|Review by||:||Ken Gagne|
In the course of his video game career, Mario has held many jobs: from plumber to referee to driver… even a doctor! How does such a busy man relax?
Same as most other doctors: by hitting the links. If it's a simpler version of the real thing you're looking for, take a swing at Mario Golf, a Nintendo 64 game published by Nintendo and developed by Camelot, developers of Hot Shots Golf for PlayStation.
From the clubhouse, players can depart for ten different modes of play. For single players, there's standard tournament; training; Ring Shot, in which the ball must pass through rings floating above the course; Speed Golf — aim for both low scores and course times; and a mini-golf mode, consisting of putting across barren greens shaped like numbers or letters (more a game of billiards, really). Multiple players can compete in mini-golf and real golf, for a variety of points, bets, and skins.
The courses are standard, with no Mario-esque features (pirahna plants, Bob-ombs, etc), though some courses are set amid such locations as the Shy Guy Desert. The landscape decorations are flat and two-dimensional. The characters aren't too much better. Some have few frames of animation, resulting in jerky motions. Others have few expressions: one each for under, matching, and over par.
The camera movement is, fortunately, another story. It follows the ball with several realistic camera techniques: wipes, shatters, and more. It's easy and exciting to follow the ball's course, and replays are available, too.
The music is chipper but unnoticeable. Sound effects appear where expected, such as when the ball hits a tree or the water.
The golfer begins each swing facing the hole, with the correct club prepared. Players must correct for wind and terrain, then fire away. The swing is managed by a power gauge at the bottom of the screen. The first well-timed press of the 'A' button determines the swing's strength; the second, the accuracy. Overall, the system leaves little for the player to decide.
The game provides many ways to prepare for the shot. The course map, with current and expected positions, can be viewed and rotated. Localized displays also show the current position and at where the ball is aimed. A grid appears in varying degrees of subtlety to match the degree of the field contours. The gentle slopes often encountered when putting are too faint to detect on the grid, leaving their existence to be discovered through more frustrating means.
The holes start off simply, but quickly become challenging. One bad hole is all it takes to ruin a streak of birdies. Good scores will reward players with new characters and courses to try.
Mario's games have generally been accessible to all audiences, and Mario Golf is no exception. Unfortunately, it fails to bring any of Mario's unique charm to the sport, dumbing it down without adding anything. It's mildly entertaining, but even with its several single and multiplayer modes, it has little, if any, lasting appeal.
This article is copyright (c) 1999, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.
Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 09-Aug-99