The Greens is an odd duck. Few minigolf games push a fantasy theme with wizards, lava, and allusions to Greek mythology. But most minigolf games have more than five holes. How can a game be so ambitious and lackluster at the same time?
The concept of The Greens is self-explanatory. You get a series of cleverly designed, geometrically interesting holes to putt a small golf ball through. The “Loki’s Revenge” pack included in the game uses some light fantasy elements, such as teleporters (or “worm holes”), though with only half a course to play, there isn’t much room for interesting variation. The putting mechanics are equally serviceable: choose an angle, select your power, and go. How strange that a game so simple and small would even bother including the almost-nonexistent thematic bits.
More significantly, the game has some serious difficulty problems. For one, you can’t see how far the ball will go until you hit it, a grand pain when attempting to plan shots. Given the small course size, the pixel-perfect precision needed to dodge walls and obstacles is irksome. This is especially the case around hazards like lava and water. Rather than following the standard golf rules where a water hazard costs a point and resets your ball, a miss in The Greens sends you back to the starting point, score intact. Most of the holes are Par 5 or higher, and since the game automatically moves on if you make over nine shots, a hazard near the end of a hole usually spells instant doom. With all these exacerbating factors, I only successfully completed one hole on my first playthrough – three shots over par.
At least the game sort of acknowledges this insane difficulty. The top-ranked high score is two above the course par.
For all its limitations, this game can be tough to hate. The little touches are charming, like the dorky, cheap MIDI music or the cute menu icons. The “Quit” button jokes about going back to work and plays a door sound effect. There’s a tiny TV with a VCR that replays important shots, like falling into water or completing holes. The default player names are taken from the staff credits.
You can tell the Shadoware team put some heart into The Greens, but that can’t excuse the substandard mechanics. It feels unfinished. Only one course is large enough to accommodate powerful shots. The scorecard goes up to nine holes, but the game barely has five. You have to wonder why they even bothered naming the course pack if they didn’t intend to make others.
When it works, The Greens isn’t bad. There might be a passable minigolf game buried in here, but you’d have to navigate around a giant pool of lava in three shots to find it.