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…
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.
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
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.
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.