Sensible Golf logo

Reviewed by Andy Maddock

After the success of Sensible World of Soccer, Sensible Software return with their final adios to the Amiga market with another high profile release that's been jockeying between finished and almost finished for the last six months. Finally, it has landed.

I'm not so sure that golf games are in need of an introduction. Golf is basically golf - clubs, balls, tees and greens; nothing special or original, just golf. A sport where aged businessmen do 'business' during office hours - claiming they're really stuck in traffic.

Sensible Golf uses the infamous Sensible Software trademark once again - the character sprites. They are the same ones used in Sensible Soccer and Cannon Fodder - nice and small but incredibly effective.

After being released as a coverdisk demo on many magazines, Sensible Software were simply unhappy with the result. It didn't play as polished as it looked so they were going to tweak and twiddle with the gameplay. That was the last I heard - until now.

My first impressions were very good as the graphics looks very much like those in Sensible Soccer - only without shorts. There is an option included to configure your character to look like yourself or your colleagues - the colour of hair, skin, trousers and shirt can all be altered to create your own golfing superstar. You can then make your way to the options screen to fine tune the in-game entertainment - especially the background ambience (bird tweets, to us common folk).

During a season of tournaments, 72 other computer competitors will join you on the leaderboard - all trying to win the huge cash bonus you receive at the end. You can play matchplay, strokeplay or skins. Skins is the firm favourite in the office because you can play for oodles and oodles of cash. The richest after the last hole, wins! It's as simple as that.


A fantastic little arcade game with many months of entertainment

If you play in a season, you get to take part in all the major competitions against the best players from around the world. You will travel everywhere with your clubs, trying to top the leaderboard with your expert golfing prowess.

The idea is to win championships, therefore receiving cash. You will then be entered on the prize money leaderboard where all the greatest players happily take residence. The ultimate goal is to sit at the top of this leaderboard after playing in many grueling tournaments ans seasons. As soon as you begin to play, you will find Sensible Golf very frustrating. When you set your club for the yardage to the pin, the ball will never reach the distance.

At first I thought it may have been because I was in the rough. But no, even if I was on the fairway, well clear of any hazard, it still wouldn't go as far as it boasted - it always seemed to fall four or five feet short of the pin. This is very annoying as your shots will not be as accurate as the meter shows.

The actual hole layouts are very badly designed. When you hope to drive it down the fairway, you don't expect a huge stream or bunker slap bang in the middle. Due to this, you either have to smash it up field and hope it will clear everything, which is very unlikely, or change your driver for an iron so it drops before the hazard, which is extremely tough to judge.

Whichever method you plump for, you always end up in a bunker or water hazard. As it stands, there seem to be too many obstacles that interfere with the actual playing area. It is possible to weave around them, but each shot adds to your overall total, which will certainly not win you championships.


Teeing off

To take a shot, you must first look at a small map which you bring up in the top corner. Here, you can see all the various obstacles as well as the pin and green. Once you have set your direction, you get a zoomed-in view of your golfer which is about the same distance away as Cannon Fodder and Sesible Soccer - with regard to graphics. You can then fine-tune your direction a little and get ready to tee off.

Three presses are involved in the actual taking of a shot. The first starts the power-bar, the second selects the power, and as the gauge comes down you have to press it to stop it in the red bit. The red indicates a straight shot, and the yellow either side represents hook and slice. Hopefully, you will now have cleared it down the fairway, and it's time to do it all again!

Final word

Other than these gripes mentioned before, which aren't anything particularly major you just need some practice to enable you to become more familiar with the controls.

It is actually very easy to master and hopefully, with some practice, you should be going for the championships. There is an option to practice any hole from any course, so it is easy to brush up on your golfing skills before heading for the big cas prize. The game itself is quite large - with 25 different courses. Each one isn't amazingly different form the other, but the weather, trees and backgrounds tend to vary a little.

As it stands, it's certainly a fantastic little arcade game with many months of entertainment. If you can manage to stay calm during the frustrating parts you'll find it very enjoyable - especially with four players.



Sensible Golf logo

This is the bit where we talk about plus-fours and V-necked jumpers. And checked trousers. Steve Bradley gets all Sensible about golf...

Ssensible Software are renowned for producing games with the odd 'quirk' and this one has more than its fair share. Here are just a few of them. This won't taking long.

