Chew on this, Tiger.
The game of kings and gentlemen has always seemed a mite exclusive. Maybe it's the gala country clubs with rolling green vistas and a guard at the gate telling you that you have not yet "arrived." Or maybe golf courses need some real dancing gophers and more wedgies than wedges to help lighten things up.
Ah, if only life were so grand. If only you had your own golf paradise in which to create the course of your dreams. If only Sid Meier made a game that let you do just that...
Hey! Guess what?
Before hopping into a review of the solid Sid Meier's SimGolf, I should mention that there's another game made by the same company called - get this - SimGolf. Yep, GR even reviewed it a few years ago. But aside from the name, the two games are very different.
Sid Meier's SimGolf lays down a little story to get the ball rolling. Your rich Uncle Harry has died and has left you a vast fortune. Of course, there's always a legal stipulation to keep you from your hard-earned inheritance, but instead of the customary "spend a night in a haunted house," you must use said cash to build a golf resort empire. Harry sure was a wacky uncle.
Your plight to fulfill Harry's dying dreams begins with purchasing property from one of four initial locales, which are randomly selected from a pool of sixteen. Four different climate conditions are represented with different graphical themes: parklands, links, desert, and tropical. There are other nuances to help differentiate the areas, like calling the snack bar the "pub" when you are on the European links.
The gameplay works just like any other sim-style game. You must expand your business as quickly and efficiently as possible. After you are tired of building and sustaining, you can shoulder your clubs and actually play a few rounds on your own course. Not bad.
The primary focus of your golf resort is hole design. You choose the distance, you fill in the traps, change the grass and vary the level of difficulty. 18 holes later, and you might just have a championship golf course on your hands. The SimGolf Association (SGA) regularly checks out your course and rates its competency in terms of challenge, imagination, and fun. If all your holes meet the SGA's requirements, then you've built a championship course.
Of course, a golf course is more than just green grass and holes. You'll need lodging, pro shops and snack bars to reach your goal. These buildings and more can be placed strategically throughout the fairways to best meet the needs of your customers. After all, a happy customer will keep shelling out the dough and inviting his friends to play.
For example, a golf cart garage can be built to speed up the play times of all your golfers. Real estate can be sold on your property to pull in some extra coin and possibly a satirical celebrity resident like Bubba Klinton or Shaquie McNeal. You can even hire a full staff of employees. From greeters to keep the players' spirits high to a landscaping crew to keep the weeds away, you'll need to take care of it all. Even little details like the types of trees and flowers can be adjusted.
All of this is handled by a smooth design interface that delivers point and click ease (it also looks a helluva lot like the one from The Sims). Data analysis and charts can be pulled up in just a few strokes, and there are hotkeys set for those who want to get things done even quicker.
While there are no direct level objectives, there are side goals to complete along the way. If you meet certain criteria, you are awarded with a trophy. Tthe growth and maintenance of your golf resort is the ultimate goal and like other sim games, success really depends on how much you put into it.
The sandbox mode has all 16 locales open and eliminates the money barrier, allowing you to build without any financing woes. It's a good chance to flex your creative muscle and see what works in course design.
When you get tired of building your 18 holes, you can break out the clubs and break up the occasionally monotonous flow of the game by actually playing your course. You don't have to worry about choosing the right club or how your left foot is placed. Simply select from a handful of different drives and take aim.
Your golfing counterpart begins as Gary Golfer. He's completely customizable, from his facial image down to the different comments he'll make on the course. I gave my golfer a potty mouth and a monkey's face in honor of the GR staff. Hehe.
To start with, Gary is given a limited amount of points to spread around different skills. Different facets like 'Power Hitting', 'Recovery' and 'Luck' can be tweaked. During the course of the game, you can earn more stats. If you truly flub a shot, you can actually lose some of those stats as well. It's a nice addition to a building sim and adds life to the game.
The graphics are a throwback to classic sim games. The top-down cameras and seemingly bitmapped display will remind you of some of Sid Meier's old games and it's a long drive away from realism or cutting edge. Nonetheless, the graphics fit the game to a tee.
While I do enjoy the overall simplicity of Sid Meier's SimGolf, I wish the participatory end could have been more fully fleshed out. Perhaps instead of just watching time creep by from on high, your player could interact with the other golfers, work on some PR, and find out for himself what the other golfers think of the course. It's one thing to click on a NPC for information. It's a whole new feeling to go up and ask that golfer yourself.
There's an option to build a driving range and putting green on your course. Why not be able to play those as well?
My biggest gripe, though, is that Sid Meier's SimGolf really needs one more level of zoom. The vantagepoint is still stratospheric, so the golfers are tiny. Though that's the de rigeur perspective for most sim games, it takes away from when you are actually playing the back nine as your own golfer. You'll wish for a view closer to the turf.
Sid Meier's SimGolf is a fun, inviting sim game that manages to do away with the hob-snobbery that usually surrounds golf. It's cleverly designed and is a good choice for strategic simulation fans.