When Access Software teed up the first version of Links in 1995, game play was great, but the animation and graphics were about as hip as a grass stain on plaid pants. Recently resurrected by Bold, Links Championship Edition now runs in both Mac OS 9 and OS X, and the new game is a blast.
Links faithfully recreates 13 notable championship courses, with every sand trap, pond, and tree in exactly the same location as the actual course. As in real life, balls roll down slopes, ricochet off trees, and require well-executed shots to escape the rough and sand traps. The animation is usually very smooth and life-like, however up-close objects can become pixilated. While Links offers many camera modes plus information windows, the more windows you display, the longer it takes the Mac to refresh the screen after each shot (up to 10 seconds on our 733MHz G4).
Sonically, Links is packed with rich, clear sound effects and entertaining audio commentary from 17 different professional golfers, including Arnold Palmer and Sergio Garcia. With so many golfers from which to choose, you needn't worry about repeatedly hearing the same comments. We especially appreciated how the gallery reverently keeps mum at the crucial moment prior to putting or driving.
Whether you're a duffer or scratch golfer, Links has you covered with three different modes. In Easy Swing mode, all you must do is indicate the direction you wish to hit the ball and the power of your swing. Once you've mastered the basics, Classic Swing mode adds the complexity of slicing your shots to the right or left. This mode requires good timing and quick reflexes. On the swing gauge, there are two lines at the 12 and 6 o'clock position. In order to make the perfect swing, you first click and hold your mouse in the swing gauge until it reaches the 12 o'clock position and let go. The gauge will then move back in the opposite direction. The trick is to click your mouse again when the gauge backtracks to the 6 o'clock position. If your timing is off and you let go to the left or right of the mark, the ball will slice to that direction. The more you are off, the greater the slice. If you find that you do have a consistent slice, you can rotate the angle of your shot to compensate for it. The Power Stroke mode, without spoiling it for you, takes even more real-world factors into account.
We have only two quibbles with Links. Macs with ATI RADEON video cards can inexplicably freeze or crash while running the game. It's not Bold's fault, and a fix is promised by the time you read this, but double-check with ATI Technologies before spending your green to get on the greens with Links. The other quibble deals with the Arnold Palmer Course Designer included with the game. The designer is well done, but has a very steep learning curve. Bold did a great job with the manual for the game itself, but the documentation for the course designer exists only as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file on disc. Most people will probably never print out this 60-page document and will, therefore, leave a fantastic feature of this game untouched.
Aside from the minor graphics problem and the PDF issue, Links Championship Edition is a well-executed game. This is Bold's second Macintosh release (the first was Age of Empires II), and if these two products are a good indicator of the company's ability, then macHOME is happy to buy Bold a beer at the "19th hole."
-Robert C. Lewis
Links Championship Edition:
Bold by Destineer | www.boldgames.com | 952-697-6050 | $49
Pros: Game features 13 courses and 17 golfers, has beautiful graphics with smooth animation, comes with a course designer, and offers a multiplayer option.
Cons: Graphics are pixilated when objects are near, and the course designer has a steep learning curve aggrevated by a lack of printed manual.
Requires: 266MHz or faster CPU, OS 9 or OS X, 64MB of RAM (128 MB for online multiplayer or OS X). Course designer requires 300MHz CPU and 128MB of RAM
macHOME recommends: A faster Mac for better redraws