One particular hole, a par four on an island surrounded by water, can be reached in one stroke. If you don't quite reach the island and land in the drink, then naturally you're returned to just in front of the tee. If, however, you whack the blighter with a large wood and it rolls over the back of the green into the water (which it nearly always does), despite losing a shot, you still get to chip for a birdie.

On occasions, when you're quite clearly on the green, the little caddie in the computer only lets you have a pitching wedge. Other times, you can be resting by a tree (the ball can be resting, that is) yards off the green and is automatically gives you a putter.

The collision detection with trees is very odd. A ball rolls seemingly harmlessly under the branches of a shady tree, when lo, it comes to a halt at the sight of the first branch. And at times, when you've short out of bounds, you think you're blasting away from the trees, only you still end up whacking branches and getting called "Out of bounds" by some chap with an American accent. Annoying.

And on some holes, the computer players are virtually guaranteed to keep whacking the ball in an attempt to get over trees to the green or a choice part of the fairway, but will go out of bounds loads of times until they make that perfect shot.

The holes themselves. Some of them have more sand than fairway, others are ridiculously wet, littered with ponds. And you can hit the ball from in the water. Yes, sometimes it splashes near the bank, no water hazard is called and you get to thwack through the pond - making, admittedly, a tremendous, splashing noise in the process.

And the little man actually got stuck in a tree once.

Phew! Now this might seem like Attack of the Monster Quirks from Hell, but before we go further. I have to hold my hand in the air and say: "I like Sensible Golf". It's a golf game quite unlike any other, and one which could have floundered badly.

Because it's Sensible, you expect a tiny little man and a few quirks. And that's just what you get.

Captain Quirk
An overhead arcade-style game might seem to be a quite unsuitable approach for a sport that was once described by Oscar Wilde as "a good walk ruined". Yet this holds together remarkably well, despite the above 'quirks'.

Hopefully you player our near, five-hole Bath Waters demo last month and you've got a reasonable idea of how the shebang works. For sinners who missed the sermon, it reads thus. You are a little man. A man who can choose the colour of his skin, hair trousers and jersey. You have thirteen golf clubs and 25 courses to walk, each course being made up of 72 different holes, and the whole assortment is scattered liberally throughout with changes in graphical style for good measure.

The game itself? Well, it's far removed from PGA European Tour. There's no wind to worry about, just the problem of hitting the ball straight and true and to the pin.

It works like most other golf games - three button-clicks on a semi-circular bar with swing and hook - but here, if you want to gain the maximum yardage that can be squeezed out of the club you're using, you have to click the button at the very end of the bar, which basically means you're often better 'going down' a club and giving yourself more leeway on the strike.

Sensible Golf is blessed with options; tournaments galore, multi-player, four difficulty levels for computer opponents, that type of thing. Good. We like this. But it's more a multi-player game than PGA, mainly because of the speedy pace at which it runs. You can rattle through eighteen holes with four human players in an hour and some.

Another reason for preferring to play with flesh-and-blood opponents is the blinding accuracy of the computer players, particularly on their second and third shots. It knocks the old confidence when they're banging the ball straight in to the hole from 140 yards.

Course it is
A factor in your favour is that the play is pleasantly intuitive. You can crack a six iron 150 yards and it will occasionally sink, but it mostly don't. It certainly doesn't pay to be brave, though. Attempting to sneak over that last bunker, or the final pond by the green often ends in disaster because the club yardage includes bounce and roll.

And putting can be a lottery. The greens are littered with directional arrows but the accuracy required when judging the shot and pinpointing the pace ruffles your feathers at times. A little more detail would be appreciated.

Don't expect realism from Sensible Golf - it's arcade fare, pure and simple, which is what makes it refreshingly different from the rest of the PGA wannabes. PGA Tour is the benchmark and Sensible sensibly decided to go for a whole new ball game which, despite its 'quirks' is rather fun.

Sure, it rather pales when compared with their other games; it hasn't nearly the longevity of stalwarts like Cannon Fodder and Sensible Soccer, but it ain't as bad as some feared it would turn out. It's enormously pretty and even has the odd humorous touch - a sarcastic round of applause as you hack and miss.

