Monday, July 1, 2013

Monster Mini Golf - Round Two

After playing 18 rounds of Monster Mini Golf in Paramus, NJ, we knew we would be back for more.  We had so much fun and enjoyed the atmosphere that it was only a matter of time.  But we had no idea it would be sooner rather than later.  After reviewing the Paramus location and tweeting it out to The Holidaze followers, the founder and owner of Monster Mini Golf, Christina Vitagliano, responded with high praise!  To thank me for taking time to write the review (my pleasure), Monster Mini Golf sent me a little somethin' somethin'.

Free passes to any Monster Mini Golf location at any time!  How awesome is that?  I wasn't expecting anything in return for writing about our experience in Paramus, but I truly appreciate the generosity.  Not only did Monster Mini Golf send me passes, but they sent 12!!  They could have sent one or two and I would have been more than happy, but 12 is going above and beyond.  If you're looking for a company that knows how to treat their customers and operate a business professionally, then look no further.  Christina Vitagliano and the employees at Monster Mini Golf are truly class acts and I thank them for going out of their way!

My girlfriend and I were planning on bringing her brother and sister out to celebrate the end of the school year and, as soon as the mail arrived, we knew exactly where to take them.  After talking to Christina, I learned that every location had a different theme that spawned from Christina's overly creative mind.  So, this time, we traveled to Edison, NJ to see how it was different from Paramus and to level the playing field of the 18-hole course!

Before we even walked in, I knew that this location was going to be better than the first.  The logo was larger, more colorful, and popped against it's background.  The entrance, specifically the shape of the door, resembled Dracula's castle.  It's rounded to a point and makes you feel like you're about to enter a danger zone of fear and terror.  Yes!! Combine that with a green Frankenstein letting you know they're open and you've outdone yourself.  The cover on this book was perfect but, just like the first time around, I didn't want to make a judgement based just on that.  Time to get in there!

The first thing I noticed was how much larger this location is than the one in Paramus.  There were twice the amount of games and cranes, a bit more decor in terms of monster mannequin's and props, and, unlike our first time at Monster Mini Golf, there was a DJ rocking the set.  However, we arrived much later than we planned on and that meant dealing with a little bit of a crowd.  Nothing crazy, but the golf course was packed so we decided to hit the arcade first.

If you didn't bet money on seeing a Pop-A-Shot picture here, then shame on you.  You should have read The Holidaze enough this Summer to know that I wouldn't turn down a basketball opportunity.  This time, we had 4 people playing so that meant 3x the competition.  Well, they really weren't much of a challenge to CK, but we did have a lot of fun.  We all tried to break the high score, but it wasn't happening, especially after Eileen's brother, Connor, overshot a ball that wound up on top "Hoop Fever's" cage.  That's when it's time to throw in the towel and walk away.

I'm not going to lie... I almost lost!  It was such a close game and the worst part was that half of his points were earned by me.  I must have knocked the puck into my goal 3 or 4 times.  At one point, I was actually down 1 and thought it was over.  I thought my undefeated streak had come to an end and that I'd be forced to pass the torch.  But, luckily, I'm the Wayne Gretzky of Air Hockey and managed to pull it out.  CK wins and you wonder why I compare myself to the great Gretzky?  Because he's the only hockey player I know ;)

Right behind the Air Hockey machines were the private rooms for birthday parties and all I can say is whoa!  I love the style!  It's like dining in a Haunted House.  There used to be a restaurant in Salem, MA called "The Crypt Cafe" and this kinda reminded me of that.  If you're a kid, this would be a great place to have a party.  The games are cheap and the golf is competitive and fun.  I could only imagine how much fun it would all be with a large group of friends.  I wonder if there's an age limit.  I need a cool spot for my 27th in March.  I'm kidding.  But not really.

Eileen's brother, Connor, probably had the best time that day but, with me being there, that's debatable.  Figuring out who can be a bigger kid is a toss-up, but I don't think anybody could have a bad time at Monster Mini Golf.  If you embrace the environment, play the games, and pretend you're a kid, you'll guarantee yourself a bunch of laughs.  In this case, Connor guaranteed himself a few free motorcycle games.  Every time he came in 1st place, he would receive admission to the next round.  So, in total, he played 3 full games for free.  It's another example of how Monster Mini Golf rewards their customers.  The game could have ended as soon as the first credit was gone, but it was programmed to continue without having to swipe our card.  That's awesome, but only the beginning.  I'll explain, later.

After a few more games, including one of those crazy dancing machines and "Hammer Head," which was basically a Wack-A-Mole version of "Street Sharks."  That was the coolest part of the game.  To be honest with you, I didn't even play it, I just took a picture of the bootleg Street Shark to show you.  I can't lie to you.  Oh, yeah, I also took a picture of a picture.  Monster Mini Golf in Edison, NJ has a device that works as a digital camera and allows you to take a photo and either e-mail it to yourself or share with your friends via social media.  The cost?  Nothing but a smile.

