King of ClubsESRB:
Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer - Oxygen Interactive
Publisher - Crave Entertainment
Wii Remote Compatible
Our last stop at E3 in the Los Angeles Convention Center was the Crave and Natsume booth. Despite showing up late for my appointment, everyone looking beat and chomping at the bit to pack up; the crew at Michael Meyers PR was kind enough to show me around and give me a hands-on demo of King of Clubs for the Nintendo Wii. Overall, my first impressions were positive as the game showed lots of promise. On the downside, I had a heck of a time with the controls and the visuals left me a little concerned. Nevertheless, I did my best to suspend my judgement until I actually had a chance to sink my teeth into the game. Well after a few hours into the game and some enjoyable moments, King of Clubs is not a bad little mini-golf game. But it is not a great one either. King of Clubs has its share of issues and many gamers looking for a great ‘mini putt’ game on the Wii may very well be disappointed.
When it comes to the visuals in King of Clubs, many casual Wii gamers will be pleasantly surprised. On the surface it presents as a colorful and vibrant game which takes a wacky approach to mini-golf. Some of the hole designs are fantastic and with 96 holes gamers get quite a bit of variety. Unfortunately, while many casual Wii gamers may have no issues with the visuals, many of your next-generation multi-console owners will see otherwise. To those more hardcore gamers, nothing about the look of the game is incredibly original or awe-inspiring.
While King of Clubs’ visuals are colorful, the mini-golf courses and games environments lack any real detail or sophistication. Granted I did not expect EA Sports Tiger Woods PGA quality, however I was expecting the environments and characters to look a little sharper and cleaner. I also noticed some jaggies and some of the visuals simply looked dated. For instance, the surrounding trees look dreadful and characters look grainy. On the plus side though some of the water and lighting effects are decent. The games menus are also easy to read and use which will certainly appeal to your younger gamer.
While the overall presentation could have been improved, the speed of the game is good. The loading times however can take some time but once you get into a game there is no noticeable slow down. At the end of the day there is nothing visually innovative with King of Clubs visually speaking.
As with the visuals, the audio in King of Clubs is somewhat of a mixed bag. On one hand the music is repetitive and starts to grate you after only a few minutes. Although it suits the game with that old Vegas style soundtrack the repetitiveness can get annoying. You can purchase additional tracks to get rid of the old ones however it is much the same over and over. Again, nothing is incredibly innovative here. On the other hand, the sounds effects such as whacking the ball, the ball ricocheting off the perimeter walls and other in-game sounds are not too shabby. You can also purchase Racket Packets in the King of Clubs Pro Shop to personalise the sounds made by the player’s club and balls too, which is very cool feature indeed. Additionally, the character voice work featured in the game is very clear and sounds very good, albeit somewhat cheesy. Bottom line, King of Clubs audio is decent but you don’t get anything particularly ground breaking.
Before I get into the nuts and bolts of the gameplay I will first tell you a little bit about King of Clubs’ story. Yes, belive it or not this mini-golf game has a story. It is not the most riveting or captivating storyline but kudos to the developers for at least delivering one, albeit a bit wacky. Bubba the Elvis impersonator (not the young Elvis but rather the overweight and rough looking one) has come into a small fortune. What does he decide to do with this fortune? He transforms an amusement park into a Mega Mini-Golf course. Bubba hires some unemployed actors such as the buxom bombshell and the tough guy truck driver to essentially help him run the place and play in some tournaments. That is essentially where the story ends and frankly there is not much more to it than that. The premise is decent but certainly doesn’t make or break King of Clubs for the Wii.
Story aside, King of Clubs is really all about the golfing, plain and simple. Sadly this is where the game suffers. King of Clubs features 96 holes which are set in 5 different environment themes. These themes range from Egyptian to a Tropical Paradise theme. The holes, as you would guess, do not mirror any real life ‘mini putt’ holes. In fact the sky is the limit in King of Clubs. Any imaginable course or hole layout is pretty much on display here. The holes feature all sorts of crazy obstacles and barriers for you to face and figure out the best line. On-course hazards include wall sliders, gates, risers, bumpers, trapdoors, water hazards and even pools of lava and boiling oil. Unfortunately it is the over the top approach to each hole that is one of the major shortcomings of the game. Far too often my ball would end up in such a position where I was handcuffed and stuck. Eight strokes later and my game went straight to the toilet. That being said, my frustrations also rest with the problematic controls.
To sum it up, I had a tough time with the controls. At first, I was convinced the problem was me, however after some time with the game I noticed the problem was with the responsiveness. On the surface the controls seem simple as you use the Wii Remote to aim your shot from either a third-person perspective or a top-down view. You then press the A button to activate your power meter. You then charge up you swing by raising or lowering the Wii remote. Once you established the strength of your shot you press A to lock the meter. Once the meter is set, you simply move the remote, take a swing and hit the ball. It does not sound overly complicated and the game does offer a brief tutorial. Nevertheless in my view pressing the A button merely complicates the swing and far too often I was messing around with that power meter more than I should have been. There I am standing there moving the remote back and forth in an effort to find the ideal power strength. It certainly lends to a frustrating experience far too often. Mini-golf is a simple game which involves a slight swing and tap of the ball. Not one where you are taking forever moving the Wii Remote like a pendulum in an attempt to find the perfect shot and taking full swings. Perhaps if I was with a few friends and we had a few ‘wobbly pops’ it might be a different story. The back of the game box says you can get a hold in one on every hole. Good luck with that!
One of the solid features of the game is all the unlockable content. In King of Clubs you can unlock clubs and then go back and replay holes in different ways. In fact the games collectables, and the Pro Shop, contain gadgets like barmy balls and funky clubs that give the game some replay value and introduce some strategy. There is also a multiplayer component which is also entertaining. During one on one play you can frustrate your opponent with gag balls, gag clubs and audio distractions when they are putting. The one-on-one play is arguably the best selling feature of the game and I have to admit I did have some fun when I played the game with my wife.
King of Clubs for the Wii has many engaging elements and by all accounts has more mini-golf holes than any other ‘mini putt’ game on the market. The game showed lots of promise at E3 but upon further review the course holes are not the only holes in the game. The problematic controls, somewhat bland visuals and forgettable sounds all lend to a game which is going to become bargain bin material sooner than one may hope. That being said, those looking for some cheap entertainment and who may have a hankering for a wacky mini-golf game, King of Clubs for the Wii may be right up your alley.