Sid Meier's SimGolf
It looks as if your ship has finally arrived. Your great uncle Harry has passed away recently and has left you a nice chunk of money. This inheritance comes with specific instructions, however: To build a world-class golf resort, a dream Harry never realized. So take that cash and buy up some prime real estate'you're going to take a shot at being a high roller in the golf world!
Sid Meier's SimGolf, brought to you from the people responsible for such gems as SimCity and Civilization, is the newest member of the illustrious family. A mix of simulation and action, SimGolf looks to be a very exciting game, at least on paper. Does it succeed? Read on, and decide for yourself.
Gameplay, Controls, Interface
OK, get comfortable, this will take a while...
SimGolf is a simulation game in every sense of the word: You control aspects of building and maintaining a golf course, from layout and construction of fairways, greens and the like, to building and maintaining the infrastructure of your course and surrounding environment. Control over terrain, localized flora, and other aspects are all vital to the game and your success as a business mogul. You also have a "golf pro" to maintain and compete with other SimGolfers for both gains in skill and later profits for your course.
Those of you familiar with SimCity 2000 and later iterations will be comfortable with the sparse, yet familiar control settings. Very simple, ergonomic buttons are all in the lower areas of the simulation field, which utilizes the "three-quarter" style of game view so prevalent in today's simulations. A quick glance at the manual will give you all the information that you'll need.
Once you begin building your course, your main source of revenue will come to play. SimGolfers will play your course, pay green fees per hole, purchase drinks and food, and buy memberships if they enjoy your course enough'all generating revenue. While playing your course, SimGolfers will keep a running commentary going, with the text either in green, white, or red depending on their mood. This is a valuable tool for improving and modifying your course. If a SimGolfer is not enjoying a hole because it's too easy, drop in a couple of rough spots or sand traps. Are they getting tired? Hungry or Thirsty? Frustrated? Excited? Paying attention to this detail will help you make a better and more valuable course.
There are quite a few buildings and improvements available in SimGolf. Putting greens and driving ranges will improve your SimGolfers' game skills, snack bars will feed them, and tennis courts keep them happy. There are many other buildings, each with specific values and price tags intended to make your course the best. One nice thing: If you decide to remove parts of your course, you will receive the money back that you invested in it. So if you mistakenly drop a bit of green in the middle of the fairway, don't worry, you can reclaim the land and the lost funds. A nice touch.
You are also in charge of hiring a staff. You'll need groundskeepers to keep the grounds clean and free of dandelions, rangers to help speed up straggling golfers, beverage carts for thirsty SimGolfers, and even possibly a celebrity greeter to give your SimGolfers a little ego boost. Each of these employees draws a monthly salary, so be sure to use the ones you need when you need them.
Now let's discuss the really interesting part of this game, the golf pro. Your course will have its own local pro, who will take the role of greeter and groundskeeper when not actively playing. You are in charge of all aspects of the pro, from skill set to modifying his/her likeness (the game ships with tools which allow you to import your own photographs). The pro can play practice games to improve (or decrease) his skills and can later enter SGA sponsored tournaments or "skins" games with other local pros for large cash prizes. This is where SimGolf separates itself from SimCity and the like. In most of those games, there's a period of time where you just have to sit and wait for your cash to build back up. SimGolf avoids that by allowing you to actively play your course with your pro. After allotting a certain number of skill points to your pro, you are then able to take control of driving and short iron play. No, you don't get to do any chipping or putting, the computer takes care of that for you. And just because you click an approach shot doesn't mean that's exactly where the ball's going to land. There's a large fudge factor, at least early on when your pro doesn't have a lot of skill or experience. However, the more points you gain, the better your pro becomes until you are challenged by another pro or are entered in an SGA-sponsored event.
Ah yes, the Sim Golf Association. They'll be watching your course as well. You may be offered to host a prestigious tournament for a large cash prize. Weigh this option carefully early on, because while the tournament is on, you will gain no greens fees or membership dues money, just a bit from concessions and whatever purse money you (your pro) end up winning. Holding a tournament at your course will also raise your course's (and from there your SimGolfers) prestige and allow more buildings to be built.
You will also have special golfers come to play. One of them will donate landmarks to your course if she likes it well enough. One will allow you to purchase more land around your existing course, so that you can expand and place more holes. Be on the lookout for these SimGolfers, and try to make their stay as enjoyable as possible.
There's still much more I could write about this game, the sheer amount of detail in this game is staggering. I haven't discussed game modes, silver and higher memberships, building lots for homes on your course, or even becoming a worldwide golf mogul on other continents, but they and many other unmentioned parts of this game make for a rich, stimulating simulation.
I must mention, there were a few bugs I have noticed while playing the game. Some speech bubbles had odd text in them and often structures I placed either were removed or changed into something else entirely. Hopefully, the first patch will fix these problems.
Perhaps the most disappointing aspect of this game, although not as important as you might think. Graphics follow in the vein of SimCity and the like, and are very pixilated at times. While the scenery is varied and interesting, small character motion and movement is not. There are only two view modes, and while zoomed out to get a more "bird's eye" view, you really can't do anything besides look at your course. The best resolution is 800 x 600, and often times the screen can get cluttered with "busy" graphics, such as help screens and the like. Not the best work, but adequate for a simulation such as this.
Mellow background music, interspersed with human-like conversation. While not as annoying as the adults in a Charlie Brown cartoon, it still can begin to grate on your nerves after a while. I found that this game was as easy to play with the sound off as it was on.
I was a bit worried when I received this game, as I was expecting more of a golf playing simulation, and frankly, I haven't enjoyed one of those since Mean 18. SimGolf was surprisingly good, however, and before I knew it, hours had passed and I was sitting on top of a small 9-hole course, screaming at my pro to sink a 5-foot putt. This game can really entertain,, and is a strong recommendation for all hardcore simulation and avid golf fans. Bugs, as well as problems with the audio and graphical aspect drop the score, but overall, this game deserves to be in the mid- to high 80's.