Jack Nicklaus Golf & Course Design - Signature Edition. (computer game) (Software Review) (Evaluation)
by Scott A. May
There's an old pro on the fairway, flaunting a brand-new image. Accolade's premier sports simulation gets a 256-color facelift with the Signature Edition of Jack Nicklaus Golf & Course Design. The Golden Bear has never looked better.
Few entertainment products have enjoyed the player admiration and corporate support of Ned Martin's long-running golf series. Backed by thoughtful revisions, numerous data disks, and the kind of publicity money can't buy--freely accessible user-designed courses--Jack Nicklaus Golf & Course Design ranks among the best in its genre.
The growing high-end market, as well as competition from such games as Access Software's Links, has prompted a complete overhaul of Accolade's best-selling product, The results are phenomenal. Created expressly for fast VGA systems, this latest incarnation features almost completely digitized courses, golfer animation, and full sound board support. The package also includes the first 256-color course designer, and the course designer itself has been redesigned for even greater flexibility. For many fans, this feature alone is worth the price of admission.
Graphic improvements are immediately apparent in the game's slick new front-end system. Dithered 3-D selection buttons almost seem to jump off the screen, and they're set against colorful, full-sized background photos. This clean, sharp quality of the images extends throughout the program.
Human players must first register as club members, designating gender, golfer animation, tee designation, an skill level. The club also contains stocked roster of compute players, each boasting unique abilities. You can now create customized opponents, fine-tuning such attributes as swing, distance, and accuracy.
Up to four club members--human or computer-controlled--can compete in either Skins or Stroke play. The Skins game has been enhanced to allow players to change the total prize money and cash amounts for individual holes. Stroke play now features a one-to-five-game tournament option. Up to 72 golfers, including a maximum of four club members, may participate. Although the program maintains detailed scorecards and statistics, there's still no provision for hardcopy printouts. Maybe next time.
The package includes two 18-hole courses based on real-life Nicklaus designs. Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California, is a favorite on the PGA Tour. The scenic fairways stretch along the base of the Santa Monica Mountains and are dotted with waterfalls, streams, and rock-lined pools. Don't let the course's beauty fool you, though--this one's a killer. Keeping dry is a major concern at New Orleans's English Turn Golf & Country Club, a unique course completely surrounded by water. The holes are tough but fair, assuring equal challenge to players of all skill levels.
Two new courses are available for the game through Jack Nicklaus Signature Tour, Volume 1. It features The Links of Muirfield in Scotland, which recently hosted the British Open, and Muirfield Village Golf Club in Ohio, which hosts Nicklaus's annual Memorial Tournament. The Signature Tour package retails for $24.95.
Martin's aptly named Sculptured Software continues to perfect the art of contoured course mapping, including mounds, slopes, bunkers, and multitiered greens. Almost all terrain features are now digitized, from foreground objects (trees, shrubs, and boulders) to the 360-degree scrolling backdrops. Of special note are the fully animated golfers, captured from videotaped images. Even the water moves, thanks to rudimentary color cycling.
Despite all this attention to detail, the graphics still suffer from "chunky" low-resolution VGA. Considering the program's already high system requirements, bumping the resolution up to 800 x 600 would seem only reasonable. The game allows minor adjustments of graphic detail to speed screen redraws on slower machines. On a 25-MHz 386 at the highest resolution, each screen update takes 15 seconds. Although this isn't blindingly fast, if you perceive it to be slow, perhaps golf isn't your game.
Short of converting 16-color to 256-color palettes, the program is completely compatible with courses created for all previous versions--good news for players sitting on a virtual gold mine of commercial and public domain courses. Given Accolade's track record with the Jack Nicklaus series, additional course disks are probably already in development.
The icing on the cake is a completely revamped course designer--the first of its kind to utilize a full color spectrum. One of the best new features of this stand-alone program is the ability to plot and play a hole instantly, without having to exit and reload the game. Another new feature allows you to import PCX or LBM art files into the object editor. This option opens untold possibilities for personalized course design.
Hampered only by low-end video limitations, Jack Nicklaus Golf & Course Design--Signature Edition represents the continuing evolutionary progress of a remarkable product. IBM PC or compatible (16-MHz 80286 or faster); 640K RAM; MCGA or VGA; hard drive; mouse; supports Ad Lib, Sound Blaster, Roland MT-32 or LAPC-1, and Thunderboard--$69.95 ACCOLADE 5300 Stevens Creek Blvd. San Jose, CA 95129 (800) 245-7744 (408) 985-1700 Circle Reader Service Number 347