Let's get something straight from the start. This isn't your standard game of golf. Not by a long shot. The bijou courses are sometimes crowded with magnets. Fans. Hypno-wheels. Teleports. Oh my. It's more like crazy golf, taken to a bizarre extreme.
First, graphically, Mini Golf Magic is not what you might be expecting from a title with the word golf in it. The 'magic' part is certainly accentuated, though. For instance, lying behind the courses set in a forced 3D view are backgrounds that are a little… trippy.
There are jumping rabbits. Hippos. Ostriches. Crazy mushrooms. Flowers with faces on them. Your opponent is a white bunny called Bugsy. We were half expecting the Mad Hatter to turn up at some point in the proceedings. Surreal doesn't even begin to cover it.
Indeed, the style, perspective view and hazards make this more of a puzzle game than a sports title, and the mad theme doesn't jar too much if you think of it like this. But if you're looking for a straight golf simulation, or even an arcade rendition of the sport, you'll be disappointed.
Adventure mode is the main course on offer. Here you start out with a single golfer who has to win across nine holes against the aforementioned golfing bunny. Winning a round sees a new course open up. Win a few more and other players turn up, all sporting different stats.
Single courses and bonus holes are available as well to play for high scores and familiarise yourself with the courses.
The game isn't too challenging to begin with. Getting a hole-in-one, for example, is sometimes as simple as not moving and then hitting the ball as hard as you can. This will earn you an unlock of one of nine bonus holes. We managed to get all the bonus holes in just an hour's play.
There's also no choice of club type, which might have added greater variety and a little strategy to the game. You can't even get any height on your standard shot, and combined with the ball rebounding off boundaries, it feels more like pool than golf.
One of the major problems is the way you actually take a shot: holding down '5' will make your shot bar charge up which you then release to take a swing when you've got the amount of power you want stored up. But there's no indicator, unfortunately, as to how hard a successful shot should be. This can be particularly annoying when putting, and it often means you'll hit the ball too hard or soft for a successful putt.
The opponent's AI is hard to gauge, too. Because you're not shown the rabbit's attempts at sinking his balls, you'll sometimes think he's cheating. There are some courses where two shots seem to be the minimum required to sink a ball and yet somehow the rabbit cheerily yells "I've won" at the end. Which means he did it in just one shot. Which leaves you thinking that it's technically impossible and that you've been unfairly robbed of a win!
Finally, there's a distinct lack of tension as you constantly feel like you're playing alone. That's usually fine for a puzzle-style game, but a big part of a golf game for a lot of people is watching your opponent. The groan as he hits a perfect shot, or the crossing of fingers as their ball seems to deviate slightly.
Mini Golf Magic has left all this out. It's a shame, as there would certainly be some scope to learn how the courses work by watching your constant floppy-eared nemesis.
It has its good points, certainly. The courses are completed rather quickly, so you can dip in for a quick go if you only have a spare five minutes while waiting for the bus, for example.
Additionally, keeping the controls relatively simple means that most people can grasp how to play the game in seconds. Adapting to the different player characters in the singleplayer game can be a challenge, and once unlocked you can use any character you have to gain an advantage when playing holes for high scores.
Finally, the more complex courses can certainly make you think about your next move, and give the game a more cerebral edge later on.
Overall then, it's an odd game to get into. There's some fun to be had here for sure, but there are too many little things that niggle at you and make you wish a little more thought and variety had been put into the gameplay as well as the graphics.