"Advergame," the cheeky portmanteau for a free game made by advertising and marketing departments specifically to sell players something, is a bit of a dirty word. Many advergames are quite excellent, but some people can't shake the knowledge that they are being manipulated when they play these games; that there is an ulterior motive behind their entertainment. Reece Millidge hopes to change that. With mini-golf!
Behold, Adverputt! It's a mouse-controlled mini-golf game that embraces commercial solicitation as an aesthetic. Players take aim on a huge, single-screen course, festooned with colorful advertisements awarded to the highest bidders. Hover the cursor over the ball, then move the cursor to aim and determine the power of your swing. Aim carefully, avoid traps and obstacles, and go for the lowest score.
Even without the novel revenue-generating concept, Adverputt would be a noteworthy game in its own right. You've probably played mini-golf type games before, and this one doesn't play much differently, but the physics are tight, and the holes, while few, are imaginative and tricky without being impossible. More remarkable is the presentation. The entire course is on only one screen, and it takes up a huge amount of screen space (since it doesn't have to rely on banner ads to make money). The course looks like an impossible masterpiece of pop-art sculpture, a cross between NASCAR and Dr. Suess. Simple, effective sound design and slick animation complete the package. Delight as you sink a birdie and watch the ball as it is conveyed from one hole to the next.
The idea behind the advertisements is reminiscent of Project Wonderful, whereby prospective advertisers bid on the space they wish to use. Each hole gets its own advertisement, and they are so well integrated that they fit right into the landscape, without becoming invisible or inconsequential. After each hole a dialog box comes up with your stats and with a link to the sponsor's web site. This model might not work for every type of game, but it is a different take than banner ads or commercials during loading screens. Try it out, both for a quick, light outing of mini-golf, and for a glimpse at the possible future of in-game advertising.