Guaranteed to make you hate Putt-Putt, and life.
King of Clubs is a "quirky" mini-golf title developed by Oxygen Interactive. They were apparently under the impression the Wii needed another fun golf game, which I suppose is technically true, and that the Wii needed another PS2 port, which is patently false. Being the enterprising sort, Oxygen Interactive gifted us with this Vegas-themed mini-golf disaster.
King of Club's narrative destroys any preconceived notions that games have shallow stories, by forgoing the story as a simple formality to be dispatched in a grainy CG video produced in Mr. Hasternick's "Intro to Computer Graphics" class at the learning annex. From as near as I can tell, the game's story is that Elvis is not dead, but is in fact a caricature of Elvis impersonators, and between peanut-butter and banana sandwiches, he has hired actors from the local community college to play "zany" characters like: a caveman, a knight, a Pharaoh, etc. at his mini-golf course outside Las Vegas. They accompany a set themed mini-golf courses, all of which play terribly. Indeed Elvis, bless all our souls.
You see, if you're making a putting game on the Wii, you have a few examples of good controls from which to draw inspiration. If you bought your Wii outside of Japan you have a copy of Wii Sports. I'm going to give you a minute to go find it; I'm looking at you, Oxygen Interactive. Go putt. Notice the controls actually working. That's a fine feature for a golf game. Now, if you're feeling adventurous, go locate a copy of Tiger Woods PGA Tour '08. The controls not only work, they're fun. Putting is fun. Now King of Clubs is all about putting, so certainly they took effort to polish the putting controls, right? No, of course they didn't.
Instead we have a control scheme so incompetent, so far removed from being intuitive, that the game actually has to remind you of them every time you boot it up. To putt, a novel concept in a putting game, you set your vector (a term far too complex to be used to review this title) with the D-pad, then lock your position with the A button. By swinging the Remote back, you fill the power gauge. At this point it all starts to fail miserably. The power gauge isn't set by the force of moving the Wii Remote. Instead, it is based on how far from being pointed down you are. This, predictably, doesn't work. Each club has its own gauge. On the gauge there are a series of four hash-marks, one placed every quarter of the gauge. In a move of sheer idiocy, the gauge on the default club has its hash-marks spaced at befuddling intervals (three feet, twelve feet, twenty-four feet, forty-eight feet), despite a common distance between them on the bar. This makes nuance shots impossible. Or rather, it is yet another reason that nuance is impossible, as the simple act of adjusting your power already makes it impossible. The Wii Remote can be a little flakey with exact angles, so this whole "distance from zero" approach doesn't work that well.
Once, if by some stroke of luck, you set your power, you "lock it in" by pressing AND HOLDING the A Button. Don't forget to hold the A Button, because if you release it the whole byzantine ritual of setting your swing power must be started over again. You will forget to hold A, because after you depress the A button (and your soul), you must swing the Wii Remote back to the zero position. If the game recognizes this action, you will strike the ball. If it does not, you get to flail around wildly until the gaming gods grant appeal and let you strike the ball. Be sure to pray your flailing did conform to their rituals. If it happens that your dance offended them you will accidently brush against the B-Trigger. This is a fate worse than releasing the A-Button because it not only cancels out your power settings but even the fact you've already locked a vector in. At this point, the correct course of action is to begin writing a review for King of Clubs.
One of the game's holes, "Stone Age Rage", is accurately named. Many times the course's various obstacles make play as painful as the control scheme. Some might view the game's 96 holes to be a great feature, but I know better. Each hole is seemingly designed to crush souls. Any time a game needs to sell mulligans in packs of ten, there is a problem. Often times, it feels like the best strategy is to hit the hell out of the ball and pray, because the obstacles and the very physics that drive them are seemingly out to get you. These creative obstacles include: pits, lava pits, boiling oil pits, tar pits, pits with monsters, pits that have other pits inside them, pits that have monsters that themselves are living pits, bumpers, moving bumpers, moving geometric bumpers, rotating bumpers, rotating geometric bumpers, rotating moving bumpers, rotating moving geometric bumpers, ramps, ramped walls, ramps of indeterminate slope, ramped walls of indeterminate slope, and the controls (not listed on the back of the box, but I know better).
