1820 Gateway Drive
San Mateo, CA 94404
$39.95, Color only
Reviewed by Scott Wasser
I've always felt that the best computer simulations were those that enabled you to do something you couldn't or wouldn't do in real life. If not for our STs, how many of us would ever play in the World Series, pilot a jet fighter or slay a dragon?
On the other hand, who needs a program that simulates something like miniature golf? Is there anyone, other than someone who perhaps fears dying of boredom before the 18th hole, who has not experienced artificial-turf fairways and Day-Glo-colored golf balls? Probably not. So what would ever possess a computer-game designer named Will Harvey to create a miniature-golf simulation called Zany Golf.
Answer: a) magic carpets, b) a bouncing hamburger, c) disintegrator beams or d) a hole with a mind of its own.
The answer is e) all of the above. What Harvey has created is his own fantasy version of miniature golf. It is a version that, without a computer, could never be played. I'll explain why shortly.
First, let me say that Zany Golf has the qualities of a good entertainment program because it is easy to learn, difficult to master and addictive. It also features state-of-the-art graphics and animation.
As in real miniature golf, the object in Zany Golf is to conquer the course in as few strokes as possible. Using only a mouse, you line up your shot, decide how hard to hit the ball and let fly.
The perspective is absolutely amazing. Just as the human eye can only focus on part of a given hole, Zany Golf only allows you to see a portion of a hole at a time. Moving the cursor to the edge of the screen will cause the image to scroll in that direction, revealing more of the hole.
Once the ball is struck, the screen scrolls automatically to follow its path. For the most part, the action is so smooth and realistic, you'll swear you're actually watching a rolling ball rather than some cathode ray tube pixels being excited by computer programming.
While Zany Golf is a wonderful example of computer programming, it really sparkles as an exercise in tickling the imagination. Anyone who has played miniature golf is familiar with the various obstacles that make it difficult to sink a putt. Twirling windmills and off-camber putting greens challenge even the most skillful golfers.
But those obstacles are nothing compared to what you'll encounter in Zany Golf. These obstacles were generated by Harvey's obviously fertile imagination, and most could never be duplicated on a real miniature golf course. Fortunately, there are also some equally fantastic aids that can help you guide your shot to the cup.
It's difficult to verbalize how wacky Zany Golf really is. But here's a glimpse at each of its nine holes anyway:
- Windmill Hole—A twist on the miniature golf classic. This time the windmill is at the end of a dogleg right and at the top of an incline.
- Hamburger Hole—A bouncing hamburger, complete with pickles and onions, gyrates up and down over the cup. If you time the bouncing just right and ricochet your ball off the ketchup bottle, you might make par.
- Walls—Three walls rise and fall in sequence. You must hit the farthest wall dead-center while it's up to have a chance.
- Pinball—You can't even take a shot at the hole until you first guide your ball through a giant pinball machine that features flippers and drop targets.
- Fans—The maze that leads from tee to cup would be impossible to navigate, except for one thing: Strategically placed fans allow you to direct the ball by blowing it (using the mouse to make the fans spin).
- Magic Carpets—Another "amaze-ing" hole. This time the ball will move in the same direction you move the mouse—but only when it's on one of the magic carpets.
- Castle—Try to get your ball into the entrance of a castle that sits perched atop a three-sided hill. The castle gate only opens for a few seconds every time a trumpet blasts.
- Ant Hill—This one makes the castle's three-sided hill seem easy to navigate. Not only does the hill have more sides, but the hole on top of it moves at random.
- Energy—The ultimate miniature golf challenge. Laser beams, particle rays and energy transporters make Star Wars' special effects look tame. It's nearly impossible to sink a putt on this one.
I could nitpick and find a few minor negative things to say about Zany Golf. But the bottom line is that the program is so ingenious, so well executed and so much fun that complaining about it would make me feel like a real "putts."
Scott Wasser has been a daily newspaper reporter and editor for the past 12 years, and has been interfacing with computers for the last four. He has written columns and feature stories about computer hardware, software and home electronics and is a regular reviewer for ST-LOG.