Jack Nicklaus' Power Challenge Golf
Jack Nicklaus, a.k.a. the Golden Bear, makes a triumphant return to the links in Jack Nicklaus' Power Challenge Golf by Accolade. This Genesis game almost has it all. Jack packs enough features to keep any duffer entertained for hours, but the game's not quite as polished as its glitzy competitor, PGA Tour Golf II by EA Sports.
Power Challenge Golf may not be the most picturesque golf game on the market, but it makes up for it with a bag full of great options. You and up to three other hackers (human or computer) can play a single 18-hole round, a five-round tournament, or the popular Skins game, which awards cold cash for every hole you win. The CPU golfers who join your group include Jack himself, a sub-par master, and some invented players who are generally scratch golfers. During a tournament, you get to compete against a big board of 20 or so opponents.
All players choose a name, gender, and an on-screen character (five total). Players also select their skill level, a "handicap" that impacts how difficult the game is to play, and a tee-off position, which affects the total length of each hole. The skill level and tee- off spot can be updated as you get better. If you're a beginner, you get a chance to tune your strokes on the driving range, on the putting range, or on individual practice holes.
ProTip: You can beat the Golden Bear if you play aggressively. Jack's nut a big hitter and he doesn't take many chances. A good drive off the tee or an aggressive approach shot can make the difference between winning and losing.
The House that Jack Built
You play on two real-life courses designed by Nicklaus: the English Turn Country Club and the Sherwood Country Club. The courses are superb, but there should have been more (PGA Tour II has seven). Before you tee off, you get an overhead view of the hole's layout, with some personal text advice from the Golden Bear. An automatic caddy gives you the exact distance between any two points on the hole. This is very handy, especially for those island greens!
Even though Jack's the designer of the two game courses, don't always follow his advice. Play to your own strengths. If you're a long ball hitter, swing away.
Statistically speaking, Nicklaus scores a hole-in-one. Not only do you get a hole-by-hole analysis during each round, but this game also tallies your career totals, which include everything from driving accuracy to average number of putts per hole. The game also features realistic course and wind conditions that you're free to adjust.
Power Challenge's game play handles like a brand-new, top-quality nine iron. The easy-to-use controls are similar to most golf games. You set the power of your swing with a sliding meter, aim your shot by stopping the cursor in a red zone at each end of the meter, and drive your ball into action. You can overswing, hook, slice, and punch out of sand traps.
Don't be afraid to redline the power bar. As long as you can control your downswing and keep the bar inside the "Swing Zone." the ball will travel straight and go farther than the advertised distance.
A Small Handicap: Graphics & Sounds
Whereas PGA Tour H's visuals score an eagle, the graphics in Power Challenge Golf barely put it at par for the course. The digitized photos of Jack and the still backgrounds look nice, but otherwise there's nothing special. You get a standard behind-the-golfer view, but there's very little detail when it comes to the trees, water, and other hazards. Also, gradations of the rough and the topography of the greens are difficult to distinguish at times. Particularly annoying is the slow screen redraw, which tends to bog down the game play.
Power Challenge's sound and music don't have too much going for them, either. You get the whack of the ball, crowd noise, a cheesy theme song, and that's about it. Then again, golf isn't a sport noted for breaking decibel meters.
Looks Aren't Everything
Don't let the looks stop you from picking up this game. PGA II retains its top-ranking status by virtue of its faster-moving game play and its inclusion of more courses, but Jack plays a strong second-place round. The game's format and options more than make up for its shortcomings. Nicklaus is a golden addition to your sports library.