WHEN I first saw this program, I thought thank god for that, it's not another of those dreary Jack Nicklaus games. Then again, after Jack anything would be a relief. Harold Mickelthwaites Guide to Getting on the Green Before Twilight even begins to sound interesting.
When you actually get Greg Norman's Ultimate Golf (my doesn't that sound much more exciting) you even find the energy to take the disc out of the box. And speaking of the box, Gremlin has even pasted the words, Shark Attack on the side. For a minute I thought that this was another version of Jaws. Very confusing I must say.
Anyway, on with the game and the first problem, the copy protection. Identify the hole from those shown in the manual it says. Easy, except the pictures in the manual have been taken in black and white and the shades of green are indistinguishable. Whichever idiot at Gremlin thought this one up should be shot.
To the clubhouse then, and a decision to make over the number of partners. I could make a smutty remark here, but they'd only cut it out so I won't bother (Right on, Good Taste Dept).
One to four players, human or computer controlled. Before you progress further remember to switch the caddy function off. The caddy can take up to three minutes to pick a club that you'll be offered if you disable the feature anyway. And you don't get a caddy looking like Nick Faldo's anyway, so you're not missing anything.
Out to the first hole and the scenery undulates into the distance. This better than the flat plains of Leaderboard, but then the graphics are quite crude and look like they were developed with the PC and spectrum in mind.
You are automatically lined up to hit a hole, which is a shame if the hole is a dog leg with trees. Altering position involves going to a drop down menu and calling up a map display. That works, but is not how I'd like to alter my stance and position.
On the map screen you can also zoom into the course, though as it will do you no good whatsoever, you'd simply be experiencing another of Ultimate Golf's useless features.
So you whack the ball using power and hook/slice on a very Leaderboard style meter - which is why it is the feature of the game which works most satisfactorily - and the ball sails into the distance, not growing perceptible smaller until it vanishes.
If you hear a sound effect you can guess that it's in a bunker, hit a tree or in the water. If not you have no way of telling where the ball has gone until you get up there.
Wind is a feature to monitor constantly, but rather irritatingly the anemometer is on yet another screen, as is the type of lie the ball has. When approaching nasty looking holes (behind a tree and over water), the poor computer players don't half dither. I mean I am one of the worst golfers in the country, but at least I know where I'd like the ball to go.
Which reminds me, the score cards have the provision for solitary players to try and reduce their handicap. When the computer asked for my handicap I typed in "my arms".
Where was I? Oh yes, assuming you get to to the green, which is by no means certain given the vagaries of computer arbitration, and the dismal putting section comes up.
The green is virtually always flat, except for the one occasion when you need to sink a put to win. Then you find yourself on the side of a hill. The only thing you have to worry about is strength of a shot, and what the weather conditions are. Even so, it is possible to completely misjudge a shot because the computer is feeling mean.
When you give a three foot put 10 per cent power (a 55 feet putter x 10 per cent = 5.5 feet supposedly) don't be surprised when you don't even make contact with the ball. The putting is a total joke, and someone at Gremlin has completely screwed it up.
Before you know it, if you're playing with three computer players, you'll have finished a round and be ready for the 19th hole, only to find it's now 3 a.m.
Ultimate Golf isn't bad, but it has serious flaws and certainly isn't worth buying if you're going to play on your own. Get a few friends round though, get them sufficiently inebriated, and you'll find it a reasonable change from Leaderboard.
Oh, and Ed (whoever it is this week), if anyone writes in to explain shark attack please send them a copy of the Beano from me.