Austin Studio's VR Mini-Golf Game Gets New Course Based on Jim Henson’s Labyrinth
Mighty Coconut goes golfing in the beloved puppet classic
Sinking a hole in one is hard enough. Now imagine that but while avoiding plunging into the Bog of Eternal Stench while evading the machinations of Jareth, the Goblin King. Austin-based gaming company Mighty Coconut setting exactly that challenge with the launch of Labyrinth, a new 18-hole course for its Walkabout Mini Golf VR game based on the classic fantasy film, Jim Henson's Labyrinth.
Mighty Coconut co-founder Lucas Martell used to make little mini golf courses with building blocks when he was a kid. "A lot of people doing golf or mini golf tend to think, 'Oh, here's a hole, here's a hole, here's another hole. Whereas to us it's, 'You're in VR, it's all about the world.' If you're in a mini golf place, how the course plays is important, but you're also going, 'I want to go up in the pirate ship.'" The opportunity to venture deep into one of the most beloved and enchanting fantasy realms of all time has allowed them to conjure up their most magical experience to date. "It's almost like a Labyrinth theme park," Martell said.
Nicole Goldman, the Jim Henson Company's executive vice president of branding and a lifelong Labyrinth fan, said that the collaboration was a great fit because, firstly, Walkabout Mini Golf is "very fun and silly and irreverent in the way that Labyrinth is" but also because both companies are "world builders ... the opportunity to create something that's immersive is always going to be appealing to us."
Probably most famous as the studio behind "Pigeon: Impossible" (the short that became Spies in Disguise, starring Will Smith and Tom Holland), Mighty Coconut has moved sideways from animation into indie gaming "by making mistakes and barreling through," said Martell. It started with two mobile titles: Alaska-set adventure game 57° North and AR/VR action-puzzle hybrid Laser Mazer. Both were minor successes, but when they teed up Walkabout Mini Golf in 2020 it became an immediate smash, and now has expanded to 12 themed courses, from space base Tethys Station to the jungle mysteries found in the lost city of El Dorado. The new Labyrinth course is the first time the company has worked on an existing IP – and it won't be the last, as the team is now busy at work on a new course with developer Cyan based on their groundbreaking 1993 adventure game, Myst.
Martell credited Senior Art Director Don Carson (a former Disney imagineer who worked on Mickey's Toontown and Splash Mountain) with helping the game translate the look and feel of Brian Froud's original designs for the film into the VR experience. According to Goldman, a lot of the development discussions centered around "the moments in the film that are iconic, that are memorable, and that people get excited about experiencing." That means being able to interact with classic characters and locations, as well as play using avatars based on characters from the movie including the enigmatic Jareth (played by David Bowie in the film) and heroic Sarah (Jennifer Connelly). But the Labyrinth is a realm of surprises, and even the littlest details – like one tiny character that has crawled into the hearts of fans. Goldman said, "There was a demo where they went, 'Oh, there's the worm,' and we went, 'Hold on, back it up. Let me reset my meetings for the day so we can talk about that worm.' … We spent a lot of time thinking about the worm, the scale of the worm, what was the worm doing, because we know that's a great, memorable character and moment in the movie, and we wanted people to have that experience."
Walkabout Mini Golf is available on Meta Rift, Meta Quest, and Steam VR. The Labyrinth DLC is available for $2.99 from July 28, and a 2D version is currently in alpha testing.