Version tested: Retro
If you've ever wondered what golf games were like in days when your dad had hair (and, quite possibly, a semi-decent taste in music), then Leaderboard represents the pivotal moment where someone came up with a set of play mechanics so good that they've barely changed since.
That 'someone' just so happened to be Bruce Carver, flush from the massive commercial success of the two Beach Head titles and Raid Over Moscow. But although Leaderboard was also a massive hit, and universally acclaimed, the big difference here is that this 1986 effort has stood the test of time remarkably.
Ok, so the way each scene draws before your very eyes is likely to elicit a giggle in these days of photo realism, but in terms of the classic two-tap power bar control system and gameplay fundamentals, Leaderboard had it all sussed out on its very first appearance.
The key to the game's enduring appeal was its fluid accessibility. Perhaps inspired by Epyx's approach to simulating numerous sports with simpl, timing-based control systems, Leaderboard did just that, requiring players to choose a club, set the direction of the shot, tap the button once to set the power bar on its way, and again to confirm. Dally too long and the power was quickly snuffed out. Sound familiar? It all started here.
Higher difficulty levels added the need to judge 'snap' (hook or slice, in other words), and do battle with wind conditions, so there was even a little added depth for the really determined players.
The main omission from the original Leaderboard was the golfing staples like sand traps, and the impression of gradient wasn't exactly conveyed here either - but that's what sequels are for, and my god did Access do a few of those? Eventually, the series gained some branding and morphed into the Link series and was a staple of the simulation scene until relatively recently.
So, that's Leaderboard, then. An innovative masterpiece that C64 fans can look back on with some pride.
7 / 10