Golf games have been somewhat more available on the whole for the Amiga than the ST, especially with the recent release of PGA Tour Golf. This was a fine game but the conversion suffered because no changes were made to the 16-colour lo-res EGA graphics. The 32-colour med-res graphics of Microprose little clubwarmer certainly show up Electronic Arts' poorly presented, but highly playable game.
Suitable for the basic A500 machine, Microprose Golf offers, after loading, a menu of options that can be selected before you dive in the serious business of competition play. Options for past play include loading a previously saved round or a replay of that hole in one of the ninth.
There is also a demo of the play which is handy for beginners because it screens, in one broad sweep, the majority of the available features. You can also view your player's statistics (see later). However, for most beginners you will be well advised to play the driving range and the putting practice area.
Both of these areas have been well designed. The driving range offers alternate strips of fairway and trees - daring you to hit your shot 'straight down the middle', as one crooner described it. In addition to the directional guidance you are offered help with distance as the major distance landmarks are scribed onto the fairway (100, 200, etc).
The putting practice area is just as good. The view for he shot can be changed, the speed of the green can be altered and a grid system can be overlaid to help you observe precisely how the ball is moving after your shot.
After your practice sessions have been completed you can select one of many different types of competition. Microprose should be congratulated for the wide choice (a pat on the back is in the post, Paul - Sarcasm Ed).
Medal is a competition for points using a score card. Points are awarded for each hole - the lowest score wins. Skins is a competition for money. An amount of money is allocated to each hole before the round is played and the player who completed the hole with the least number of strokes wins the cash. If there is a draw then the cash is carried on to the next hole, and then the next until the total amount is won. Head To Head is you against the computer, playing for points. Tournament allows you to play with up to four human players for points. In Singles you play for the number of holes won overall. Bestball 3 and Bestball 4 is a competition for points. However, here the match is you or you and a friend against two opponents with one ball each.
Threesome and Foursame is (deep breath) either two players against yourself or two against two with either two balls for two teams each taking alternate shots or two balls each with the best score on each team counting for the final card. Finally Threeball and Fourball is a competition of three or four individual sides who play for points. In just about all of the above, you can toggle whether a computer or a human player takes part.
Once you have selected the competition you must allocate the skill level. Novice players get things easy while a player with a handicap must suffer all of the vagaries of play (wind speed and varying direction).
It is nice to see a proper handicap system in a golf game. It means that you will be "given" a number of shots that will be subtracted from your final score. The better you do, the lower your handicap becomes. Your player statistics can, therefore, be saved to a separate data disk.
It is pleasing to watch how your player improves - or otherwise - over time and competition. A close eye can be kept on your player's statistics from the main menu View Stats option. Here you can see your player's performance via a large bar graph pls statistics such as average score, average putts holed, number of birdies scored and so on.
There is a wide selection of courses to choose from. Deep breath, Bally-brook, Farthing Valley, St Augustine, Fairdale Park, Fenham Valley, Buckland Heath and Mountsummer Point.
There is a welcome wide selection of variables that you can change before the shot is made, such as varying the foot positions, the height of the tee and the club selection. Other variables include a wide variety of camera viewpoints and an instant replay.
Playing a fairway shot has been well implemented. The game penalises you for a strong shot. Therefore, it is more difficult to hit a straight shot the harder you hit. Basically, you click to initiate the shot, click again to stop the "strength" meter, then click again to try to land in the "straight" zone (which will shrink the harder the shot). Failure to find the "straight" zone will mean a hooker or sliced shot.
For putting, just click to initiate the putt, wait to increase the shot's power and click again to stop the strength meter. This section of the game is a little unusual from others in that the distance you can hit is not explicitly displayed onscreen.
On the fairway you have to quite to the club selection screen and gauge from that how far you go around the strength meter. It might sound strange but this is the nearest simulation to asking your caddy to give you details of the hole.
Putting is even more bizarre - across the bottom of the screen is a thermometer gauge. The line which bisects it is the ideal strength for a straight flat putt into the hole from wherever you are. It is up to you to work out whether you need less for a downhill putt or more for an uphill putt. The static screen graphics make the most of the 32 colours, and as the camera tracks the ball, the smooth way in which the course rotates is reminiscent of the Konami Golfing Greats coin-op, which included more custom chips than you could shake a salt sachet at.
Microprose Golf has many advantages. One excellent feature is the design of the topgraphy which is nicely contoured and contains all of the essential obstructions including water, sand and trees. Even better, this allows the ball to react to the contours. For example, the ball can "kick", if it finds the right spot on the fairway, Other nice features are the ability to change the distance measurements from metres to yards and the colour of the player's jersey.
There are niggles, though. You do not see tournament computer player updates, such as in PGA Tour Golf, which has a commentator updating the play. You always have to exit to the scoreboard to find out where you are relative to the competition.
There are many excellent features to Microprose Golf which has, on the whole, been expertly designed. Possibly the best golf game you'll find on the Amiga, it is definitely the best looking and my personal preference is for this against PGA.