Wonderputt: Surreal Mini Golf

At this point, it takes an awful lot for an app to impress me. I’ve seen it all, and like a grizzled war veteran, it seems like nothing can phase me. But then I met Wonderputt, and things changed.

Wonderputt is like no game I’ve ever played before. Sure, it has concepts that are similar to others, but it’s just so different and beautiful that it draws you in. Not sure what I’m talking about? Let’s get down to the bottom of this after the jump.

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A Different Approach

Wonderputt is, at its roots, a game of mini golf, just like you’d play at your local putt-putt — but that’s really where the similarities end. That’s because the game doesn’t lead you through different courses on different screens. Instead, the entire game is played on one course, and that course shifts and transforms as you progress through the game.

The course, in one of its various modes.

The course, in one of its various modes.

As a result, I’m going to be doing this review a little bit differently, as well. Instead of showing you an overall shot of the game as it plays, I’ll be showcasing aspects of the game by zooming in on the screen where the action is happening. Sure, it’s a different way to do a review, but it’s a bit appropriate considering the subject matter.

Also, this game is iPad 2 and the new iPad only, so OG iPad users are out of luck.

The Lay of the Land

The purpose of Wonderputt is to deliver the ball through 18 holes until it reaches the end. Once you’ve completed a hole, the landscape dynamically changes to reveal the next hole. Sometimes it’s a UFO that pops up and picks up cows off of a field, other times it’s a series of tubes that take your ball from one place to another. There is no putter to use; just pull back your finger, aim and shoot.

You've got to skip the ball to get across to the hole.

You’ve got to skip the ball to get across to the hole.

Each hole has its own unique challenges, and often you won’t discover what they are until you get there. For example, there is a moebius strip that contains a waterfall. Shoot the ball up the stream, but if you overshoot the hole, you’ll fall right back down the waterfall and have to start over. And if you get it in, the hole becomes a whale, which shoots the ball out onto the next tee.

Just one of the crazy detailed features found in the game.

Just one of the crazy detailed features found in the game.

Like I said, this is a different game.

A Design Like No Other

It’s not often that I screenshot a loading screen, but I did for Wonderputt because it’s just so cool, and the rest of the game follows suit. It’s part The Jetsons, part mid-century modern, but all the way awesome. Even though there are portions of the game that can appear repetitive, the design pushed me through every time.

And this is the screen that shows your stats. Just gorgeous.

And this is the screen that shows your stats. Just gorgeous.

The animations are pretty cool as well. Early on you see a submarine fly into a body of water, then the water freezes while the submarine is halfway in and out of the water (oh, and a frog is mid jump as well). Later, a missile shoots out of the submarine and opens up like an exploded diagram, allowing you to play golf inside the missile. It’s a trippy concept, but I dig that.

Actually Playing the Game

Alright, so we know what it is and how pretty Wonderputt looks, but what about the gameplay? The mechanics are pretty straightforward: find the orange ball. Drag your finger behind the orange ball — the farther the drag, the further the ball will go. The arrow generated by your drag will point where you want the ball to go, so make sure your aim is true.

Montezuma's castle? Why not?

Montezuma’s castle? Why not?

Although the game uses a familiar and simple concept, it’s not always the easiest to play. There isn’t always a set path to follow, so sometimes you need to find your own way. Other times, the answer isn’t so obvious, or defies the laws of physics just a touch. It gets trickier the further along you go, as well.

Final Thoughts

I love games that challenge my idea of what a game should be. Wonderputt should be a mini-golf game where I whack a ball across a course and maybe go through a windmill or something. But what Wonderputt is has more to do with challenging your ideas of what a mini-golf game should be, and turning them on their heads.

Topping it all off is the design. It’s just so fun to look at that you want to play it more, even if it can get a bit repetitive after a long session. It’s not the best game ever, and I certainly wish there were more levels to play, but it’s definitely one of my favorites.


Summary

Play mini-golf on the weirdest course you've ever seen.

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