The portable version of a video game is usually inferior to the home console iteration in more than a few ways. Depending on the portable console in question, graphics and sound would obviously have to be downgraded, but the gameplay is often over-simplified to the point where it is no longer fun. There are very few instances, though, where the portable version of a game ends up being on par or even superior to the home console version on which it was based. Such is the case with Gummy Bears Minigolf, a game that amazingly is on par with the Nintendo Wii version. That sounds promising, but it doesn't end up meaning much when the home console version was such a disaster in the first place.
Gummy Bears Minigolf features a few modes for both single- and multiplayer play. Standard play gives you the chance to play through four different courses, each with three holes to conquer. Each course is littered with coins that can be picked up and used to buy new items for your golfer. While only one course is available from the outset, reaching a cumulative par or below for all three holes in the course gives you access to the next course. Free play mode lets you go golfing in any of the unlocked courses with up to four golfers, yourself included.
If there's one thing that stands out the most in the previous paragraph, it would be the limited number of holes in the game. Three holes per course is very short, no matter how you look at it, and even with the requirement that you finish the course at par or lower, it won't take very long before you unlock all 12 holes. Further adding to the disappointment is the fact that the courses consist of nothing more than a putting green with inclines and bumps obstructing your path. Despite playing in lands filled with trees, toy soldiers and candy canes, nothing that differentiates minigolf from regular golf is included in each course. The lack of interesting obstacles in the field makes for some rather boring and mundane golf — something not usually associated with this offshoot of the popular sport.
The game features a course builder mode, but unlike its home console version, this limits you to creating custom courses based on the pre-made ones in lands that you've already unlocked. You can create a three-, six-, or nine-hole course this way, but with only a total of 12 different ones to choose from and the inability to choose the same hole twice in a course, this feature will get little to no use from the average player.
The simplicity carries over to the golfer selection. Each golfer is exactly the same in terms of stats, leaving gummy bear color as the only real choice you have during character selection. As mentioned before, you can earn coins in each course, and those coins can be used to buy various customization parts in different categories. You can buy anything, from different clothes and hats to different putters and ball trail effects, and while nothing really affects your game, those who love customization will be fine with the item selection.
Beyond the simplicity of the game and lack of different courses, the biggest gripe against Gummy Bears Minigolf would be the controls. The face buttons and d-pad both control the camera, leaving the touch-screen as your main input for putting. Unlike other titles, though, your putting scheme is very cumbersome. To build up your shot meter, you must scratch the pad behind the ball or in front of the ball, and a swipe toward the ball starts the putting action. The reason no one else uses this scheme is because of how often you'll end up making bad shots. Shots with too much power go off-course while a wrong swipe sends the ball off with little to no distance covered. Often the game has a difficult time differentiating between a swipe and a scratch, resulting in holes that score double or triple bogeys. It gets no better once you fully understand the scheme, and since the skills here aren't used in other golf games, it feels almost painful to learn them in the first place.
The sound simply exists. The music elicits feelings of being in a magical land, but the short length of the track before looping again makes the music feel tiresome after a round or two. There really isn't much in the way off effects, though putting and drop of the ball sound fine. As for voices, the bears say nothing and the claps and cheers from the crowd sound too generic to be noticed. If there's anything commendable about the sound, it would be that it emulates the Wii version rather well.
Like the sound, the graphics don't try to be astounding. The backgrounds are colorful while the putting green isn't anything special to look at, aside from the checkerboard patterns. The animations look fine, and the particle effects are decent enough when the ball is in motion and when it sinks into the cup. One thing to note is the bears themselves. For something based on candy, they look like any cartoon bears you'd see anywhere else. If they looked more like the candy, complete with translucent bodies, it would at least be interesting to see. Alas, when you look at these bears, you forget that the game has any affiliation with the candy.
It almost feels like a backhanded compliment to say that Gummy Bears Minigolf's biggest accomplishment is that it is just as good as the Wii version. What represented generic sound and poor graphics on the console feels like a decent effort on the NDS, though the poor control scheme negates those "positives" quickly enough. With content that mirrors the Wii version exactly, there is no mystery about what is offered in the DS version. Having said that, there is still no way this would be recommended to anyone, no matter how desperate they may be to have a new, portable golf game. The lack of content and frustrating controls mean that no enjoyment can be had from this product, no matter how cheap it gets.
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