Okay, it's time to play some Monster Mini Golf.  Before we entered "Cemetery", I could already tell that the course was different.  There were different obstacles and more "blocks."  We were gonna have to be very creative in order to win.  We had to use the side walls to our advantage and make sure we were precise.  Oh yeah, this was going to be a battle.  But I was ready for the challenge and looked forward to this war of monsters.

Through the first 9 holes, we had nobody in front or behind us, so we were able to take our time, kid around, dance to "Ice Ice Baby," and take pictures.  But by the time we got to the 10th hole, a man with his, I'd say, 4-year-old son had caught up to us.  His son didn't care about rules, he just wanted to play, so he kept hitting the ball until he go it in the hole.  It probably took him 12 chances on every hole, but they made it through the entire course in less than 20 minutes.  So when they reached us, we let them go in front in order to keep them at their pace.  Well, next thing you know, the man swings his club on one of the most difficult holes and sinks a hole-in-one!  We were all shocked and gave him a great ovation.  If that's what it takes to become a champion, maybe I should be more like his son.  I'll just wack the ball until I reach the hole.  Then, when I grow up to be a 36-year-old Chinese man, I'll knock it in with one shot.  Sounds like a plan.

One of the coolest aspects of the game was this wheel that must be spun before the putter takes their shot.  After you spin, it will add a stipulation to your shot that can affect you or the other players.  For example, above, it landed on "One Hand Putt."  That meant that we had to attempt our first shot while holding the club with only one hand.  It's harder than it sounds.  When putting, I'm a lefty, but I write with my right hand so I had to turn around and put righty.  I didn't do very well, but it was fun.  Another stipulation was, if you received a hole-in-one, you could add two more strokes to an opponent-of-your-choosing's score.  That could be crucial in a close game.  In this case, it might have changed the outcome, but nobody sunk a hole-in-one all game.  We had a really close call, but it just didn't make it.

 For as fun as the game is, I'm just as into the artistic creativity as I am with the competition.  Everywhere you looked, there were bright colors illuminated by the black lights above.  I become a baby who's distracted by my own 5 senses.  But when it comes to the extreme, take a look at that beast above!  Wow.. The Green Ogre in Paramus was cool, but it just can't compare to this guy.  I don't know what he's supposed to be, but I wouldn't want to get on his bad side.  He's monstrous!  And much like the Ogre, he moves.  His arms, his legs, his head and body all move in a running motion and, if you didn't know any better, you'd think he might break free from his cage and attack you with your own club.  He's like a giant skeleton / druid hybrid on steroids.  In fact, you might find something similar at the Jersey Shore.  Hiyooo!

The art is beautiful.  You forget that it's 2-Dimensional and feel as if you could walk right through the wall and into the scene.  I don't know if that green water would be safe, especially with a red sky at night, but I'd take the chance.  Those yellow arrows are almost seductive.  What's down there?  What will I find?  It's a trick.  They're casting a spell on us.

The illustration is crazy good, but the thought process that went into these designs means much more than the art itself.  Think about it.  We were in Edison, NJ which is named after Thomas Edison.  Thomas Edison was an inventor which explains the lab.  He invented the motion-picture camera, the phonograph, and the light-bulb.  That explains the metaphorical image of the light-bulb blowing out the candle.  That's art that speaks volumes.  "Goodbye light of the past, the light of the future dismisses you."  It's actually a very deep image.  So is that pool of green slime.  I don't know what that has to do with Edison, but I think it depicts the polluted waters of New Jersey, perfectly.  It also looks like Mutagen so I personally loved the glowing green goo of greatness.  How about that alliteration?

On our journey, we ran into the Grim Reaper.  Everybody knows, when you come face to face with the Reaper, your time is usually up.  This was bad news, especially because we had 4 holes left, so I talked to the guy.  I said, "look man, we don't want any problems.  We just want to have a good time and, I promise, you're getting a great review on The Holidaze."

He responded, "The Holidaze?  Nobody reads that garbage!  You're coming with me!"

He wrapped his demonic chain around my neck and pulled me in.  He said "Give me those passes back, too.."  Then everybody reading this said "Whoa, we knew this guy was a little geeky, but this might be a problem."  Then we all awkwardly stared at each other and moved on with the review.  Yep.. :)

Paramus and Edison only share one hole in common and that's the last.  Once again, you have to shoot the ball up and into the evil clown's mouth in order to call it a hole-in-one.  If you miss, you get a 3 so, obviously, this could make or break your game.  Eileen, her brother, and I all managed to knock our balls down his throat (I mean that in the nicest way possible) but her sister, Alana, wound up with a 3 and, unfortunately, last place.

So who won? Time to tally the final scores.

Eileen... 72

Damn, I lost.  BUT.. we have a tie!  In the end, Eileen and her brother ended up with the same score and it says a lot about the course.  First of all, every one of our scores suck and that's testament to the difficulty of the Monster Mini Golf course in Edison, NJ.  But I like that!  Nobody wants to hit sub-par every single time.  You want that to be rare and special so that you get to feel that excitement.  But, I can tell you, no excitement was felt that day.  We came close, but we mostly hit 5's.

