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Special animals that can talk go to a special secret school, (not telling you where as that would spoil the secret). Anyway, this special secret school has different term times to our “normal schools” and has now broken up for the summer holidays. This is quite a chore for me as Geoffrey the mad mohican giraffe, is now under my feet the whole time. In fact he has been a bit slack with his schooling this year, what with the trip to the Algarve and all. But relief was at hand, when Geoffrey discovered a great computer game, which keeps him and his friend Bradley the permanently sad looking basset hound, amused for hours. The only problem is the taunting from Geoffrey, when Bradley slices a shot. (I am sure Tiger Woods, does not have to put up with that sort of thing!) Yes, this game is the Golf Pro, which is surprisingly enough a golf simulator for your PC. Bradley, plays as Bradley “Woods” and Geoffrey plays as Geoffrey “Westwoods”, he thinks being alienated to the west side of the woods is lucky!! Don’t ask he does have Indian background after all. Ok, this is a golf simulator produced by Empire interactive and now available on their Xplosiv label. Is it any good and will it have you hanging up your golf clubs? ~Game play~ Obviously you cannot swing an actual golf club with a computer simulator, so this game uses a mouse swing to mimic the real golf swing. You have to control the back swing and the follow through, or there are some dire results with your ball skewing off at all sorts of angles. You can loft the ball, by releasing the mouse button early in your swing, apply back swing, with more mouse button pressing and releasing as the swing comes through and apply fade with a turn of the wrist. The control is excellent, if a little tricky, but then golf is tricky. If all this sounds too much, then there is a comprehensive tutorial with the game, narrated by t he old “has been” professional golfer, Gary Player. (Geoffrey gives the screen rather a nasty stare, every time Mr Player commentates.) The tutorial is excellent, instructing on the basics and then on to the more complicated shots. Believe me, you will need to listen to this tutorial, as this game is nearly as frustrating as the real thing. You are given the choice of two courses to play on, St Mellion International, a real life course in Cornwall designed by Jack Nicholas and Hilton Head, again based on a real course in South Carolina designed by Gary Player. Both courses offer the challenge, of sloping fast greens, rough on the fairway, rivers, lakes and lots of trees. I have never played on a top class golf course and so, I am afraid I cannot offer a comment on the realism, but it seemed pretty good to me. What is useful is the guide to each hole, given before you play it, pointing out the potential pit falls and guiding you as to where is best to hit the ball. There is a purpose to the game, you start off as a lowly beginner, with a handicap of 31, the aim is to play rounds and reduce your handicap. As you do the game gets harder as the control for the club gets more complicated. Adding to the challenge are the tee positions, as with all courses you have women’s, men’s and championship. With the championship position being the furthest away. There are all sorts of statistics that you can view for your saved player, number of birdies, average scores for par 3s, 4s and 5s, longest drive, longest putt etc and all this adds a bit as you try to improve your players statistics. You can also play against a friend, as Geoffrey and Bradley do, but there is no competition play you know where you play against a large field and try and come out on top, I would love an attempt to beat Tiger Woods, rather than Bradley Woods! It is this missing element that is the games biggest downfall. You can com pete in rounds against the course record holder, but this is not the same. Other courses are available to purchase as additions and I think after a while you would need these, as you got overly familiar with the two supplied courses. ~Graphics~ These are nothing special, the player’s movement is smooth as they hit the ball and the course is well portrayed, with sand flying from the bunker as you try and hit the ball out of the wretched things. But to be honest a golf simulator does not need to do anything ground breaking with its graphics. There is though great attention to detail around the course, with various landmarks portrayed in a shifting pattern as you travel round the golf course. The course guide is actually from TV shots of the course and so this aspect is very realistic on the graphics front. ~Sound~ Here is the annoying bit Gary Player commentates on your round. This is great at first, but as with all sports computer games, once you have heard him say “Oh dear, you didn’t want to do that” 50 times, you want to strangle the man, and as for Geoffrey, well you can guess. I am yet to find a way of turning the sound off, but believe me I am looking for it. However, you do hear a rather satisfying, thunk as you drive the ball; an annoying russle as the damn ball hits the tree; and a lovely rattle when the ball goes in the hole. ~Overall~ As sports simulations go, this one is rather good, the control system is the best I have come across in a golf game and the graphics and game play flow well. The commentary gets very annoying and the lack of computer opposition is a real minus as it would be good to play in championships. But, do not get me wrong this is a good simulation and at £8.99 is a bargain and of course Geoffrey endorses it, so the Golf Pro must be good. The game claims to improve your actual real life golf game as I have not been on a course for about three years, I cannot comment on this, but I found the control system very innovative and about as close as you could get without having a club in your hand. ~Minimum Specification~ 90 Mhz processor; 16 Mb Memory; 100 Mb Hard Disk Space. ~Recommended~ 133 Mhz processor; 32 Mb Memory; 250 Mb Hard Disk Space.