To summarize, the gameplay is a mess, which is why they included multiple gameplay modes. On top of the 96 holes, which honestly reads more like a threat than feature, the game lets you play alone (career mode), against one of the aforementioned costumed buffoons (tournament mode), or against a person you hate (multiplayer mode). If you score below par on a course, you unlock another "wacky" themed course. You also earn money by either collecting the floating money bags flung about the holes or by simply scoring well. You can use that money to buy clubs, special balls, mulligans (you'll need them), or to unlock those "goofy" characters.
However, my experience with the unlocking mechanics is pretty checkered. You see, the game asks you every time you turn it on if you would like to load your game-data from the Wii console. Answering "yes" doesn't load a profile; it just populates the profile list so you can choose a profile to load once you start the game. I don't really understand why that choice even exists. Why would you not want to load save data? This may seem like a petty thing to bring up, but the default answer is "no." After hammering on the A Button to make the stupid controls splash-screen go away, I always hit "no". This meant that I either had to restart the console or, if I didn't notice, continue on playing with no ability to save my data. It does, however, let you select a profile from the now pointless profile list, which adds to the possibilities that you won't notice the lack of loaded data.
The game also has a series of stupid bugs that have no business existing in a retail game. It took me a long time to finally get below par on the first set of courses. I was happy to free myself from the grips of the prehistoric hell (the first theme being "cavemen"). However, in a moment of "make your own fun", I had changed the character I was using from the default (an emaciated DJ Jazzy Jeff sporting a member's only jacket and 3D shades) to generic "buxom blonde bombshell" (the game's own words). I also renamed the profile to "BOOBIES" if only so I would be amused every time it was my turn and the screen displayed my character and "BOOBIES" in giant letters. This action apparently caused some game-crushing glitch that meant my completing of the first course was invalid because my profile was named, at the time, "profile1." Once I completed the second course, as "BOOBIES," I found that I could not proceed. The game would tease me by briefly showing me the next course, an Egyptian themed set of holes, but the option would disappear before I could select it. I was forced to replay the entire first course in order to proceed. Another bug inexplicably gave me a score of 99 strokes on a single hole, despite the fact the game cuts you off at fifteen and that my final tally indicates that it only counted as three.
Unsurprisingly, King of Clubs has terrible graphics. When this game came out on the PS2, it could not have looked worse than it does now. The game tries to capture the "Vegas" aesthetic with some limited success. The wood cutouts of creatures that move about the perimeter of the course give it the over the top, yet still cheep feel, one would expect from mini-golf in Las Vegas. However, they are so poorly rendered that it really makes the game feel more "over the top, yet still cheap" than the culture they're parodying. While the game does have some unique characters, they're all so ugly, so poorly animated, and so stilted that they're not even worth discussing.
The game is also full of little graphical quirks. For example, if one of the rotating moving geometric bumpers passes under your character, you suddenly appear on top of it. If you manage to swing before you go back down, after it moves away, you'll manage to strike the ball despite being inches over it. Graphically, this game would be bad by PS2 standards, and it is totally unacceptable on the Wii.
The sound, somehow, is even worse than the graphics. Each of the themed "worlds" has two songs. They're not good, but they're not usually terrible. They do, however, only last about twelve to fifteen seconds and will loop for an entire play session. This will do little to sell copies of the game's soundtrack, but it might be enough to push the general disgust for the game's controls out of your mind. The sound effects are just as limited as the music. As far as King of Clubs is concerned, there are about seven sounds that encompass the entire world of golf. On top of those sounds, each of the "quirky" characters gets his own set of insipid lines to deliver repeatedly. If I have to hear Jazzy Jeff say "I'm takin' my ball and goin' home" again, I swear somebody is going to die.
So what is there to like in King of Clubs? Not much. The game tries to be a tamer Outlaw Golf, but its attempts at humor are utter failures. If a game is trying to sell itself as being crazy, wacky, or some other adjective in the vein of kooky, at the very least I should crack a smile at some point after playing it for ten plus hours. So that leaves us with it simply being a mini-golf game. However, as a mini-golf game, it fails in pretty much every respect. The controls are awful, the courses stupid, and the mechanics sketchy. Simply put, this game should not be played by anyone, and it should have never been released.