In 1984, I spent a few days in one of my aunts’ house. Although her son, that is my cousin, and I were just about the same age, for some reason we rarely ever got to see each other and spend some time together. He had been given a new watch recently and was very proud of it. It was a Casio digital watch and its most distinguishing feature certainly was the golf game, something I had never seen before. I was absolutely intrigued by the novel item. I wasn’t too excited about playing golf on a wristwatch, especially as my cousin wouldn’t let me touch it, the self-important jerk. OK, I think I remember now why we didn’t spend much time together. I was rather doing as much as I could to get my head wrapped around the concept of playing golf – of all games and sports – in such a teensy-weensy screen. I saw my cousin play it and it did indeed seem feasible and enjoyable. Still, I fought the idea.
Almost 24 years later, I have a little game of golf in my cell phone. I’m sorry, in my Blackberry. And I still find that fitting a complete 18-hole golf course in a device this size is a little sort of outrageous. Actually, Golden Tee Golf Mobile fits nothing less than FOUR complete 18-hole golf courses in a device this size. And yes, this really works as a game. It even passes quite well as golf. One can seriously plunge into the experience and almost forget this is just a video game. Especially with the scenery. Golf games always take care of that, of course, although with varying degrees of success. The graphics in Golden Tee Golf Mobile are not really impressive, but there is plenty of green trees and blue skies and waters to make for a relaxing atmosphere. It is pleasant, no doubt about it.
Golden Tee Golf Mobile really succeeds in offering options. There is plenty of them. First off, you pick the sound volume. Not that there is a lot to be heard, just the dry whack of the strokes and a little applause when you do well. But you can have it loud, low or silent, depending on how far – or near- your boss is. Or you can simply put on a pair of headphones. The device’s speaker turns off as soon as the headphones are plugged in, and the game sounds a lot better – louder and richer – on the headphones. I don’t have any Bluetooth headphones or headsets, though. I don’t know if the game’s sound will work with those. Then you can change the appearance of the little player character: gender, clothes, hair and skin color. If you close the game, the appearance will remain the same the next time you play. Sound volume will not. Instructions can be turned off, but they never really get in the way. There are six playing modes: 18 holes, 9 holes, 3 holes, 1 hole (practice), driving edge and putting edge. Whatever you choose, the next thing you have to do is choose which course you want to play: Bay Side, Kings Canyon, Castle Shire and Mystic Hills. Each one with their own unique scenery, although I thought Castle Shire and Mystic Hills had a bit too much in common. Then, unless you selected the 18-hole game, you get to choose which hole(s) you want to play. It’s all about choosing in this game.
I very often hate how the controls of Blackberry games are too crammed together in what already is an insanely small keyboard. The same applies to Golden Tee Golf Mobile, but since it is such a naturally slow game, the control keys are no problem whatsoever. Plenty of choice here too: you can select clubs (which automatically determines how far you can drive or putt), control direction, trajectory curve, back spin or forward roll effects and, last, strength. Strength is sort of a moving target: the meter will go up and down, and it’s up to you to hit the ball when the meter indicates the exact strength you want. That is tricky and takes practice.
Actually, everything is tricky to some extent. You can apply a curve effect to the ball and make it go around a tree or hill, but making that curve take the right angle and go in the right direction is not something you will master overnight. Strength can also be tricky: too hard a drive can send the ball right into the water and cost you a penalty stroke. And if all that still isn’t enough, you also have to mind the wind. The direction and intensity of the wind changes all the time and it does make a lot of difference. So even if you master a hole in the current wind conditions, the next time you play it the wind should be blowing harder and/or in a whole different direction and you will have to master that hole all over again. All in all, the number of holes (72), the level of accuracy the game requires and the random element of the wind all amount to a very good combination that makes sure the game won’t become too easy and predictable anytime soon. This game has excellent playability and is a long-lasting game too. You can have it for many weeks or months and not get tired of it, and I could easily play it for two hours straight if I didn’t have other things to do.