No doubt the Sensible name will ensure Golf's success and thankfully they haven't rushed it out - it was originally penciled for release last Christmas. It still isn't even nearly perfect, but I forgive its eccentricities because I thoroughly enjoy playing it. And that's what counts, right?


THESE HOLES, THEY ARE DAFT

Sensible Golf
Hmmn. This par four is best overhit because if you go in the drink over the back, you still get to chip for a birdie.

Sensible Golf
Hrrummph. Stupid, eh? Where could they get all that sand from? And who put that pond there? Own up.

Sensible Golf
Daft fairway behind the tee scenario, here. Behind the tee. How bad do you think we are at this game?



Knapp daneben ist auch vorbei

Sensible Golf logo

Die Softwareschmiede um Jon Hare ist ja bekannt für ihre winzigen Wuselmännchen und will es offenbar auch bleiben: Zurück aus Feindesland und Fußballstadion, machen sie nun 25 Golfplätze unsicher.

Die sportive Freizeitgestaltung des "Kanonenfutters" findet auf 18-Loch-Kursen statt, deren optische Tristesse nur selten von witzigen Details durchbrochen wird. In Sachen Abwechslungsreichtum hat sich Sensible Software also schon mal nicht mit Ruhm bekleckert, und auch die spärlichen Animationen sind sozusagen unter aller Kanone.

Menümusik, Sound-FX und die kurzen Kommentare klingen zwar ganz nett, doch in puncto Gameplay wären die kleinen Kerlchen dann wieder besser bei ihren Knarren geblieben.

Zunächst einmal gibt es hier nichts, was es nicht anderswo im Gigi-Golf auch gibt: Von hölzernen Treibern über diverse Eisen bis hin zum Putter gebietet de Spieler über insgesamt 14 Schläger, deren Stick-Handling von einer Anzeige in der linken unteren Ecke des Screens erleichtert wird.

Dort findet man nämlich nicht nur eine Grafik zur Bodenbeschaffenheit, sondern auch die Entfernung zur Fahne und den vom Compi empfohlenen Knüppel samt seiner maximalen Reichweite. Kann man alles so lassen, bloß das Fadenkreuz platziert man besser eigenhändig, da der Rechner dabei nicht berücksichtigt, daß auf dem direkten Weg zum Ziel in der Regeln Bäume, Sandbunker und Teiche liegen, die der Golfer tunlichst meiden sollte. Als unentbehrliche Zielhilfe erweist sich hier die einblendbare Gesamtansicht des Loches.

Sind dann Schläger und Richtung gewählt, werden durch Druck auf den Feuerknopf noch Schlagstärke und Genauigkeit bzw. Effet bestimmt, wozu es jedoch einer gewissen Übung und einer Portion Reaktionsvermögen bedarf - anfangs wird wohl kaum jemand die auf einem Dreiviertelkreis hin- und her flitzende Markierung an den richtigen Stellen anhalten können.

Zum der Toleranzbereich bei schwierigen Schlägen zunehmend kleiner wird. Ist schließlich das Grün um die Fahne erreicht, geht es in einer vergrößerten Ansicht ans Putten, wobei kleine Pfeile die Bodenunebenheiten anzeigen.

So durchwachsen die Steuerung auch sein mag, an Optionen herrscht zumindest kein Mangel. Da dürfen neben verschiedenen Vier-Spieler-Runden satte 72 (!) Hobby-Faldos bei Turnieren gegeneinander antreten oder im Saiso-Modus um Preisgelder kämpfen.

Dabei kann auf Wunsch der rechnergesteuerten Konkurrenz über die Schultern geschaut werden, was meist lehrreich ist - bisweilen agieren die digitalen Sportsmänner allerdings auch ziemlich dämlich.

Und da sich gerade die Massenwettbewerbe ganz schön hinziehen können, wurde auch an das Abspeichern von Spielständen gedacht.

Unter dem Strich bleiben dennoch ein paar Handicaps zuviel, denn irgendwie wird man den Endruck nicht los, hier vor einem eher lustlos konzipierten Spiel für das NES zu sitzen. Für den Amiga ist Sensible Golf jedenfalls so wichtig wie ein elektrischer Waschlappen für die Körperhygiene. (st)



Sensible Golf logo

So farewell then Sensible Software. You were kids, who became rich, at your expense. But at least you had fun.

