ST Format Review (Issue 20)
- MiSTer box running the Atari ST core – a 1MB STE running TOS 1.62 – you can replicate this with the Steem emulator.
- Automation 433, Medway Boys 103, SuperGAU 381/2
- Speedlink USB Joystick
I absolutely hate golf. It’s a horrendously boring sport to watch, and on those occasions I’ve tried to play it in real life I’ve generally considered myself pretty fortunate if I manage to connect club to ball, often outclassed horrendously by children (my main experience of playing golf was school trips when I worked as a teaching assistant back in the day). Golf on TV is just a bunch of men in funny trousers whacking a ball you can hardly see and honestly how are you supposed to tell the difference between a good swing and a bad swing? And yet, for no obvious reason, there are two golf games which I found myself actually liking. This is one of them, and the other is Sensible Golf – very different games I’m sure you’ll agree.
Tournament Golf plays it fairly straight, it largely follows the tried and tested three-click formula. You turn up at the hole, check the wind (you get an animated weathervane), check the lie (nice inset graphic of the ball on the grass), pick a club, adjust your stance (though I’m buggered if that has any damn effect) and go to swing at your shot – first click to start, second as the bar rises to set power, third as the bar falls to get height (as usual you have to get it into a small box so need to get it just in time). You can do this with mouse or joystick but in my case I found I was getting more accurate timing using a heavily-microswitched joystick than my mouse, but no doubt your mileage will vary with hardware.
Upon reaching the green the game switches to a top-down 2D view, and you can switch modes to show which direction the grass is going to send the ball – I must confess to being a bit rubbish at this bit as I can never quite get the right level of power for the shot. Many a birdie has turned into a triple bogey – like the game’s trying to recreate the underside of my chair (not really but I had to make a bogey joke somewhere).
Visually it’s a real treat, a combination of vector graphics rendering most of the course with bitmapped trees and a bitmapped representation of your golfer. Animation isn’t the smoothest but gets the job done. As cool as it looks, it’s actually not terribly ambitious technically as changing the view takes a good few seconds to re-render, and really most of the actual view is a single animation for the swing (admittedly the sprite is huge but there’s only one and we’ve seen Turrican use bigger) and the ball moving (mostly as a dot). Sound is solid, if sparse. It consists of fairly convincing samples of hitting the ball and the crowd applauding.
Gameplay consists of completing a number of rounds of golf, each consisting of the traditional 18 holes. The courses are initially fairly tame, perhaps expecting a 1 wood drive straight down the line then round the bend with a 1 iron before putting, but as you go on the holes become trickier, with traps carefully placed to make your life hell, either at likely stop-off points on the way (ie the length of a good drive) or surrounding the green with hazards like bracken, bunkers or water.
Doing well will see you earn new sets of clubs which lengthen your drive – this can allow you to take a shot less on some holes, and no doubt the later courses will require those more advanced sets of clubs just to keep up with the AI. You also get a better caddy who gives you some actual advice – at first you don’t even get the vaguest clue as to which club to use and have to guess, though of course that’s part of the fun, learning rather than being led by the nose as you would in a modern game.
If you play golf games on more modern systems the chances are you won’t feel terribly interested by this, which would be a shame. As it is, it’s a good fun game, a puzzle of movement to get from point A to point B with some skill and luck required to execute your plan. The graphics are lovely, I was hugely impressed by them as a kid and they still look good today, benefitting from a slightly stylised look. Courses are well-designed, tricky but not unfair, and your computer opponents don’t generally get unrealistic scores.
Personally I had a good time whacking the ball around, even if my skills have atrophied somewhat. I could feel myself getting back into the groove, the quality of my game slowly improving and no doubt with a little more time I’d be able to do reasonably well, but even not doing brilliantly I still felt the need to keep going, playing multiple rounds of golf.