In an earlier, much less interesting and enjoyable life, I used to sell franking machines: those great big hulking mail-stamping devices you see in office post-rooms the world over. Targeted with making a minimum of one hundred and thirty cold, brutal sales calls every day, the only thing that kept me sane was having one hand perpetually in control of an online mini-putt golf game. Suffice to say, I got pretty good at it.
Wonderputt takes those Flash worktime killers and propels them to a hitherto unimaginable level. It may only have a single 18-hole course to work through, but my goodness what a course it is. More crazy golf than it is St Andrews, the entire island comes alive during play to reveal a miniature golf course that's reminiscent of Mousetrap.
Complete one hole, and the landscape might shift to expose a herd of cows racing across one of the fields. A UFO then appears and sucks the bovine botherers into its hold, leaving a jagged racecourse for you to weave your ball around. An air-fix model of a submarine zooms into view at one point as you navigate around its innards.
You'll need to get just the right speed to send the ball weaving along with a river's currents, while undulations on the surface of a ski-slope require a little extra power to traverse. Elsewhere, suction tubes carry your successful hole-sinks on a gentle journey towards a new area of the map. At every stage, Wonderputt entertains, challenges, intrigues and hypnotizes with its extraordinarily deft design.
The ball's trajectory and speed are determined with a finger press: hold the screen down for a moment, pull backwards to determine the launch speed, then adjust the direction according to the landscape. It can take a little getting used to, as you have to pull back a fair way to get the minimum speed going, but it soon becomes second nature. Enough practice and you'll be sinking holes under par with aplomb.
Once you've completed the first playthrough of the game you head back in to collect little pieces of wonder that are now spread around the course. These add an extra bonus multiplier to your score, encouraging replays. There's even an achievement for collecting every single piece which then lights up a rainbow that hangs above the middle of the island.
If your definition of a good game demands that it offer huge depth and longevity beyond mere high-score replayability, then you may feel disappointed with Wonderputt. If, on the other hand, you value precision design, without an ounce of fat left on the final product, then this is one game that's worth far more than the asking price of a dollar.
What's Hot: Ingenious and imaginative level design, with a crisp interface and a great deal of replayability.
What's Not: There are only 18 holes to work your way through, and the controls take a little while to acclimatize to.