Sort of. One or two players can play, but not online or over any connection. You will have to take turns holding the phone if you play it with someone. A poor arrangement in my opinion, but at least no one can say you don’t have the option. Besides, I found out that in the two-player mode I get to try each stroke twice and, unless I make some mistake or do something very different, each two strokes have reasonably similar results. Ideally, I actually will do something different and see what the result is. It turns out to be a great practice mode.
So what in the world is wrong with it?
Yes, you certainly saw the rating at the top of this article before you even started reading it. And you must be thinking, Luciano is never that happy. What is he going to bitch about this time? As a matter of fact, there really is something very very wrong with this game: it’s awfully slow. After each stroke, there is a loading screen. And it does take long enough to get under my skin: from 4 to 7 seconds. That is after each single frigging stroke. Before each new hole, there is a loading screen too. This one can be a second or two longer. Then you finish the hole and some information is presented on the screen. It won’t go away until you press the main “action” button (trackball or “5″). Then there is another information screen. It won’t go away either, you have to press the action button again. Then press it again to get rid of a third information screen! Clearly an oversight: the first screen is absolutely acceptable, but the second and third ones could easily fit in just one. Besides, the information they contain is not terribly important. They could disappear on their own after one second (thus saving me two clicks) and be readily accessible from the menu if the player ever feels like checking those stats again. But that is just my suggestion. The game is not like that. The game is slow and annoying. Get this: after these three must-click information screens, there is another long loading screen, that precedes… not the next hole, but some scenery still shot that serves no purpose whatsoever! It is kind of pretty, but seriously, it doesn’t do anything. It doesn’t present any new information. It just sits there, and won’t go away on its own either. And there goes one more click, don’t lose count! Click the button and behold yet another long loading screen… and finally there comes the next hole. Man, this drives me up the wall. Golf is supposed to be a slow-paced game, alright, but these road bumps are so mind-numbing pointless! Besides, the game feels a bit slow/heavy-ish sometimes. You know, that jerky too-much-for-your-CPU sort of thing. It can even hurt your score. On several occasions, I got a freeze and hourglass right in the middle of a stroke and that made me miss the exact strength mark.
There is one added feature that might have something to do with all the loading, the slowness and the jerkiness. I don’t know, it’s just a hunch: instant replays. At every stroke, the “A” key will bring up an instant replay if you want. Besides, each 9 or 18-hole game ends with a series of replays made up of the entire game’s three best strokes. It seems to be compulsory, there is no option in sight to turn them off. They can’t be canceled halfway either. Those replays surely are a nice touch, but I can’t help wondering how much huffing and puffing the software must be doing in background in order to save those replays then bring them up at the end of every full game on top of making them readily available after each single darn stroke. And they can’t be turned off at all. If I could trade all these replays for a faster and more responsive application, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second!
Just one more thing about Golden Tee Golf Mobile: it has some sort of connection with the Internet. Apparently, you can create an account at goldentee.com and have some sort of online scorecard in sync with your performance in the game. I didn’t explore that possibility very much. I very soon thought that I had to jump through too many hoops to use it. Then they demanded that I “attach a card”, which apparently involves some sort of membership in a choice of several cards of which I had never heard before. If you don’t have one, you can “attach” a credit card. RED ALERT! At this point, I ran away. So I didn’t “attach a card” (as they call it), but I did create an account at goldentee.com. I entered my login and password into the appropriate section of Golden Tee Golf Mobile’s configuration, but it still tells me it can’t find the network. So I assume it won’t work over a BIS-B connection, because too many Blackberry programs make that mistake. Your mileage may be completely different from mine, especially if you have a TCP connection, especially if you’re actually familiar with golf (which I am not) and especially if you know what any of those membership cards are.
Pros: beautiful and pleasant game, numerous options, excellent playability.
Cons: off-putting barrage of nag screens.