Friday, July 29, 2005

Golf? Preview

Golf? PC, developed by Detective Brand and published by Chronic Logic.
The Good: Creative setting, good physics
The Not So Good: Barebones sound, horrid menus

One may wonder what robots do in their spare time. Most people would say, “Robots are machines, thus they do not have social lives.” These people are idiots. Finally, someone has addressed the vacant niche of robot weekend sports with Golf?, which simulates golf being played by robots.

The graphics in Golf? are very original. The courses are shades of gray and black, with bright orange and red trees, and white vertex caddies and carts. Your caddy is a former president who drinks and doesn’t really give any advice on shots. Your golfer is a robot with three selectable heads: a revolver, a teapot, or a chracter from Street Fighter. The course layouts themselves are a slightly over-the-top rendition of real golf holes, complete with rough, traps, foliage, and elevation changes. Most of the obstacles are very large hunks of metal. The beta demo includes 9 holes, each of which is distinctive. I have to also mention that the menus are very poor and confusing, just straight-up text that could have been written in Turbo Pascal. The sound, also, is too basic: there are four total sounds in the game (club impact, ground impact, in the hole, in a tree). No ambient sounds and no crowds, although crowds would not really go with the theme of the game.

Golf? supports both single player (against par) and multiplayer over LAN or a known IP; there is no Gamespy-like matchmaking service. Golf? features real time gameplay, so instead of magically appearing at your next ball location, you must travel there. The game provides golf carts, which have simple controls, along with “rocket sauce” to provide extreme acceleration. Some holes even have ramps so you can show your cart flying and flipping skills. The game employs mouse swing, where you move the mouse just like you’d swing a club. This type of mechanism is also used in the PC version (there are others?) of the Evil Empire’s Game. And the swing procedure is very well done, and the same as Tiger Woods’s minus the special shots (flop, pitch). However, only horizontal swinging is currently available, and I tend to run into my keyboard when trying to swing; hopefully vertical swinging will be implemented in the future.

Golf? is an entertaining little game that’s really designed for people on a LAN. Since you don’t have to wait for your turn, you can distract the other golfers by driving in front of them, just like in real life! There are some features I’d like to see in the full version, such as more courses, better sounds, Internet matchmaking, and vertical mouse swing. We’ll keep an eye on this as the official release approaches.