Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
The ideal sim for anyone manic about golf!
Picture the scene: a quiet, still morning. The dew rests heavily on the grass, rabbits frolic in the woods. No sound disturbs this tranquil scene, bit for the trill whistle of the lark. Suddenly, the silence is shattered by the low moans of anguish that can only mean... The Golfer. This sub-species of homo sapiens spends it's entire life plodding around 'golf courses' putting small white balls into holes with a stick - and then taking them out again...
Sega’s second venture into this twilight world where sport and ' insanity walk hand-in-club offers everything you could need to indulge in this lunacy without hacking up large pieces of turf, getting rained on or spending thousands of pounds on clubs, balls and badly-fitting checked trousers.
From the opening scene (a well smart graphic of someone holing a bunker shot!), you begin by selecting the type of game you want. You can brush up on your swing by having a practice session, partake in a one-on-one match play game, challenge up to three other players in the stroke play game, or even enter the pro tournament and play against the leaderboard.
You then have to choose your golfing personality from the four mugshots on display (but why you should want to be Troy Tempest or Elvis is anyone's guess...). Name yourself, choose your clubs and it's a brisk walk over to the first tee.
Each shot starts from the tee, with an overhead view of the course, -plus a couple of panels giving details about the distance to the flag, wind speed and direction, and so on. Before slicing off and going straight into a bunker, you can check out the lie of the land by pressing button 1. Another panel appears offering some useful advice like 'don't hit your ball into the water' (thanks guys), and then you can scroll up and down the length of the course using the joystick. A ruler device shows how far it is to each hazard so you know roughly how much 'umph' to give the shot.
Your ball appears near the bottom of the screen, flashing like crazy, and with a pulsing crosshair in front of it. By pushing the 'stick left and right you can move the crosshair around the ball and alter the direction of the shot.
The dreaded powermeter is on the right. Hit the black line - if you can!
Pick your golfer...
And then throw three clubs away...?
Tee-off time on the first hole!
(Left) Here's the entire first hole (three separate screens bolted together) showing the fairway and bunkers. The white dots around the outside mark the out-of-bounds.
(Top) Get near the flag, and a close-up of the green appears, showing the final pitch and putt to the hole.
Once you've decided which bunker to land in, a jab of button 2 brings up the club selection panel. Push up and down to alter your club from the woods, irons and wedges available.
Another tap on button 2 and a cursor appears on the close-up of the ball (later on, this shows the lie of the ball - whether it's in sand, short grass or buried in the rough). You can move the cursor around to mark where you want the club and ball to make contact, and thus alter the style of shot: move the cursor down, and you'll send it high with backspin; hit it on the left and it'll curl right, and so on.
The next screen gives an over-the-shoulder view of your golfer about to take the shot with a powermeter hovering on the one side. This screen appears before every swing, and provides a 30-style panorama of the course from a golfer's-eye-view.
The power-meter gadget regulates the strength of your swing, and is generally the main reason for fluffing a shot. There are two portions to this: a strength bar and a timing meter. Pushing back and forth on the 'stick allows you to set the strength of the shot from zilch to maximum. F'rinstance, if you’re J using a two wood which goes 230 yards and the pin is 215 yards away, you'd be best to knock the strength bar down a few notches - give it full welly, and you'd probably go whizzing over the green!
On the other side there's a pointer that rapidly slides up and down, and which is stopped by hitting button 2. The idea is to halt the pointer just as it hits the black line in the middle of the meter. Should it actually land on the line (sheer luck), it's a corker of a shot and will go the full distance. If it lands in the orange segment next door, the ball will still go flying. Stop it in the next green section and things aren't looking so good. It'll go, but only about half as far as in the orange segment. And if the pointer lands anywhere else, you're going to look a real norbert when the ball only moves three feet after being bashed with a one wood.
Once you've stopped fiddling around with the joystick, the shot is finally made. Your golfer goes through all the motions, looking every pixel the professional, and hooks it cleanly away into the wild blue yonder. The view then flicks back overhead, as the ball flies up the course, with the scenery scrolling past beneath.
Eventually you’ll get near the green: when this happens, the viewpoint automatically zooms in to give a clearer view of the scene. It usually takes a pitching wedge to finally heft the ball onto the stripey bit, but if you've managed to fluke a shot near the flag, then it’s straight out with the putter.
A putt is carried out in much the same way as a tee or fairway shot except it's less tricky. See how the green slopes, set the strength and direction accordingly and stop the pointer in the huge orange section. Easy peasy (er... almost).
And that’s about your lot.
There are one or two unusual features which we won't tell you about... Oh, alright then. There's a special player modification thingy during the competition, where you earn experience points for finishing holes below par, and doing well in the three prize shots - longest drive, nearest hole and hole in one - which crop up at intervals during the match. For every five points earned, your player’s character can be modified by improving the level of power, accuracy or luck. After a while you can build yourself up into a regular Hosay-Maria Olathabal, Ronnie Corbett or Nigel Mansell.
The visuals throughout are very pretty and detailed - especially the overhead course view, which is nicely realistic. It's a shame that the 3D over-the-player's-shoulder bit isn't better: your golfer is a bit jerky and wobbly, and the scenery looks nothing like what you imagine it should from the aerial view.
One major disappointment is in the sound department. There's a constant soundtrack during play , which must be Sega's idea of a joke. A tedious, repetitive, annoying tinkling tunelet which will have you tearing your own ears off if you can’t reach the volume control.
But that's not all: while you're selecting your player, clubs and so on, a jingle plays which is even worse than the soundtrack! This tune has about ten notes and cycles every two seconds. Aaaargh! It’s maddening!
And just to put the final nail in the aural coffin, there's also some weedy sampled speech which scratches ’Great shot', when you make one, sounding like one of the Rescue Rangers chipmunks with tight jeans on.
You've probably gathered by now that the sound is crap. It’s likely that Golfamania will only ever be played with the sound off.
Golfamania is generally pretty comfortable to play, with the one exception being the powermeter. Timing is absolutely critical, and when you first start clubbing -especially teeing off - you'll find it next to impossible to hit the ball cleanly. You do get into the swing(!) of things, but it is tricky. People with no reactions and younger gamers might get a bit frustrated at first.
Well, let’s face it: you either love golf games or you hate ’em. At least Golfamania makes the experience as pleasant as possible. If you've never wanted to buy a golfing sim, this isn’t going to change your mind, but if all you’ve ever longed for in life was a better version of Great Golf, then this is your lucky day!
▲ Spiffing overhead aerial views of the course, and close-up of the green
▲ Lots of neat touches like flapping flags and ripples when your ball hits the water
▼ Over-the-shoulder view of golfer and scenery is blocky and not very realistic
▼ Poor animation on golfer, who wibbles around
▼ Unbearably repetitive music make you wanna take your five iron to the Sega!
▼ And the menu jingle is even worse!
▼ Sounds like the speech has been sampled using a plastic cup and a pin
▲ The controls are complex enough to give the grey cells some exercise on the links as well!
▼ The 18 courses offer a reasonable challenge but are finished all too quickly
▲ With realistic ball movement, interesting courses and comfy control you won't be too swift heading back to the clubhouse!
▲ Lots of different competitions to keep the interest level high
▲ For maximum fun factor, get your chums round for some fierce competition!
▼ With only 18 courses, you'll soon get boringly proficient at all the holes
Golf has never been better (well, not on the Sega, anyway). Even if you can't wait for US Gold's Leaderboard to appear, you shouldn't be too unchuffed with this.