Energy, the ninth hole from Zany Golf, was my childhood gaming nemesis. Despite my proficiency at Will Harvey’s imaginitive vision of mini golf, Energy was the hill I couldn’t conquer. It was the stallion I never tamed; the item never crossed off the list; the peanut butter stuck at the bottom of the jar; you get the idea. Most of the locations present in Zany Golf are a creative twist from the cliched mini golf locations we’ve all come to expect. The opening hole features an iconic windmill that’s near-impossible to launch a ball through. Another hole combines water hazards and a fairy-tale castle. Ant Hill features, you guessed it, the hole featured on top of a hill. To add insult to injury, the hole itself moves around at random. Don’t spend too long lining up the shot! One of my favorites features strategically placed fans which are operated by waggling your computer mouse back and forth. Magic carpet has special pads which allow you to control the speed and trajectory of your ball with the mouse. Hamburger Hole has a giant hamburger covering the hole; click on it to make the ingredients jump!
All of these fantastical locations add a bit of spice to keep a round of mini golf from feeling routine. While tricky, the design is good charming enough that I didn’t mind spending five strokes on the opening hole. The stress of the game comes from the scoring mechanic. Rather than simply count the number of strokes needed to complete the course, play begins with a finite number of strokes. Spend too many on one hole and it’s game over! More strokes are awarded after completing each hole, and there are occasions to earn bonus strokes. This approach to scoring isn’t kind to mistakes, and it’s downright punishing when it comes to Energy. A mistake on the first hole might cost you the round. If the game’s first eight holes were inspired by real-world mini golf courses, the final hole belongs in a mad scientist’s lab. No instructions are given, only a hint that “buttons activate machinery”. It’s up to you to save enough strokes to figure out what it is you’re supposed to do.
By some miracle, for the first time in my life I manage to get to Energy with twenty available shots. Twenty! This is the day I beat Zany Golf! From the tee, my first objective is to switch on the lab’s teleporter. This requires knocking the ball into two separate switches which are guarded by a force field. Touch the force field, and your ball disintegrates and you’re down a stroke. Hit a force field and your ball will be sent careening all over the screen, probably into that force field to be vaporized. Hit the little metal orbs with purple lightning, and your ball will be sent careening all over the screen, probably to be vaporized. Ten strokes are gone. I manage to turn on the teleport and get my ball up to the second level of the hole. There’s no rail here. Hit it too hard, and it goes back to the first level with the force field of death. I hit it too hard. Four times. Finally, finally I get my ball up the hill to the final level of the game. I only have four strokes left to navigate through a half dozen fake holes and three shocky bouncy things.
In what can only be described as the most tense moment of min golf I’ve ever experienced, I gently guide my ball through the minefield of obstacles. The real hole is in sight. I have one stroke left. It all comes down to this. I’ve been here many times before, and I’ve failed every time. Will I finally be able to slay the gaming monster from my childhood? Missing this one shot sends me down the avenue of failure with no option but to start all over from the beginning. Dark Souls has nothing on this game.
I obsess for way too long over my final shot’s trajectory and velocity. It’s all or nothing. I click, drag, and let go… SUCCESS! For the first time in my life, Zany Golf’s scorecard pops up, detailing my efforts. My score for number nine is cringe-worthy, but I’ve done it! It’s a twenty that I’ll be happy with.
Think you can do better?
Give Zany Golf a shot over at Classic Reload.