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May 9, 2012 / jwaxo

3D Ultra Minigolf (Geometry, Physics, Exploration)

All of that packed into one cheap little game about small colored balls.

I only ever went golfing a single time before I was in high school. That one time was when my grandpa took me out to the course that he and my grandma frequented. It was some occasion where we were hanging out for the afternoon, a rare time alone with my grandpa, and we didn’t have any deep conversations or revelations. At 8 I was much too young for something like that, and also way too young to learn how to use a driver. So instead we went straight to the putting green.

There was I not only amazed at how different the green felt from my familiar astroturf minigolf courses, but also at the crazy people playing there. Young, old, balding, mohawked. Everybody loved golf, and there was some kind of fancy tournament going on that left the putting green open for me and my grandfather (Grandpop to us) to tap some balls around. He taught me a little about reading the lay of the green, about aiming past the hole for follow-through, a little about angles and gravity, and I left that afternoon a much more informed person than before.

I then went home and tried these techniques on my computer and found that they didn’t pay off in the important ways as much as I’d hoped: I was still horrible at Fuji Golf.

I don’t understand, it feels nothing like a mouse!

However, I did eventually find some use for those skills, and no, not in real life. In the virtual. I am talking, of course, about the world-famous game that everyone in the world has played 3D Ultra MiniGolf.

Maybe it wasn’t that popular.

The game was introduced to my family via that magician of a bargain bin, which makes sense, as that’s the only place that I’ve ever seen minigolf games for sale. I loved it because A) it was one of the rare games that my parents would actually play with me, and B) it was freaking minigolf.

I mean, seriously. There’s a reason that kids love minigolf. It takes almost no strength or arm power, meaning even the smallest kid can accomplish amazing things if he concentrates. It’s difficult, so even adults are bad at it. And, finally, it’s just silly. We all know that our favorite holes at the local minigolf courses were the most complicated ones, with moving parts and pipes and hills. And when you’re playing a game that’s completely freed of reality, well, there are more moving parts and pipes and hills than you can imagine.

Ultra MiniGolf offered more that just pipes and hills, though. It had volcanoes. Cave men and dinosaurs. A rocketship, an octopus, and an entire workshop of gadgets and gizmos. All in 18 holes. So, in between learning how to correctly tap the ball with the right amount of strength, and carefully learning how to properly predict what angles my golf ball would bounce off, I was marveling at the sights.

I can careen off of the radioactive bin, round the tentacle, and slide right down the giraffe…

The thing I loved most about Ultra Minigolf, though, was the absolute obsession I had with exploring every corner of every map.

I could link you to previous articles about stupid obsessions I’ve had with games, but you should really know by now that this is just part of my personality. The problem is, every single hole in the game had random ways to get a few strokes cut off. Besides the obvious ones where a lucky putt could get you a hole-in-one. The volcano might toss you right into the hole if you managed to get up its slope in a shot, or the cave man hit you in a different direction depending on how close you stopped to him. Those were the obvious ones, though; there was the subtly-different shading on a wall that revealed a hidden path to the hole, or the spot that, if you stopped on it, got you abducted by a UFO and dropped two inches from the goal.

It became my quest to find these mystery spots, to get a leg-up on competition and impress my friends. I scoured every corner, every spot on every hole. And you know, I found a lot of strange Easter eggs hidden by the developers, as well as some shortcuts. But I also satisfied my curiosity, and learned that exploration can reward you in strange and fun ways.

Of course, I never found real minigolf nearly as fun ever again.

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