Review: Putt In - Golf
There are two schools of thought about 'crazy golf'. One is that it's utterly trivial and not even worthy of the 'golf' bit in the name. The other is that it's a bit of harmless fun for families on a day out and that the first school of thought is being pretentious and elitist. I'm in the latter camp, which is good because I'm perfectly positioned to appreciate what is one of the very best game titles on Windows Phone.
Starting up a game, one has certain expectations. Of what the game's going to be about, how smoothly it will run, how hard it's going to be, how well it would run alongside the rest of your smartphone.
Let me state that Putt In - Golf met every single one of my expectations:
- The world of crazy golf is immaculately modelled, right down to the textures, obstacles, background foliage, waterfalls, fences and so on. The whole is 3D-rendered in real time, so you can spin your viewpoint freely, in order to plan ahead (for your bounces and general strategy). The frame rate is first class and the whole thing feels slick and beautifully programmed. Putt In has been available for a while on other mobile platforms, so perhaps I shouldn't be surprised that the game and its graphics are fully mature.
- In terms of difficulty, Putt In is again perfectly pitched, perhaps honed by the previous iPhone and Android versions. There's a choice of 'Easy' or 'Hard' and of course I went for the latter, as a veteran of more computer golf variations than I can count. And, as such, I found Putt In quite hard, bogeys were fairly common and I was genuinely pleased with the occasional birdie.
- Unlike many, many other game titles on Windows Phone, Putt In has been perfectly coded to not only work immaculately and immediately with 'fast app switching', but also to offer to resume a previous game when starting the title from scratch. Well done to the developers.
This then is crazy golf, done right and in your pocket. There's a trial version with one course (but four variations - of which more later) or a full version with more courses. Everything you remember from real world crazy golf is modelled here in the hole design: slopes, walls, curving sections that you can sometimes run your ball round, and so on. Some holes are deliberately just as 'impossible' as in the real world equivalent - there's one in the trial version where the hole is at the top of a huge slope and every time you miss, you have to watch the ball roll all the way back and then you start again. And again. Elating when you do get the shot though!
In addition to the 'normal' game, there are three variants to keep you interested even when you think you've mastered the basic course (after many attempts): 'obstacle', 'trophy' and 'bonus!'. The first of these involves a variety of animated obstacles that you have to negotiate on your way to the hole - this involves a large degree of timing and quite a bit of luck as well (in the screenshot below-left, the 'x' shape is spinning!) Trophy mode, as shown above and below-right, involves having to capture all trophies scattered around the hole by arranging your ball to pass through them, while the Bonus! mode seems to add twists to the basic hole design, putting in outrageous gradients and step-changes in playing level to really throw you off your game.
Actually taking shots is accomplished by swiping left and right to aim and then 'drawing back' on the ball (as if in a catapult) and releasing. It's a simple and intuitive system and works well. In case you were wondering, 'Easy' mode is exactly the same as 'Hard' but with the addition of an animated on-screen arrow that shows how far your ball will go under the current touchscreen 'draw back'.
I was impressed by the many subtleties modelled here, too. For example, aim the ball too hard at a shallow barrier and the ball 'jumps' over into 'Out of bounds'. So you can't just work out the angle of reflection and blast the ball at full power - you have to estimate how much power you can get away with. Then, when faced with holes with higher brick walls, you can get away with full power and then your strategy changes into estimating up to two angles of reflection. Or when playing a shot at the hole at too high a speed, the ball skips to the far edge of the hole and then jumps on a bit. Again, exactly as you might expect in real life.
I'd better stop, since I'm running out of superlatives. Putt In - Golf is one of the slickest and best implemented games on the Windows Phone platform. Run, don't walk, and grab it for yourself and then tell me I'm not wrong....
Reviewed by Steve Litchfield at