Sid Meier's SimGolf is a textbook example of how great game design can transcend subject matter. You don't need to be a golfer or even know a birdie from a bogie to enjoy this immediately addictive simulation. Like the best games, you learn how to play as you go and have fun while doing it. From the moment you pick up the mouse and design your first hole, you'll be hooked.
Best known for complex simulations such as Civilization and Alpha Centauri, Sid Meier would seem to be an unlikely designer for what might have been called "Golf Course Tycoon" had not the "tycoon" moniker become synonymous with lackluster budget titles. But SimGolf proves Sid Meier is more than just a master of the intricate; he's created an involving, purely fun game that doesn't require a thick manual and hours to learn how to play.
Creating a hole is as simple as laying down the tee and the green, and then filling everything in between with a variety of terrain and hazards. After completing a hole, tiny simgolfers begin to play it, occasionally offering advice and suggestions (as well as humorous non sequiturs) through their text dialogue. Each sim is an individual with his or her own skills, attitudes and desires that affect their reaction to your course. Fans of The Sims will feel right at home with these tiny golfers, as they speak the same gibberish language and sport the same distinct look.
As you complete more holes, additional options become available that add to the value of your course, such as a snack bar, pro shop and driving range. Then the need for employees arises, so workers such as groundskeepers must be hired. As you progress, the complexity level increases, but never overwhelmingly so. The overall flow of the game is extremely smooth, and designing your own personalized course is a pleasurable process that never feels like work.
In the main gameplay mode, you start out with a small selection of environments and a limited amount of spending money. If you want to create a course without having to worry about finances, the Sandbox mode allows you to do just that. By including this option, the game finds the perfect balance between providing a sufficient structure for progression while also allowing the freedom to create without restriction.
You're also actually able to play your course using a simple but effective point-and-click interface that takes place from the same isometric perspective as the rest of the game. Again, even those who don't know a thing about golf will catch on quickly, thanks to the straightforward, easy-to-learn controls. While the golfing in SimGolf doesn't come close to the level of a regular golfing simulation, it doesn't try to. It's a great bonus feature, especially since you can earn money by winning tournaments.
The truest sign of a game's greatness is how easy it is to lose track of time, and SimGolf makes it all too easy to spend hours in the creation of the ultimate course. So don't let the "golf" in the title of Sid Meier's SimGolf fool you. Like SimCity and Rollercoaster Tycoon before it, it's destined to become a classic that will appeal to just about any type of gamer.
Graphics: The visuals are simple and max out at a 800x600 resolution. The overall look is attractive but not very impressive.
Sound: The sound effects are basic and don't add much to the experience.
Enjoyment: SimGolf is an addictive simulation that is easy to learn and immediately enjoyable.
Replay Value: The possibilities for creating distinct courses are numerous, leading to hours upon hours of gameplay.
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