30 Games Of April – Day 23

Everybody’s Golf
Factfile
Developed by: Camelot Software Planning
Published by: Sony
Released: 1998
Format played: Playstation



Yes that’s right Nintendo fans, Sony were doing family friendly games long before the Wii came out.

I can’t say that I have ever held much affection for the sport of golf but I have dabbled in its video game approximations. Back on the Amiga, PGA Tour did battle with Microprose Golf, Nick Faldo arriving on the scene later. Sensible Software even got in on the action before the Tiger Woods series swept all before it in the Playstation era.

Everybody’s Golf meanwhile crept in unannounced and declared itself the best of the bunch. Golfing aficionados will likely claim one of the EA games a more realistic representation of the sport, which is fair enough. But for the casual fan, or indeed non-fans of the sport, this is a triumph.

 

You start with just a couple of characters and a couple of courses but more can be unlocked as you complete events. These can be played single player or against friends in a variety of match types, including lowest round wins or the highest number of holes won. Plus you can enter tournaments or just have one on one games.

‘Everybody’s Golf’ is a suitable name, as becomes apparent when you get into the body of a game. Control is as simple as you like. The trigger buttons cycle through your clubs, allowing you to aim for a longer or shorter striking distance. Your ‘caddy’ will default to pick the most suitable club for general purposes but you retain the ability to change this at will. If you need some extra fizz, you have a limited selection of power strokes available, useful from the tee if you need to steal some extra yards. Setting the strength of shot is as simple as a couple of button presses; one to set the bar off, another on the way back to determine where you strike the ball. Hit it all full power in the centre of the ball and you’re rewarded with a whistle and a cry of ‘Nice Shot!’ but letting it drift either side might see you shank the ball into the rough.

Courses are nicely laid out, offering both a challenge and level of variety. Again your ‘caddy’ will help line up the most direct path to the hole but you’ll often need to adjust and find your own path, especially on par 5 holes or to negotiate water hazards. Do you play it safe and aim to drop just before the water? Or go big and reach for a birdie, knowing that if you come up short you’ll be in the drink? And watch out for bunkers, which make it harder to get full purchase on the ball, or trees that fall in the line of your shot, bringing your drive to a shuddering halt.

When you do reach the greens things take a turn. You automatically switch to the putter with a choice between a 100 or 30 yard option. A flick of the trigger button gives you viewing options to better determine the undulation of the green. As with fairway play, you line up set at the most direct route to the hole but you will often need to adjust your body position to account for the roll of the green as well as factoring in any hills or rolls to your power gauge.

 

It looks terrific throughout, the game having an accessible cartoony feel to it whilst retaining a stiff challenge. Course-specific music plays throughout (unless you switch it off of coourse), only to change to a ‘dud, dud-dud-dud’ as you hit the green, sending your pulse racing. There is plenty to sink your teeth into, repeated play necessary to unlock all it has to offer, new characters offering more than just a cosmetic choice, each coming with their own strengths and weaknesses that affect gameplay. Mary for instance hits straight but not all that hard whilst Taku is a heavier hitter but tends to draw, meaning that you must factor this into your shots.

But that’s not all. Tucked away almost as a game within a game is a glorious mini golf mode. Playing with just the putter, you have to negotiate a set of fiendish holes, just like you would on Hastings seafront. They can often look simplistic but the devil is very much in the detail as you discover to your cost when your ball runs pathetically out of bounds or rolls dejectedly back down the hill to nestle behind a rock. It’s a fantastic mode and a nice change of pace from a full round.

A sequel would follow in 2000, which I also bought for some reason despite never finishing the first game and frankly I don’t remember ever playing. Retrogaming, gotta love it.

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