Luke spends his time playing video games, binge-watching TV and hanging out with his German Shepherd, Ziggy and Bernese Mountain Dog Pandora.
I’ve recently during our VR Corner coverage discovered the joy of doing things at home in my Oculus Quest 2 that I would normally do in real life. One of my favourite pastimes is mini golf, not just for the challenge of the sport itself, but for the social elements that go along with it. Taking part in zany, weird mini golf courses with all sorts of obstacles and odd designs for each hole while laughing with friends about the misses and celebrating those rare hole-in-one moments is something I didn’t realise I was craving so badly, until I played Walkabout Mini Golf, which gives you that exact feeling in spades.
Mini golf relies on a bit of skill and definitely a bit of luck, and Walkabout Mini Golf has four included courses which really put both to the test. An interesting choice has been made however with the aesthetic of the game; I’ve played some golf video games in the past that went crazy with magical powers, special effects and bombastic challenges that would simply not be possible in real life. Walkabout Mini Golf goes for a more realistic approach. The themes of the courses are different enough, but you can literally walk (or, teleport rather) from one hole to the next, with each connecting up via stairways, ramps, bridges and so forth.
Some may see this as a missed opportunity to really go zany with holes that are set in volcano’s or in anti-gravity or whatever, but there’s something much more relaxed and social about Walkabout Mini Golf, and keeping it grounded in reality means that you and your five friends can focus on the social aspect of playing mini golf together. While you can press a button to teleport directly to your ball on each new hole, I actually quite enjoyed leisurely walking between them, taking the traditional path. That’s part of the mini golf I love and miss, and this game nails it.
What they also nail is the physics. Much like my recent table tennis experience in VR, Walkabout Mini Golf genuinely feels like you’re putting on a course, with all of the tension that goes along with it. Played with only the right-hand controller, you simply grip with both hands as if you’re holding a real putter, and straight away it’s like you’re on the green. It genuinely impressed me how quickly I found myself back into a putting rhythm; I can’t think of one occasion where the physics didn’t cooperate, causing a flubbed shot.
“It truly captures the frustration and excitement that is right at the core of what makes mini golf so special…”
Courses increase in difficulty in the ways you’d expect, with the first one starting off simple to get you comfortable before finishing with some truly devilish challenges. The attention to detail in how mini golf works in real life is really nice here, and the team at Mighty Coconut have clearly played their share of mini golf in in order to get this balance right. They introduce new concepts as you go, building to the last hole which is always epic in scope and usually with a bit of a fun twist to end on a positive note, no matter how well you’re scoring.
The physics they’ve incorporated combined with the thoughtful course design means that there are opportunities for a hole-in-one at every turn, but just as many chances that you’ll make a silly mistake that leaves you putting long after your opponents have finished. It truly captures the frustration and excitement that is right at the core of what makes mini golf so special, and my friends and I spent a lot of time cackling and giggling like idiots while we putted, won and lost in some epic moments.
Once you’ve completed each of the 18-hole courses once, you unlock the “Night” variant, which is essentially the “Hard Mode” of each course. Each of the holes then take on a more challenging form, but this is where some of the results were a bit mixed. Part of the real fun of mini golf is when you’re able to beat the odds and, with a lucky putt, get a hole-in-one on a crazy looking situation. In the original four courses, each hole seems to provide a path where this is possible. With the hard mode, in simply remixing previous holes to make them more difficult, I mostly found getting a hole-in-one actually impossible. I’m totally up for a challenge, but by removing walls or adding obstacles to the point where you guaranteed are going to have to take multiple shots to get near the flag takes some of the fun out of it. It would have been cool to see some redesigned holes, rather than simply taking away or adding difficult elements to existing ones.
Still, there are some neat little touches in Walkabout Mini Golf that I actually really appreciated. You can look at your watch on your wrist at any point to see what Par the hole is, and delightfully, when you check the scoreboard, you can look down on the course below from a birds-eye view to see all of the holes coming up. You can even see your friends on the course, taking their shots, from this perspective – and if they look up, they see a giant God-like version of you looking down, like a glorious golfing colossus. I made it sound a bit creepy just really it’s just a fun addition.
Also, each hole has a Lost Ball for you to find, which then gets added to your collection of balls to choose from when playing. Each hole has one, which means there are over 90 to collect; while they initially are placed in some pretty obvious locations, some of the later ones are a bit more tricky to find, and while it seemed like a mindless collectible at first, finding each of them quickly became the first thing we’d do when encountering each new hole. After all, who doesn’t like a little scavenger hunt among friends?
Visually, they’ve gone for more of a cartoon-like look in the game, which makes everything colourful and pleasing to the eye, even if it doesn’t look the most realistic. As I said previously though, the design in terms of the angles and mechanics of each hole have been created thoughtfully and realistically, it’s just the look that makes it feel cute and breezy. The audio also adds a layer of immersion, with waves crashing, birds tweeting and other sounds making you forget you’re actually standing in your living room.
The recent Foxhunt Update also adds another fun wrinkle to the gameplay, where you have to solve clues on the harder courses to receive new putters. These clues have you deciphering words and visuals while translating them to the course you’re playing on, adding an extra component to look out for. At one point, my friend and I were more worried about searching for pirate’s treasure than we were actually focused on the golf itself. An enjoyable (and entirely optional) distraction, absolutely, and continues with the casual, relaxed style that the rest of the game exhibits.
Walkabout Mini Golf successfully takes one of my favourite social pastimes and makes it work, and work really well, inside a VR headset. As a relaxed and enjoyable social multiplayer experience, it’s actually some of the most fun I’ve had in VR altogether. The included courses are designed thoughtfully and with some fun additions like searching for lost balls and other similar scavenger hunts, it feels just as fun as hitting a mini golf course in real life. While some of the more challenging holes in hard mode feel a bit unfair, that’s a small complaint – the amazing physics, varied holes and the essence of what makes mini golf special is all here. Quite simply, it’s a putting great time.
Walkabout Mini Golf is available for Oculus Quest – check it out.