King of Clubs
It's a different kind of golf game.
PS2, PC, PSP, Wii, DS
If there's one sports genre that has been covered to the point of exhaustion by the videogaming fraternity, it's golf. From the early days of Leaderboard Golf on the 8-bit machines through to the present day and Wii Sports' rudimentary yet novel take on the sport, there have been at least several electronic interpretations on every major platform imaginable - each one trying to achieve more in terms of realism and accuracy than the others. None more so than EA's behemoth Tiger Woods franchise which has now settled into the publisher's annual update cycle.
Sometimes though it's the road less travelled that reaps the rewards and to this end developers The Code Monkeys and publishers Oxygen Games have decided to strip the game down to its bare bones - putting and par. As such, this is crazy golf as you're likely to find it at your seaside amusement fairs, only with a less intuitive interface and is arguably less fun.
King of Clubs contains several courses, each based around a varied location or theme, such as the prehistoric era, Egypt, medieval times or science fiction. Instead of playing against an opponent, you simply play the course - attempting to beat par or get as close to it as possible. You'd think is would be fast and furious but unfortunately it never quite reaches that level, staying firmly in the slow and steady category.
There are several characters whom you can choose as your golfer, each one a wacky stereotype. However, the difference between the American trailer trash, the Britney Spears wannabe or the Elvis impersonator is moot at best as other than the stilted individual animations that each performs there is no discernible difference in power, accuracy or golfing ability.
It's a given that crazy golf will have crazy courses and whilst each course follows a set theme, King of Clubs takes it to the extreme with no discernible rhyme or reason behind them - it seems more like a random layout with moving obstacles to avoid, use to your advantage, or - as is more likely - to annoy. Each hole is contained in a fairly small area, with a 4 or 5 par at most. There are some shortcuts that can be taken once you upgrade your balls and clubs in the shops but it is questionable whether you will find the desire to replay a course with your upgraded equipment. The restrictive viewpoint and lack of full 3D camera control also prevent you from exploring the course to the full and finding these shortcuts to begin with. Unfortunately the camera also commits the cardinal sin of preventing you from seeing where you want to go and thus inhibits you from taking your preferred shot.
This upgrades and equipment on the other hand is wide and varied, ranging from more powerful clubs to different coloured balls, sound tracks, mulligans and even new colours for the ball trails. Money is gained by completing the course within par and also by hitting the cash bags laid out around the track. Whilst these provide an incentive to deviate from the straight and narrow, the annoying and un-skippable 'WONGA' or 'CASH' animations give you pause for thought.
Each hole is normally small and enclosed, taking place on an intentionally wooden facsimile of their intended environment - volcanoes for instance are modelled by 2D wooden wedge cut-outs which pop-up and down. Whilst the style suits the whole crazy golf theme well but is not enough to rescue King of Clubs from obscurity. A brave attempt at the golf genre but one that unfortunately ends up in the rough.