It'swith a heavy heart and real sense of sorrow that we present to you now the last ever Amiga game Sensible intend to release. Part of this sadness has to do with the fact that over the years, they've come up with many of the best games on the Amiga, and one or two of the best games of all time, but now all that's at an end.

But most of the sorrow is to do with the fact that even though Sensible Golf is Sensible's final Amiga blow-out farewell tour game, it has none of the flair, fun, imagination or even competence of any of the other Sensible games. It smacks of compromise and cashing-in which, from a company most famous for the number of sports they own, is a little bit sickening.

We've been charting the chequered history of Sensible Golf for ages now, through our Diary of a Game, and way back when we started, it was clear that the idea was to take the Cannon Fodder game engine, bolt on a golf control system and get it in the shops for Christmas. Needless to say, that never happened.

In fact, round around Christmas, they chucked out most of what they'd already done and started again. And it's this version of Sensi Golf that they've got to show for five months of frenzied work. Much of what was good in the '94 version has gone, many proposed features have been dropped and compromises seem to have been made in every part of the game. But hey, it's finally out.


Final Amiga blow-out farewell

This isn't a golf sim, it's more a sort of golf sim, it's more a sort of golf game. It's challenging and tricky in parts, but the game's main purpose is to make playing the game fun and, if you get a few friends together, it sort of works. Sort of.

There are 72 holes in the game and 25 courses. No anyone who knows even the smallest amount about golf knows that there're 18 holes on each course, and 25 times 18 equals... (tap, tap, tap, tappetty, tap) 450 holes. This glaring discrepancy is explained by each course being made up of a selection of the holes, which gives you some degree of variety while at the same time giving Sensi more time on the real fairway when they should have been at work designing extra holes.

And when you look at the 72 holes, you'll see that around half of them are just subtle reworkings of the other half, so instead of the apparent 450 vastly different holes in the game, you've actually only got around 40. Hmm.


Subtle reworkings of the other half

THWACK
Golf games, like point-and-click adventures, have fairly standard interfaces, and Sensi Golf goes for the one where you press fire once to start the swing, a second time to stop the power bar going up and a third time on the way down to make it go-straight or curve in either direction.

It's a good method and tests both your reactions and planning abilities, as if you really want to try a curve ball (or whatever the non-baseball term is) (Hook or slice, depending on direction. - Ed) you've got to get it spot-on. Still, PGA Golf and Nick Faldo's Golf have many more refinements than thhis, adding to the feed of the game and giving you more scope to experiment with stance, cope with blustery wind conditions, and all that malarkey.

Right, so you've hit the ball, perfectly and it's sailed down the middle of the fairway - cracking shot, mate. With your next shot, you repeat the process (unless of course, you're right up against some trees that block your shot and can't quite chip the ball over but at the same time find it terribly hard to knock it away from the trees because the screen won't scroll away from the hole and show you where you should hit it) and eventually get on the green after a couple more. Well, excitement-junkies, then it's time to break out - THE PUTTER.

This is always the hardest part of any golf game (in real life too) and because Sensi Golf's viewed from above instead of the usual ground-level perspective, it's got the problem of showing the green's contours. It copes with this with little arrows pointing all over the place to show which bits slope in which direction, and it's here that Sensi Golf hits more problems.


Angry, biting and dead-arm inducing

Are greens normally this hilly? I think not. Maybe, just maybe, they've been designed like this to make the game artificially hard, as getting the ball on the green rarely takes more than a few shots, and without a fiddly, ultra-precise putting section, every hole could be completed two under par.

A bit of practice helps, but there's still an annoying randomness to putting that can easily turn an Eagle into a position-losing Double Bogey. Which is rarely a Good Thing.

DECISIONS
After messing around with a few holes, trying to get to grips with the putting and generally exploring most of the game (in total, around an hour), you'll eventually come to the game's saving grace - the multi-player mode. Everyone likes multi-player games, and with up to four players at once, this is great. Fun, that is. You can play in a proper match, or you can set-up a matchplay thing or you can go for the angry, biting and dead-arm inducing Skins game. This involves lots of fake money but can cause some real emotional flare-ups.

Thanks to the classy presentation, all these options are easy to find and execute, and miraculously, you can always Escape back to the menu screen from anywhere in the gam. In fact, it's quite remarkable how much you forgive Sensi Golf just because it's got a few bouncing letters and cute intro screens, so maybe there's something to be said for superficially after all.

