Ah, spring. (Note: long-suffering southern hemisphere readers should come back and read this review in about six months.) Ahem. Still with me or back? Good. As I was saying: spring! The bird song. The little flowers, blooming from the walls. The golf ball careening off the land mine on the golf course. That's what Shuffle Putt, a snazzy little physics puzzle game from J. J. Wallace, is all about.
Click on the tiny ball and drag to aim and control the power of your shot, and release to shoot. You can wait for the ball to come to a stop before shooting again, or you can quickly grab at it and make another shot, before your ball careens into a hazard. Some levels also have springs which you can adjust for the perfect trajectory. Your ultimate goal is to get the ball into the hole and move onto the next level, and for bragging purposes, you want to take as few shots as possible to do so and collect as many hearts as possible along the way. Levels may contain hazards such as the aforementioned mines, water traps, buttons that control doors, and bright black and gold striped zones. These forbidden zones will send your ball back to the start if you stray into them. If the bird song soundtrack (you thought that was a joke, didn't you?) starts to get to you, you can turn it off in the upper left by clicking on the bird, or the other sound effects with the button beside it.
For some reason, the game offers no level selection screen and thus you have to play through all 18 levels in order, at which point you'll be told how many shots you took, how many hearts you collected, and your score, and have the chance to submit it. This is a needless narrowing of the player's choices. It's not that I don't enjoy trying to beat my own score and get through a phuzzle game as quickly and efficiently as possible, it's that it bothers me that Shuffle Putt has unilaterally decided that this is the only way to play and that players who want to play level 1 and 2 now, and come back later to do 3 and 4, and so on, are essentially not welcome.
That said, the 18 levels can be zipped through pretty quickly and feature a number of really nice level designs. Level 17 in particular is just evil, in a good way, if I can be oxymoronic. There's also a little easter egg to be had when you beat the game if you examine the menu screen carefully. A lively bit of spring froth all around.