Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Wonderputt is Wonderful (Kinda)

The latest sensation on the circuits is Wonderputt, a free indie flash game on Kongregate. The premise is mini-golf, where you use the mouse to determine the direction and strength of your putts in a kind of bizarre putting green. It's basically what you'd expect for mini-golf, but there's a wonderful sense of charm with this game, mostly because of the level design. All 18 holes take place on the floating block in the sky, with a few dynamic pieces that change as you move around the course. It's a great way to kill some time, but that's about all it amounts to.

The holes are surprisingly creative without becoming overly complex. It's fun just looking at the course and figuring out where you should be aiming. A transition between each hole changes the surface of the course to add extra variety to it. One space in the bottom right goes from being a cow field, to a pond surface, to a skiing slope (while UFOs abduct cows and spit your ball out to start the hole). Once you sink your putt, the level finds some interesting way to move your ball over to the next hole so that you can continue to watch and enjoy the scenery without interruption.

Here's the trailer, by the way.

Aiming your shots has a simple effectiveness to it. The ball rolls along the contours and bounces off walls just like you'd expect. It feels intuitive to set the strength and angle of your putt, which makes the gameplay naturally compelling. Connections in your brain click into position and lock you into the gameplay because it's so satisfying at the most basic, essential level. I mean, it's nothing spectacular, it just works. Except for when it doesn't.

Some of the holes have a stupid amount of trial-and-error. In some cases it's not clear where you're supposed to be going, because there's no indication that the level is going to morph once you hit a certain object. You either get lucky and conveniently do what you're supposed to do, or you bump into the solution by accident. At other times, the physics aren't entirely clear until you've already wasted several strokes. The game also becomes a lot better to see and play if you zoom in on your browser. But these aren't deal breakers, they're just minor annoyances in an otherwise solid game. 

You earn points depending on the number of strokes you went under (or over) par, and at the end it adds a calculation based on how much time you spent going through the course. If you feel so compelled, you can go back and try to beat your high score, but there are also various leaderboards that you can rank into if you have a Kongregate account. Otherwise, replaying the game unlocks an extra degree of challenge, where you can earn extra points by collecting little rainbow drops scattered about in each hole. 

Wonderputt isn't anything all that remarkable, but that's part of its simple charm. The game just works, and it has distinct sense of style that makes it more appealing. So it's worth checking out, and might be a good way to occupy yourself during a coffee break or something. You can play it here

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