Our scores also indicate that the "Monster Mini Golf Spinners" wheel and the final hole mean a lot more than you think at the time.  Had somebody been able to add two strokes to Eileen's score and had Connor missed the last hole, then I'm your champion.  If any one of them missed the clown's tongue, there would be no tie and one of them would be the sole victor.  There are crazy twists along the way and that's what's so fun about it!

Now, because we had a deal in place that the winner would get to pick where we go for dinner, we had to find a winner.  So, it was time for the tie-breaker.  It's time to go back to the Air Hockey table and crown our Monster Mini Golf King or Queen.  Who will it be?

Here is your winner, and the NEWWW Monster Mini Golf Champion.... Connor!

Yes, in the end, Eileen was defeated by her younger brother and he got to pick where we went to eat.  But, first, we had plenty of money left on your Monster Mini Golf card because, believe me, $20 goes a very long way, even with 4 people playing different games at different times.

As I was looking at that ferocious wolf-man, trapped in his cage above the kiddie bball hoop, I noticed a sign that said it was "Free-Play Friday at Monster Mini Golf."  What did that mean?  Well, one of the games in the arcade was completely free to play, you just had to find it.  Challenge accepted!  We actually stumbled across the crane by accident, but I happened to move the joystick and the crane moved with me.  So we played around with it and, little did we realize, it's play until you win.  So, for absolutely nothing, we were promised something stuffed or rubber from a glass box.  That's class, people.

While they attempted to win free crane prizes, I checked out the gift shop.  The T-Shirts they have available are all black light ready.  They'd look awesome on the golf course and, next time, I think I may just buy one to truly shine brighter than whoever wins.

But what really caught my eye were those Funko Pop Vinyl Figures.  I'm new to these products, but they were recently brought to my attention after they released the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Master Splinter, and Shredder.  Once I saw photos of them on Instagram, I Googled the rest and, man, they have so many licenses.  In this case alone, you can see Disney, Marvel, and The Walking Dead on display.  But they've released Michael Myers, Jason, The Heat Miser, Snow Miser, Elf, Frankenberry, Boo Berry, and Count Chocula.  That's just to name a few.  They have so many cool figures available, with more on the way, so I have to start collecting these babies.  Monster Mini Golf didn't offer any that really interested me enough to start my collection, but they were only $12.99 and $9.99 online so, soon enough, you'll be seeing these on The Holidaze.  I actually can't wait!

We racked up 350 points because, like the crane, Skee Ball was also on "free play" so Connor was able to get something decent.  I tried to get a photo of the television screen, but the glare was too strong.  But I liked it because, unlike the Paramus location, your collection of tickets were tracked and recorded on your Monster Mini Golf Card.  There were no actual tickets which meant no folding cardboard paper or carrying 20-foot strips around the golf course.  All 350 tickets fit on one card and in your pocket.  Then, as you spent your points, the card was scanned and the television screen showed you how much you had, how much you spent, and how much you had left.  Slowly but surely, mental math is becoming a thing of the past.

So, between the free crane and 350 points, what did we end up leaving Monster Mini Golf with?

A stuffed Patrick from Spongebob Squarepants, two yoinking pigs, a bucket of blue slime, three Airheads, a fake spider, and two bracelets.  It sounds like a poor man's "12 Days of Christmas," but we got all that, in addition to all the games we played, for a mere $20.  Not to mention, thanks to the free passes, we saved $40.  Plus, at the end of the day, the employees at Monster Mini Golf gave us another free pass to come back to the Edison location.  How do they make money??  I'll tell ya, it's through loyalty and it runs both ways!

After dinner at Houlihan's, we gave our English Bulldog, Rocky, one of the rubber pigs.  We like to think of him as our little baby pig, so he deserved his own to love and chew the hell out of.  He actually liked it a lot more than I expected.  He usually chews something for a minute before he never wants to see it again, but this was different.  I think it really did remind him of himself.  They're both little fatties that make funny noises.  Not to mention they're adorable.  I love the picture of Piggy riding Rocky, but that didn't last long at all.  I'm lucky I even got the picture.  I'd love to tell you that they walked around like that, together, all night long, but I'd be lying.  Rock hates anything wrapped around his body.  Don't give him a hat, sunglasses, or a jacket.  Just give him peanut butter.  He loves that.

To conclude, we had a great day and it was the perfect place to bring Eileen's brother and sister to kick off their Summer vacation.  I, once again, want to thank Christina Vitagliano for being so gracious and sending us those free passes.  We're going to try and span them out over the next few months, so they should last us through the Summer.  Including the one we received in Edison, we have 9 passes left and we're looking forward to sharing the experience with more friends and family.  We will, most likely, reach another Monster Mini Golf Destination and, for anybody reading this, I can't emphasize it enough - find a location near you and go have yourself an amazing time.  You will love your time and experience.  I know we did.. again :)

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