When you sit down and look at what you've actually got. It's just a simplistic hit-and-hope golf game, but with all the options, the proper season with save facility, the practice bits and the multi-player mode, the end result is definitely something above average, just. But the single player pales rapidly, and without wind and stance to take into account, it lacks any real skill. Which leaves the multi-player tournaments as the only challenge left.

There's definitely a lot of golf missing from Sensible Golf. Whether it went on the second version or when Sensible decided to leave the Amiga I don't know, but it's hard to put your heart into playing a game when the authors so obviously haven't put theirs into programming it.


THAT'S THE WAY TO DO IT

You'll definitely need to figure out how the power meter works, and so we thought it would be a nice thing to do to show you. 'Cos we're nice like that.

Sensible Golf
On the way out, press fire when you have enough power.

Sensible Golf
On the way back, press fire to decide your aim.

TERMINOLOGY

A fascinating look at why golfers and the like insist of using cliquey words to describe their chequered-panted antics.

ALBATROSS - The beginning of a very dodgy association with bird names. A majestic swooping bird with long wings, somehow means you finished the hole in three shots less than the standard.

EAGLE - Odd this. A noble, powerful bird, that could easily have any Albatross in a straight fight, but in golf terms isn't as good. They're mad these golfers.

BIRDIE - In a desperate attempt to keep with the bird theme, early golfers showed a distinct lack of ornithological knowledge and so just said 'Birdie' instead. It stuck, and means you got the ball down the hole with one shot spare.

BOGEY - I could make an obvious joke here, but I won't. This means you went over by one shot. Boo.

DOUBLE BOGEY - A particular sticky by-product from your nose or two shots more than it should have takn you - the choice is yours. (See the joke was much better when I saved it up) (Gnngh. Ed)

FORE - Not only do they have troble thinking of bird names, they also can't spell. And why they can't just shout 'BALL' or 'HEADS', is beyond me.

GREEN - The last time I looked, most of a golf course was one shade of green or the other. But only one small part of the course it actually called The Green. Why? Who knows?

TREE - (I think that's enough golfing terms, thank you - Ed)



Sensible Golf logo

Price: £29.99 Publisher: vIRGIN 0181 960 2255

Sensible have been on par with football and war games in the past, but will this swing at the golfing genre give them a slice of the action or will it be banned from the club?

Sensible have re-invented golf. Not as a pretend version of the real thing, with increasing reality provided by 3D graphics, helicopter flights over the hole *yeah, my mum hires one every Sunday for a quick round of the local golf club. Though the neighbours have been complaining about the noise recently) and advice from digitised pros with tinny voices. They've re-invented it as, shock, horror... a computer game. The sprites are odd looking and totally out of proportion, the fairways are, quite frankly, ridiculous and it's joystick controlled.

But the good news is that it all holds together, Sensi Golf is a very playable and enjoyable game with Canon Fodder-like characters, an ultra simple control mechanism, 13 clubs and a little map reached by clicking the joystick, pressing the fire button and swearing a lot.

This map appears in the upper right corner of the screen and can be reached theoretically, at any point on the fairway. Needless to say when you get to the green the map is no longer available.

The reason for my reference to swearing is that the map is sometimes a bit reluctant to appear. This has probably more to do with the joystick and joypad I was using, both of which were well worn, than the game, but this does illustrate the its unconventional reliance on joystick only.

Turbo on autofire modes will need to be switched off too, they make it unplayable. However, if you have a friend who's new to the idea you can seriously damage their game by subliminally sabotaging the joystick's auto fire button every time you hand it over.

Seventy two
And you can hand over that joystick up to 72 times if you like. That's right, 72 human players can play Sensible Golf. In groups of four they can all go out and play as part of a season or tournament and golf for days, weeks, months even. By saving all the player stats and results this could technically go on for ever. If you have that many friends.

For variety's sake you can also change the hair colour, skin tone, trousers and shirt colour of each character but, lo and behold, feminists get ot your cardboard placards, there are no wimmin. This is blatantly sexist and as far as I'm concerned a bit of a humour over sight for Sensi too.

Imagine the chuckles that could be raised by cross-dressing golf characters in woman's clothes, and the option would have pleased the Scots too with an option to kilt up with a tartan skirt.

