or something?) to enjoy normal, sane miniature golf, with the things you remember like windmills.
This game was made with the PS2 in mind, and as such, the preview build was a direct port. The PC controls hadn't been implemented, and many other options common in PC games were missing, like the ability to play the game in windowed mode or to play with a controller. The controls were simple but complex at the same time, as the manual said to use the arrow keys to aim putts, but only experimentation and luck revealed to me that one had to press shift along with the button pressed to aim. That's really the crux of the controls - directional keys to aim, one button to charge putt power and to confirm shots, another to activate special ball abilities (like the ability to jump the ball or make it stop on a dime), and yet one more to cancel messed-up putt settings and to back out of game menus.
Putt Nutz needs a little bit of work for its commercial release on the PC; a bit of bug testing and tweaking will be vital before the game finds a publisher. Once it does, however, it should be a blast for the entire family to enjoy. Sometimes it might get a bit questionable – Dimple Putt has a chest big enough to store treasure in, and Duff occasionally holds up his malformed, fingerless hand in a posture which leads one to think of birds – but for the most part, the game is primarily inoffensive. If you like going out onto the putting green, Putt Nutz looks to be quite a party game when it comes out, unlike the usual golf fare.
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