Golf for the Atari 2600, which was also called Arcade Golf, was an early attempt at simulating the golfing experience on a home gaming system. Overall, the game’s size and pacing feels more like miniature golf and I think it would have been wiser for Atari to manage people’s expectations by labeling it as mini golf. Of course Atari release a Miniature Golf game as well and I will review that later, but the gameplay on these games was very different. I remember playing both of these games as a kid (I had zero interest in the sport) and did not like either of them. Which is why I thought this would be a good time to revisit Golf.
In Golf you control a little golfer as he attempts to play 9 holes of golf with his pixelated club. Figuring out how to place the guy and how to swing is half the challenge, but once you master it you will notice that Atari is laying out the gameplay for most future golf games. You pick the angle of approach to the ball and therefore choose the direction it travels and you control how much power you put behind your swing. It is slightly confusing at first, but it gets pretty intuitive as you keep practicing.
The object of the game is to get the ball in the hole and to do so you either need to go over or around different obstacles. Remember this is the VCS so the physics are pretty simple. Hit a tree and it will bounce off it like your playing bumper pool and traps will stop your ball dead. Happily with some practice you will master those obstacles pretty quickly and will be getting your ball on the green consistently. Once there a little Atari magic happens, you get a putting screen!
This is another feature of most future golf games, but I found it to be pretty impressive for the VCS. As your probably guessed, the putting green is just about the same in terms of gameplay, you just need to think in terms of different scales. Sink your ball and you move onto the next hole.
The sound and graphics in the game are nothing special, but all in all, Golf is a decent and straightforward title that while challenging is master-able and at times even challenging and enjoyable. What might have made the game slightly better is improved physics (or an abandonment in favor of something like pinball golf), a random element like wind and the the ability to change clubs. Of course, this being one of Atari’s early titles, that would be a lot to expect.
If you do decide to play Golf, just remember its Golf, not Pitfall or River Raid, and it requires patience. So slow down and take your time to figure out what is going on, then and only then will the fun reveal itself to you. I give Golf a solid 3 stars.
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