So... Golf, then. Golf is a sport that is at once very easy and very difficult to translate into a computer game. Easy, because it's fairly simple and slowly paced, so players aren't faced with controlling a whole team. Difficult, because behind that simplicity is a wealth of subtle complexity.
The most important part is tackling how to take a swing or a putt. After all, this is the only real interaction involved. The second part is environmental factors - the effects of different types of ground, or the wind, or unfortunate passing birds, or whatever.
Unlike most sports games, Golf games don't seem to have settled once and for all on an 'ideal' control system, and these vary from your bog-standard power bar, right up to more complex and interactive methods.
Touch Golf on the DS offers a simple and compelling golf experience. Using the stylus to swing, playing the game feels very comfortable and very natural. A good start.
Although the game appears to be fairly arcade-y, due to its simplicity, this is a golf game at heart and as such you're not going to find yourself taking absurd shots and getting a hole-in-one every other hole. The game isn't full of whizz-bang and flashing lights, and although this means it doesn't exactly look like much (the graphics aren't the best, although they are 3D at least), I find that the game strikes the right balance between die-hard golf simulation and fun but unrealistic arcade game.
The winning part here is that this game is addictive - especially in multiplayer. The gameplay is charming enough to take you past its dull exterior into a competitive experience combining moments of sheer frustration with moments of great joy. Also worth noting is the silly but fun addition of picto-chat in multiplayer. Maybe a bit useless but great for a laugh!
I'm not a massive fan of golf, but I found this game to be great fun, and a nice change of pace. Get some friends around and have a game - you'll enjoy it.
Released in 2005 by Nintendo, Touch Golf Birdie Challenge is an enjoyable golf game.
What is noticeable is the lack of tie in with a professional golfer (such as EA range Tiger Woods games). This lack of endorsement is a good thing as the game seems to take itself much more seriously and may start out appearing difficult but improves on repeated play, as found with playing a real round of golf.
From the main menu the game has a couple modes of play.
If you want to turn on the cartridge and start playing immediately you can select the Quick Start Mode which provides instant playability of a Match Play game (where you compete in a number of holes and awarded a point per win and the player with the most points at the end of the match wins) or a stroke play game (a traditional style game where the player who takes the least strokes to complete a series of holes is the winner).
The second mode is Single player mode that in addition to the stroke and match play modes also offers the choices of training (essential!) or competing against opponents in a championship mode
In addition to these modes of play there is also the option to compete with a further 3 players using the wireless mode. The game can be used player to player in single cart mode or the full challenge mode using multiple cartridges.
Last but not least on the main menu is the Clubhouse where you can view your golfing achievements plus kit out your player with some golfing outfits.
So onto play!
Starting the first hole looks rather daunting as there are lots of buttons and controls. The game gives you a brief intro to the controls and then play is underway. A flyby 3d view of the course is displayed so you can get a feel of the course and observe any obstacles such as bunkers and trees.
Hitting the ball is easy, though hitting it well is an entirely different thing! The first thing to do is aim the intended position of your shot by using the stylus the move a crosshair on an overviewed map of the course. Next you then have to control the power of your shot by clicking on an image of the golf club head and then moving it with the stylus. The further from the ball the club head is the more powerful the shot and vice versa for a weaker shot. When you have aimed and powered your shot it's now time to hit the ball. Holding the club head using the stylus you must move the head in a perfectly straight line from the bottom of the screen to the top. The straighter the line the more accurate your shot is. It is possible at this stage to miss the ball entirely (whiffing it!) and lose a stroke.
Once you've hit the ball you will see the distance it has travelled, where it has landed and also the distance from the pin. You then proceed shot by shot until your ball is on the putting green. It is here that most games are won and lost as it is relatively easy to get onto the green with a few shots to spare but putting can prove difficult as there are a number of problems that can interfere with your match play. First off there is the wind that can slow down or even change the trajectory of a shot and secondly there is the weather conditions such as rain that can kill a ball onward roll and leave your shot short!
The game uses automatic club selection although this can be overridden by selecting your own club using an icon to the right of the screen. Other options on the screen are to add a spin to your ball which can further a shot or stop it dead in its tracks, change the map zoom levels or abandon the game and return to the main menu.
At the end of each hole you are given the option to view the scorecard which in stroke play shows the number of shots per hole taken and in match play mode the card shows a point for each hole that you have won.
So that's how you play it, but how does it play? Quite good actually! Once you have mastered the controls and perfected hitting the ball straight then it is quite easy to play a good round. Sometimes tactics are required to avoid bunkers and achieve par and also off-lined shots to counteract the elements (such as strong wind) are required. The options to save and resume play are included too which is handy.
The sound effects are quite good and the cheer of the crowd when you play a good shot is also quite encouraging! The background music can get a little repetitive though.
The graphics are bright and colourful too though there is a lot of green! The players are rendered as 3d quite well and the courses are clear to navigate and well defined.
Playability is infinite as no two games play the same. Add to this the Championship mode with formidable computer opponents or the option to play against friends wirelessly and the game really does become a worthwhile purchase.
I would recommend this game to anybody that enjoys the sport or fancies a quick game; admittedly there aren't any Tigers or Seve's here but the playability more than makes up for that. Not a game for the wobbly wristed!
The game was available from the Amazon marketplace (www.amazon.co.uk) for around £15 at the date of writing (15th October 2008).
© M Jones (Otalgia) 2008