The Golf Construction Set (Ariolasoft) Review | Computer Gamer - Everygamegoing

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The Golf Construction Set
By Ariolasoft
Commodore 64

 
Published in Computer Gamer #15

The Golf Construction Set is a golf game featuring superb graphics, four complete courses, a construction set to build more and a realistic handicap system. Eric Doyles plays a round on his C64.

The Golf Construction Set

GCS is a golf game featuring superb graphics, four complete courses, a construction set to build more and a realistic handicap system. Eric Doyles plays a round on his C64.

If Gallagher and Lyle remind you of a Seventies' pop group then you could only benefit from nurturing an interest in the Golf Construction Set from Ariolasoft. If the names make you dream of a perfect round in a maor golfing competition then this is definitely for you.

Why do I rave so much about the new game? Well, the game takes in considerations which other games cannot reach and you can also add to the library of four actual courses with designs of your own.

The game also features a realistic handicapping system. New players start off with a 28 handicap. This is used to allow players of different abilities to compete fairly against each other. The value is subtracted from the number as strokes taken by the player during a game or used as a basis to calculate the winner of the Match Play competition.

The higher the value of the handicap the more the player is liable to make errors, a factor which is built into this computer version. This means that there is a distinct possibility that your clubs will not behave in the way you expected them to with slices, hooks and all the common faults of inexperienced players. If that is not very pleasing then you can practise with a professional handicap until your skills have developed enough to allow you to have a go as an amateur again.

Tournament Play is available to a maximum of four golfers at a time or Match Play for two. For those who don't have the faintest idea what I'm going on about, let my try to explain.

Tournament Play is the familiar game of golf where each player tries to get round the course in as few strokes as possible. This means that you are normally aiming to complete each hole at or under par (par being the number of strokes which the authorities think a professional should take to complete a particular hole).

In Match Play you try to beat your opponent at each hole and the total number of strokes doesn't come into the reckoning. This means that if your opponent sinks his ball in three strokes, then you must equal or better this and if the ball is still sitting on the grass after your third stroke then you lost that hole and play moves on to the next tee.

As well as selecting the type of play you can also specify which golf course the match will be played on. The game comes complete with four ready-to-use courses: Wentworth, St. George's, Sunningdale and the Professional Golfers' Association's own course, The Belfry.

When course and play have been decided, the walk to the first tee begins. The screen is split up into several areas. The left half of the screen is a plan view of the hole being played. The top right quarter shows the view looking from the ball's lie towards the hole, and the bottom right area is the selection screen.

Initially the selection screen shows a table which gives the handicap of each player, the cumulative score as it relates to par, the number of strokes taken and the number of strokes taken at the current hole.

Pressing fire brings further details to this screen and you are requested to lend a thought to your poor caddie and leave three clubs behind. The display shows all of the clubs available; five woods, nine irons, a power wedge, a sand wedge and a putter. By using the joystick, each club is highlighted in turn, pressing the fire button selects the club. If you accidentally select the wrong club to leave behind there's no second chance to correct your mistake without reloading the game.

Beneath the club array, the environment conditions are listed. These change as play progresses and can have an effect on your game. Warmer air will increase the distance of your shot, hard ground will add distance and wind speed and direction will carry the ball accordingly.

Playing a stroke is a major decision, balancing the direction and power of the shot against the conditions. Trees, bunkers, water and trees all form hazards alongside the changing weather conditions. Straight balls can be watch on the 3D view screen as they whistle into the distance and bounce to a halt and the relative direction can be seen on the plan view.

After club selection you must choose the amount of loft and fade, the direction of aim and finally the power of the shot. The power is gauged by a realistically animated shadow figure of a golfer making his swing, the higher the swing, the more powerful the stroke and the more likely a slice or hook will result.

From the behaviour of my ball, I suspected it was a survivor from the Second World War. Attacking its objective by advancing from bunker to bunker, it finally dragged itself onto he green, ready for the final assault. At this point, the 3D display gave way to a magnified plan view of the green. Two arrows indicating the degree of slope in the horizontal and vertical plane appeared on either side of this display. At this point the highlighted club was, not surprisingly, the putter but the more adventurous may be pleased to note that any other club can be selected.

On completion of the course a scorecard is displayed detailing all of the player's performances. In Tournament Play, the scores are added up and the hanicap subtracted to give the final result.

In Match Play, the situation is a little more complex. When playing each hole the number of strokes taken is important but if the players are unequally matched then the higher handicap player is allowed up to two extra strokes depending on the difficulty level. For this purpose, each hole is allocated a Stroke Index on a comparative scale of 1 to 18. An SI of 1 is awarded to the most difficult hole on the course and 18 is the easiest. Because each value is only awarded once it is advisable to keep a tally of each value awarded because the program will not allow the game SI value to be awarded twice.

Decision points are included at the beginning and end of each hole. At the beginning, you can abort the game or move on to the next hole. If you skip a hole during a Tournament the handicap will not be updated and regraded at the end of the game as normally occurs.

At the end of each hole you have a chance to save the game. This means that a particularly good performance can be safeguarded against a lapse of concentration later in the match or allows you to break off a session until a later date.

Each hole loads from disk as required, and no doubt this is the same with the tape version. I only hope that Ariolasoft have had the sense to include a turbo loader or this could seriously mar an excellent game.

Construction of courses is as much fun to do as it is to play the game. The only thing to remember is that your course must be planned in advance because course building is a highly structured procedure. The construction screen has a blank plan view area in its usual position on the screen. The left hand side holds an icon menu of the constituent parts of the courses.

Building commences by selecting a 3, 4 or 5 par rating for the hole. Next, the tee must be positioned and, as you move the flag marker for the hole around the screen, the length of the hole is displayed.

After fixing the hole-pin in position, the boundary is laid out. Each press of the fire button causes a line to be drawn to the previously marked point and fourteen of these positions can be used to enclose the fairway area.

The next task is to construct the green, fairway and hazards using the very clever and simple symbols. Six circles of various sizes can be chosen and a colour selected for with possible options: fairway, green, trees, scrub, rough, water and bunkers. The eighth option is also the last to be used and allows you to grade the surface slopes of the course at approximately 60 yard intervals.

The final act is to award an SI index before designing the next hole or saving the one in hand.

A short text menu is included for loading unfinished courses, saving, clearing a course or for correcting errors. It also allows you to flip through the course, forwards or backwards, to make corrections.

By far the most impresssive piece of programming in this game is the 3D viewing screen. Starting with a view of a green but featureless landscape, it scans from the horizon to the ball's current postion adding each feature to the screen as it is encountered. Each time the direction of aim is altered, a new picture is built up giving an infinite variety of viewpoints, with each element reduced according to a perspective scale.

The courses provided with the game attest to the quality of the construction set. Each design reproduces the 'personality' of the real course, from the watery features of the Belfry, through the wooded Sunningdale to the almost featureless wilderness of St. George's.

A surprise reward is in store for holing out with a long shot from off the screen. The game switches into a slow motion action replay of the shot. I can't say where the game awards you with a big prize for a hole in one but I'm tempted to keep playing until I find out!

High praise is due to Ariolasoft, Tigress Marketing and the Hungarian programming team for producting the greatest golfing game I have ever seen. Its ease of use and attention to detail is comendable, even if some of the disk error handling leaves a little to be desired. The documentation could make more use of annotated diagrams but the text is clear and concise. An excellent product, very highly recommended.

Eric Doyle