Ever had dreams of designing, building and then playing on your very own golf course? Me neither but nonetheless bare with me while I explain why Sid Meier's Sim Golf may still be for you. Sim Golf is a strange hybrid of business management simulator akin to that of Rollercoaster Tycoon and Theme Park, life sim and arcade golf game. This makes one weird concept of a game!
Sim Golf gives you the opportunity to select an area from a world map and build a golf course on it. Once an area has been selected, be it the watery savannah of Florida or the rolling grassland of Edinburgh you can customise your land and create up to eighteen holes of golf course in your very own designs. Meier's attention to detail includes the ability to alter the elevation of the landscape, add fairways, rough, bunkers and other golfing hazards I cannot pretend to understand. Fortunately, coupled with the attention to detail is an intuitive one click menu that allows you to access course features, buildings and staff.
Creating your very first hole is simplicity itself thanks to your guide cheesily called Gary Golf. Gary Golf acts as guide throughout the game offering advice and tips on how to build courses from tee to green and also doubles up as your playing character. This means that not only can you design your own course but you can play it too. Once a hole is opened golfers immediately play your course and depending on how well your holes are designed in terms of imagination, difficulty and satisfaction they will pay you a fee. The happier the golfer the more they pay. This is your main source of steady income so building and designing variety into your holes is a must.
As well as designing courses you also have an array of buildings to choose from with various benefits. These include pro shops, putting greens and driving ranges to improve your members skills. All of these come at a cost but are worth the outlay as your course becomes more popular. The design of your course is more complex and important than it may at first appear. With space at a premium you may well find holes overlapping which is all good until someone gets knocked out by a golf ball. Although very amusing this does little to enhance your reputation and as such courses have to be designed holes ahead. Similarly, making courses too hard will make golfers lose their temper lashing out at opponents whereas too easy will make members bored and wander off before they complete a round.
Maintaining your course and golfers happy is no easy task either as weeds spring up rapidly without the constant attention of a gardener and golfers backlog holes without a Marshall to usher them through. Without benches golfers will become tired and their performance, and as such the fees they pay will suffer. Without something to drink they may not even complete a long round. Therefore, hiring staff to keep your course running smoothly is essential. Keeping track of them is difficult though as they wander off yet are often amiss from the areas in which they are required. Whereas other business management titles give staff a rudimentary level of intelligence Sim Golf is sadly missing this making creating later holes, while playing tournaments and directing staff a masterful juggling trick.
Playing a practice round of golf is an entertaining diversion in between courses but is simply that. Your golfer has a choice of four shots but club selection is automatic and once you point your courses at the pre defined target it is entirely down to the computer as to whether your shot is successful. This makes a round of golf very easy to pick up and play but a bit hit and miss as to how successful you are. Fortunately, your golfer, Gary Golf is customisable and can be renamed, restyled in your own image and attributed special skills including putting, accurate driving and luck. How you distribute these coupled with the shots you use play a big role in how good a round you have.
Once you have played a practice round and have built a few holes you can hold a tournament or exhibition match. This is were the real money is made, especially if you finish high up the ranking board as you pit yourself against up to ten computer generated opponents on your course. Prize money is huge in these events and will able to buy more land, buildings and feature to your course so getting plenty of practise in before a tournament starts is vital.
Graphically this is a game with very simple, colourful visuals. Set on an isometric surface Sim Golf is all about ease of use and the fun factor when playing. Golfers are decidedly cartoonish and greens luminous. There is no change in the weather conditions and very little use of light and shadow so this is certainly not an impressive game visually. Sound is also very limited to the odd shout of four and thwack of club hitting ball. This is further compounded by an irritating in game soundtrack that will have you reaching for the off switch on your speakers. However, Sim Golf is a game you enjoy despite of this thanks to the fact Meier has designed a game with its tongue firmly in its cheek. Golfer's swear and curse around courses while looking ridiculously cheerful or tired to the point of collapse while commenting on how they have Scared the poor crocodiles. Everything about this game screams corn.
This game reminds me of the Animé style games of Japan in its quirkiness and constant shift in game play. Bored of course design? Play a round of golf. Bored of golf? Retreat to the club house and try and matchmake between single or even married golfers. The game really is that diverse. Those familiar with Meier's more serious efforts such as Civilization will be surprised and perhaps even disappointed by this games lack of depth. If you are used to micro management of budgets, staff wages and entry fees you will not find it here. This a game that lack depth but replaces it with flamboyant, fun game play. This is a game anyone can pick up and play with simple to use, entirely mouse driven controls and a graphic interface. With four levels of difficulty it has a covert difficulty that sneaks up on you as you coast along putting together courses on an easy level only to go bankrupt if you up the ante.
