I was really not looking forward to playing this game. I’d played a version of it way back in the 90’s on the Original PlayStation and it had led me to madness with its difficulty and general bloody mindedness. It was with much trepidation that I finally started playing the game for this feature. Had it been up to me, I wouldn’t even own Actua Golf but it came with the console when I bought it, so I instead put off covering it for as long as I feasibly could. Not wanting to suffer alone, I went out and bought a stack of beers and enlisted the assistance of my buddy Adam to play the game with me. He plays in a Happy Mondays tribute band and you should totally listen to them. I’ll post a link at the end of the article along with my other assortment of plugs.
Picture Courtesy of www.twistedtoys.co.uk
Gremlin Interactive, it’s not in the game, it’s in the marketing
The Actua Series of games was the brainchild of Gremlin Interactive, a self styled rival to Electronic Arts in the Sports Game field. Not only did they make golf games but they also tried their hand at other sports such as soccer and ice hockey. The games usually paled in comparison to their EA counterparts and Gremlin eventually went defunct in 1999. Gremlin did offer some decent third party support to the Saturn though. For example, Gremlin released a port of their PC game “Euro 96” to the Saturn but didn’t bother with one for the PlayStation. Of course, the game was simply atrocious and has been known to cause, amongst other things, malaria, meningitis and scrotal rashes to some people unfortunate enough to play it, but it’s the thought that counts I guess.
And yes, I do own that game and NO I will NOT be playing it for this feature because, as Bleeding Gums Murphy once so adequately put, I’ve got enough pain in my life as it is.
The point remains however that Gremlin Interactive was hardly an enemy of the Saturn and they did the best they could to produce completed and comparatively decent ports of the Sports games they had in their locker. This can be seen immediately with Actua Golf when you see the graphics. Yes, they look a little papery and thin to a modern eye, but for 1996 they aren’t too shabby at all and actually look quite nice. The back of the game box proudly boasts that the game contains “Two Challenging Courses” which caused me to scoff at first until I was reliably informed that the recent Rory Mcllroy game on the market only contains a mere six extra courses to play on, so Actua Golf hardly looks as bad with that knowledge in mind.
I guarantee you’ll have more fun playing this than Actua Golf
It’s a me, a superior golfing game!
Though the courses look okay, it’s a right pain to actually get a decent look at them when you’re planning a shot. Rather than have a camera that you can control like Mario Golf 64 has, the game instead has fixed camera points, so unless the exact part of the course you want to look act is under one of the set camera angles, you’re stuffed. You can choose to get a fly over view of the course lay out at the beginning of each hole, but outside of that there’s really not much else you can do other than sometimes take a shot in hope more than anything else.
Indeed, all I could think while playing this game was how much more fun and accessible Mario Golf 64 was in comparison. In that game you can view the entire course and there’s also a grid which gives you an idea of where your ball will land. The controls are also much smoother and have a better feel to them. Both games use the famed “golf meter swingometer” to organise your shots. This essentially means you have a circle meter which controls both the power of your shot and the accuracy. By pressing the C Button the first bar will move upwards and by pressing C again you control how powerful your shot is going to be. Once the power is chosen, the meter will swing downwards and you then press C again to decide the shots accuracy. Ideally, you will want the shot power to meet a targeted area laid out on the display. This whole process is a real pain and I’m glad it was finally done away with once analogue sticks became more common place.
Mario Golf made putting a little bit easier by doing away with the accuracy part of the swingometer and letting you just concentrate on the power. Actua Golf however does not show the player such a courtesy and this usually means that putting becomes a torturous exercise in pressing C before the meter goes too far in the wrong direction. It moves so fast and the margin of error is so slim that you’ll be tempted to buy some real golf clubs just so you can smash the game to pieces with a Power Wedge.
Even “The Voice of Golf” Peter Alliss can’t save this game from mediocrity
“Are you okay Tony?” “Sssshhhhhhhh, I’m listening to that bird. I think it’s a sparrow”
Ultimately, Actua Golf is more of a disappointing experience as opposed to an outright anger inducing one. Oh don’t worry you will feel angry while playing it, quite often in fact, but you’ll mostly be upset that a game which has such genuine potential just can’t deliver on it. Commentary is provided by Peter Alliss, Tony Adamson and Pat O’Brien and it’s actually good. I don’t mean “good for a mid 90’s sports game” either; I mean it’s genuinely good. All three commentators sound natural and deliver their lines with poise and character. It can be incredibly frustrating when they lambaste you for making a poor shot but the fact remains that the commentary is very smooth and suits the mood of the game well.
There are some technical glitches with the sound that do come to light sometimes though. The game includes some very good environmental sound effects. For instance, while playing in the woods you will be able to hear birds tweeting. Meanwhile, waves will crash against the sand on coastal holes and ducks will quack enthusiastically near lakes. However, the game can only really cope with handling one sound effect at a time. On more than one occasion, one of the commentators would be half way through chastising me for missing a shot only to go quiet to allow a bird to tweet before picking up where they left off mid sentence as if nothing were amiss. This happened enough for it to be clearly a proper glitch with the game and just highlights how even the good parts of this game are highly flawed.
And that is my overall thought on this game. It has good elements but is ultimately too flawed to be a truly good game overall. Adam and I had reasonable fun shooting the shizzle while playing it and having some beers together, but I think I’d get bored very quickly if I was forced to play this game on my own. Put it this way, it’s something I’m definitely NOT going to do, so that should tell you all you really need to know about it. There were some moments of genuine rage when I played this to boot, and that’s was after I’d had a few beers. Goodness knows what I might have done had I been nursing a hangover while playing the game. I’d probably be half way to Brazil in order to escape the authorities after head butting a nun while intoxicated with hate.
So yeah, I wouldn’t recommend this game. As always, I’ll post game footage below.
Thanks for reading.
YouTube Footage courtesy of musicman2407 here
Check out The Happy Mondaze’s official website here
Meanwhile, while not check out some of the other content here on the site?
Take a look at Dan “The Man” Choppen’s review of Zombi here
And why not have a goosey gander at James Haxell’s article on game graphics here