Got the power
Where would a golf game be without some method of hitting the ball? Stupid question. Sensi have opted for a speedometer-style round dial to control a shot. Compared to the smooth and fairly precise gauging on the power bars and dials of more conventional golf games this is a bit too cartoonish, but it does fit the game's Cannon Fodder-like graphic style perfectly.

Taking a shot with a particular club is affected by the type of terrain you are shooting from. If it's on the fairway the shot area at the bottom of the power dial (red gives you a safe shot, yellow will give you some curve or slicing on the ball) is fairly wide, if you are shooting from rough, semi-rough or a bunker this 'safe' zone is invaded with black on each side. If you press the fire button in the black area you will simply clip the ball and drop a shot.

The club you use also affects this. If you try, for instance, to use a three iron in the rough these black areas are massive and the chances of you hitting a direct, decent shot are very, very slim. If you use a pitching wedge the black zones are very small and your chances are increased.

Because of the way the various courses are set up, some of which have massive bunkers or water traps, and the vagueness of the power dial, choosing the right lcub for the job in hand is essential.

When you start a new hole the default setting has your player aiming directly at it, but this is very rarely the best way to shoot. The first thing to do is call up the map (swearing) and plan a route. Ou can choose to be adventurous, relying on lightning fast fire button reactions and power dial judgement and the biggest club available or opt to be safe and conservative using the maximum distance for each club as a guide to where your ball will land.

Tournament
In the end though it's all about getting there under par against your opponents. There are four levels of computer opponent: easy, medium, hard and wicked. Easy players are strictly amateurs, missing obvious shots. Wicked players rarely miss a turn. But the best part of Sensi Golf has to be playing with some friends. You can play a round with up to four people, a combination of humans or computer playrs, using strokeplay, matchplay and betting on skins.

You can all enter a season's worth of play or a tournament against the remaining amount of human or computer players (there is a maximum of 72, and you can have any combination of humans and computers) and receive seeding updates after each round.

It's such a simple game, but at the same time so all encompassing. Purists will probably disregard is as being too unrealistic but Sensible Golf is great fun to play.

The graphics may be more arcade like by comparison to PGA and some of the holes are pretty screwy, but with 25 courses to choose from, ultra-simple joystick operated control and the unprecedented tournament mode it's a star.

There are some problems though. Allied to the lack of proper calibration I mentioned earlier, the power dial is a bit too slow responding to fire button pressure. This makes accurately gauging a shot difficult. Also, the tree obstacles that are liberally dotted around most courses are blasted awkward to avoid.

If you land in a clump of trees there is often no clear indication of the best route out. Trial and error often leads to several wasted shots before you escape the clutches of the dreaded shrubbery.

The sound effects and music are up to Sensi's usual standard though, the verbal exclamations and the text that pop up regularly are fun, but can be annoying sometimes. They can be switched off, which I hard to do in the office after frayed tempers spoilt my sixth round of the day, but if you're playing rather than spectating they add immensely to the game.

Sensible Golf has very few flaws. In a world of sophisticated sims it's a welcome breath of fresh air but may be too plain for purists and golf snobs. Its biggest advantage is that you don't have to be a golf fanatic to enjoy it, it's first and foremost a computer game with no simulation pretences.

If you're a real fan there's there's still no substitute for PGA Euro Tour, but if you want multi-player tournament fun and a bit of a laugh for a change then Sensi is the one.


Flexing those green fingers...

Shooting the ball short of the hole is bad news. The most difficult part of Sensi is not really getting the ball there, it's sinking it. By comparison with the mouse operated power bars of other golf games Sensi Golf's joystick controlled little speedo lacks sensitivity, so short shots can cause more problems than long ones - too much power and you skim the rim, so to speak. The arrows on the green sometimes get confusing too especially if you are trying to plan a long distance shot which goes up and down on several different planes.

Out of bounds...

Like Cannon Fodder, Sensible Golf is all about having the confidence to take risks. Finding the right route to a hole is the key to success and below par scores. Presented with a multitude of little islands with sand or water between them you can aim directly, take a decent swing and try to get it onto the nearest island to the hole. Otherwise you can take it step by step with more measured shots. The latter approach means that you are less likely to end up in a sand or water trap trying to chip the ball or having to drop a shot, but it does mean that you're unlikely to maximise your score.