Fore!

Review by Les Ellingham

 

Issue 25

Jan/Feb 87

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ENJOY A GREAT ROUND OF GOLF ON YOUR ST

LEADERBOARD

Sports simulations are the hot topic in computer games at the moment and golf is the latest to be computerised on the ST. Leader Board has already had praise heaped upon it but is not the only golf simulation available on the ST. In the second part of this review we will take a look at its main challenger, Mean 18.

I suppose I ought to confess from the outset that I have become hooked on computer golf, it seems the ideal game for individual play or for challenging a few friends. It has the right degree of challenge requiring a little dexterity and lots of thought, unlike many of the arcade style games which I find too difficult to play. Leader Board has several options to enable you to start at the appropriate level. Novice level sends each ball down the fairway true and square and is ideal for your first few rounds. Later you may progress to Amateur where you have to control the hook and slice of the ball while Pro level adds the effects of wind to the game.

The screen presentation is superbly realistic with your view from behind and slightly above your player who is represented as a detailed human figure. You can see as far down the fairway as you would expect in real life which of course means that you often cannot see the green. On the right hand side of the screen is information about the hole you are playing together with current scores and wind details. Your first task is to select a club which is done by moving the mouse forward or back. I found this to be a little awkward and prefer the Mean 18 style of 'clicking' to select a club. The direction of your shot is determined by a small cursor which is controlled by the joystick and 'floats' above your golfer. The joystick button is used to control the power of the shot by watching a small power bar on the right hand side of the screen. It really is quite small and it is fairly difficult to judge the precise power of your shot, that will take some practice. If you are playing at Amateur or Pro level you must also use the mouse to control the hook or slice as the swing comes down. You can do this either by watching the golfer or the power bar. Once committed there is no second chance so crack the ball and watch it sail down the fairway.

Now you get to see just how realistic this simulation is. It is beautiful! The ball will sail into the distance and bounce a few times before coming to rest, hopefully on the fairway or green. If you land in a bunker, the sand will kick up and, on a short hole, it is perfectly possible to hit the flag and watch the ball bounce away! I have not yet managed a hole in one although I understand it is possible. The various holes have trees, bunkers and rough and are often surrounded by water. This is possibly one of the disappointing parts of the game as the holes are all fictitious (unlike Mean 18) and are the product of the author's golfing fantasies. You need a caddy boat on some of these courses or need to practice that ancient art of walking in water!

Once your shot is made the screen redraws very quickly to show the new position of the ball and you are told the distance from the hole. Select another club and, hopefully, this time you will be on the green. Now the choice of a Putter only is automatic and you don't have to worry about hooking and slicing. A 'pole' on the green casts a shadow to indicate the lie of the green and you only need set the direction and power of the shot. With luck you will hear that little rattle as the ball sinks into the hole and it's off to the next tee.
 

Superb Realism

There are four courses on the main disk, of increasing difficulty, and also a driving range for practice. A few shots here will soon get you into the swing of things (sorry!). There is also a demo mode which may be designed to encourage you as the golfer is not that good!

THE TOURNAMENT DISK

Once you have mastered the courses on the main disk you can get the Leader Board Tournament Disk #1 which adds four new courses for your enjoyment. These are even more outrageous than the originals and in real life the course designer would be hard pressed to find a club crazy enough (or rich enough, to build such courses. Strangely though, the courses are not that much harder and will add the right degree of extra challenge without becoming impossible. I was able to get round the first course in just 4 over par despite having played the original courses only a couple of times.

Overall it has to be said that this is one of the finest sports simulations of all time. The graphics are superbly detailed, there is a sense of realism as you play each hole and just the right balance of difficulty. Leader Board is a game equally well suited for play on your own or with friends where you will find the competitive edge comes to the fore. The adrenalin will really start flowing when the scores are close with only two holes to play! Be warned though, Leader Board is a game that you will play for hours on end. There will surely be a few new lonely ladies the, computer and golfing widows!

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MEAN 18

Mean 18 comes hot on the heels of Leader Board and is another fine simulation which in some respects is better and others worse. Let's do some comparisons.

Mean 18 is played in the same way as Leader Board but offers a lot more options. The first thing to note is that the courses are based on real life courses which, to my mind, makes the game a lot more interesting. Additional course disks are promised so that eventually you may be able to travel the golf courses of the world, without leaving your front room! All the features are present on each course but the graphics, whilst still good by computer standards, are not a patch on Leader Board. They are more in the old computer 'representation' style but are nonetheless perfectly acceptable.

Looking down the fairway

On the green

In this game your view is again from behind your player but the direction of the ball is chosen by clicking on an arrow which alters the perspective of the course. Each click scrolls the entire background so that you have a slightly different view down the fairway. The power and hook or slice are the same as in Leader Board except that the power bar is the full height of the screen. I found this to be a lot easier to control, both the power and 'snap' of the shot. The ball again sails down the fairway bouncing into the distance and here some of the major differences become apparent. Firstly, as an advantage, you can click on an icon to get an overhead view of the course which will show you precisely where and in which direction your ball travelled, a nice touch. In general you can get a better feel of where you are both on the fairways and on the green. The difference on the bad side is that the screen is very, very slow to redraw requiring the mouse to be clicked several times with the course fading away to the center of the screen and then re-opening. It takes about ten seconds overall but there is a noticeable 'thinking' time before the screen changes and I found it quite irritating.

Once you get on the green, the program loads an overhead shot of the green to show you the lie of the green and the position of the ball. It is much harder to judge to slope of the green and a lot more practice is required than on Leader Board to get it right. Click again and you have a 'birds-eye' view of your golfer with a solid line from the club towards the hole. You must move this line according to the lie of the green and in addition to setting the power of the shot must also control the 'snap' i.e. whether you hit the ball to the left or right. Plop down the hole and it's off to the next tee.

As well as the choice of course, you can opt to play regular or professional tees and can also practice or play any particular hole or set up a green to practice putting. You can also save a game at any point, which is excellent as a game can take quite some time and there is a Hall of Fame for you to permanently save your scorecards - two distinct advantages over Leader Board. But the biggest advantage is that you can build your own courses! A utility provided will allow you to design any course you desire, so that you can make the game as challenging or as easy as you like.

Overall the options are much wider but the realism is less than with Leader Board. Mean 18 is much more like a computer game than a realistic simulation but is nevertheless very good and will be interesting and challenging.

WHICH TO CHOOSE

Golfing addicts will prefer the real life courses of Mean 18 and the realism of action of Leader Board. Hard to choose! I personally prefer Leader Board, principally because of its 'state-of-the-art' realism but have to admit that Mean 18 plays a good game as well. Two games that are the same yet totally different. You won't be disappointed whichever you buy and they are sufficiently different to warrant buying both.

Leader Board is available in this country from US Gold at 24.95 and the Tournament disk is 9.95. Mean 18 is imported at 44.95

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