Tee Off

Next-generation golf?

Iron'ing

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Despite the games cute graphics, there's still plenty of options and modes for seasoned golfers to get stuck into. Five courses are available to play on, each one with a distinctive style of play. The fairly basic and flat Japanese course offers a gentle introduction to players, while the gusty islands that form the Scottish greens offer a real challenge to the more experienced player. The meat of the game for the solo player is the massive world tour against computer players around each of these courses, but the free play mode has additional tournament, match and stroke modes for added variety. A choice of player character is offered to you, each with their own strengths and weaknesses, with values for statistics like power, luck and spin to consider. Then there's a choice of which set of irons, woods and even which ball type your going to take with you out to the green, although I have to admit that this was getting a bit too involved for me, it does illustrate the depth of options that are available if your brave enough to dig that far. Once on the tee you'll find the game a real breeze to control. The analog stick aims the shot, the Y button will give you some nice camera angles to view and the A button will begin the swing. You can switch clubs using the D-pad and you've got the choice of making a more powerful normal short or a short range, but very accurate cautious shot. Spin can then be added to the shot using the analog stick while the swing is in progress. The easy interface and cute graphics actually disguise what's really a relatively complex simulation, with a large number of options available for each shot. The accuracy and power of the shot is judged using a traditional golf game 'swingometer', using the three-tap system that should be familiar to anyone who's played a golf game before. One tap to start the swing, another to set the power, and a final tap of the button at the bottom of the swingometer to make the shot. It's a good system, but here its made a little too easy by the slow speed of the dial, making miss-swings rare. A successful shot must take into consideration the distance, lie of the ball and the strength and direction of the wind, so its not critical that the emphasis isn't also on lightening fast reactions as well. While the game is visually great to look at, with the courses rendered cleanly and the players very pleasing to the eye, the landscapes are rather short on detail. There's none of the frills like spectators or grandstands that can be found in other golf titles, and while this doesn't detract from the gameplay at all, it does make the courses a little dull. The pre round course flyby is smooth very well put together however, and has to be the most useful flyby in any golf game I've played. A welcome addition to the all ready feature filled package is the slightly weird G-ball game. This variant completely replaces the grass and trees of a traditional golf course, and places the players in futuristic VR style floating arenas to play a ball through the hoop game that most closely resembles crochet. This plays and looks so radically different from the main game that its almost a complete title on it's own, and adds a level of variety and value not often found in golf or indeed any other sports based titles.

Conclusion

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What you have here is a highly entertaining golf game. A real rarety for those of use who aren't particularly into the sport itself. It's not hugely challenging to play in single player, but the multiplier games can be far tougher against anyone who's played the game for even a short time, and offers great fun for up to four players. The cute visuals might be a turn off for hard core golfers, but for the rest of us they simply add a bit of sparkle to an otherwise dull genre, and do a great job of enticing people who wouldn't normally play golf games to have a go. Add to that the wonderfully intuitive control system and a fine range of game modes and options and you've got an almost perfect golf package, and one of the best multi-player games available on the Dreamcast to date.

What The Scores Mean

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: Out Now

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