This is not the best golf simulator you will ever play, neither is it the best business management game you will ever play. It is however, the most FUN golf game you will ever play and the easiest business management game in terms of pick up and playability. You may not play if for hours but when you do play it, it will be fun while it lasts and is available for three quid on eBay. And it works on a minimal system and even perfectly well on Windows XP. Buy it now. Golf has never been so much fun.
Pentium III 500MHz or AMD Athlon
128Mb RAM recommended
16Mb DirectX 8 compatible video card
300Mb HDD space plus space for saved games
As you may have guessed Sim Golf is a game that entails building and maintaining your own golf course. The game provides four levels of difficulty from easy to impossible which keeps the game nice and challenging. There are three different modes of play to choose from including Sandbox mode, which enables you to build the ultimate golf course without worrying about making money. In this mode you start with unlimited funds and all the buildings and property locations available. This mode is useful for getting the hang of the game and familiarising yourself with the controls and options. The second mode of play is Championship Mode in which you can play a tournament on one of your created courses. While this mode is fun for a while it is quite simplistic and soon becomes boring. The bulk of the game is based around building and running a fun golf course whilst trying to maintain some sort of profit.
At the start of the game you are presented with a map of the world and your first dilemma is where to build your course. The game offers various locations around the world a few of which are open to you at the start of the game. The other locations can be purchased later in the game when you have accumulated enough money to be able to afford them. Once you have decided upon your location you are presented with a plot of land on which you have to craft your golf course. You start the game with a clubhouse and some additional buildings depending on the location you chose for your course. For example, in Florida you are given a Pro Shop but if you choose the Rocky Mountains you start with a free Hotel. Both of these buildings confer certain benefits upon your course and go some way to keeping your hapless patrons satisfied. The actual process of building your course is easy enough and follows along the same click and place interfaces of most Sim games. T here are various terrain features you can utilise to spice up your holes including sand traps, rocks, water and trees.
As soon as you open your first hole people start to spill onto your course and start playing. When they have finished playing a hole they will pay you a certain amount of money depending on how much they enjoyed playing it and their general happiness. With the revenue from your holes you can purchase other buildings which help to keep your customers happy such as hotels which prevent your visitors from becoming tired and snack bars to keep them from going hungry. As well as buildings you can also hire employees to help your golf club run smoothly. These come in four types, each of which is designed to cater for the different needs of your patrons. For example, you can hire a Soda dispenser to make sure that your customers do not get thirsty or a groundskeeper to ensure that the course is in good condition.
As you start to build more and more holes (up to a maximum of 18) you are given the opportunity of hosting tournaments which enables you to win money that you can use to further improve your course. Another feature of the game is the resident Golf Pro at your course. When you start the game you are given the default pro called Gary Golf who you can customise in your own image (if you are that way inclined). When you achieve certain milestones in the game (such as your course having 9+ holes) your are given the option to upgrade certain attributes of your pro to improve their golf playing ability. You can then use your pro to play in tournaments or you can save him/her for use in the Championship Mode. Your pro also helps out around the course hurrying people up and clearing out any weeds that they may encounter.
When you have raised enough money you can leave your first golf course behind and start afresh in one of the other locations. T he different locations provide different types of terrain and features such as the desert in Spain where you can purchase cactuses instead of trees.
When I first started playing this game I thought that I would get bored with it pretty quickly but as it turns out the game is quite addictive. The first night I played this game I found myself bleary eyed and still awake at three in the morning, trying to improve my course so that I could host a pro tournament. The only really annoying part is the constant stream of annoying noises that emanate from your patrons but this can be combated by turning the sound down and so is only a minor complaint. I would recommend this game to anyone who likes playing Sim games and it is not just limited to those who like golf. I don't actually play golf myself but found this game to be extremely enjoyable.
This game can be purchased from amazon.co.uk for £10.99 including P&P.
Operating System - Windows 95/98/2000/ME/XP
Processor - 300 MHz
Memory - 64 MB RAM
Hard Drive - 300 MB
CD-DVD Speed - 4 Speed
Graphics - 8 MB PCI/AGP
Input - Mouse/Keyboard