Golf (Atari VCS, Jun 1980, Atari)
(Credit to Random Terrain for his awesome and well-researched list which helps me play Atari VCS games in chronological order with much more confidence.
So, earlier "this year", I played PGA Golf on the Intellivision and there was some discussion of the phrase "below par". I dislike what I considered its misuse in language to suggest poor performance while at the same time in Golf parlance it means a good performance. An astute and always wonderful reader, Nelio, pointed out that the phrase "below par" had usage outside of golf. Of course, he was correct and 13 years later, I decided to look into it. The phrase originated in a financial context and appeared in a financial journal in the early 1700s. I don't know why it became opposite in the game of Golf.
A poem was written about it which I publish here without permission from anyone:
Above And Below Par by Leon S. White
When you say about a chap, that he’s above par
Exactly what it is you mean, depends on where you are.
If you’re on a golf course, you’re referring to his score
Which, relative to even par, is at least one stroke more;
But in a different setting, above par means
Excellent, outstanding, even sterling genes.
So above par’s opposite is that which golfers seek
Otherwise below par is really rather weak.
However when below par play leads to an above par score
Then the seeming opposites are opposite no more.
(By the way, that PGA Golf entry "earlier in this year" was entered in August, 2008, almost 13 years ago, and holy crap how time flies.)
Intellivison's PGA Golf had a great deal of detail to it. You could slice the ball, hook the ball, worry about the wind, worry about the material of your golf club... it really did a great job, in my opinion. Have I played it since? Well, no. I don't really love golf. However, it did make an impression on me.
Golf for the Atari VCS is more like the beer and pretzels version of a golf video game, which isn't to say it lacks in charm. The Atari came out two-ish years before the Intellivision, so it's reasonable that any game on it will be less complex. This game of Golf kept me interested longer than I expected and I managed to play it for about an hour. With other people and beer and pretzels, I might play it longer. (Though, I'm trying to cut back on carbs so perhaps some healthier snacks.)
There's a single-player and a two-player game each with easy and hard modes. The player is shown on an overhead view of the whole field. There's a "green" with a hole on it and that's the ball's destination. I have no idea whether it would be possible to get a "hole-in-one" on any of these holes. It felt inconceivable. Your mileage may vary.
There is no variation in the club material or weight that you use, just the amount of power you put into swinging your little stick of jagged pixels. The learning curve is mostly spent getting used to the angle the ball will travel depending on the angle the golfer is facing when starting its swing. At first, it can feel counter-intuitive but one can develop the knack.
After a swing or two (or five or eleven, don't judge me) the ball will make it to the green. The playing view switches to a closer view of the hole and its surrounding putting green. The mechanics of aiming the ball really isn't any different from the long-distance swinging, but the power of the swing feels a tiny bit more nuanced. I'm probably imagining that. In hard mode the hole looks tiny, and is about a quarter of the size of the hole in easy mode.
There are nine different holes. There are hazards on the field that can be gotten over if you've hit the ball hard enough. The ball will will soar over lakes, sand traps or trees if given the momentum. These hazards will stop, trap or deflect a ball, respectively. If playing in hard mode, it's possible to lose the ball in "the rough". When the ball flies off the course it will disappear in the blue area, representing the untamed wilderness beyond the boundary of the course. The ball can still be hit (your club will angle towards it), but it cannot be seen and it will take several strokes to get it out of the rough and back into visibility.
Even after the angle of the swinging is understood, the game is still challenging and I did find myself resetting it to play it one more time, twice. I actually wanted to play it a fourth time, but I knew I still wanted to write this entry and I didn't have all night. (If you must know, the par of the course is 30. I was waaaay over par, getting 97 on my first game (easy mode), 68 on my second game (hard mode), and 60 on my third game (also hard mode).)
Not gonna lie. I enjoyed myself playing this. Overall, I found myself smiling.
There were two choices the developer made that stood out to me.
1. When setting up the swing the player may choose to back away from the ball before they release the button to commit to the swing. This doesn't count as a stroke if it doesn't hit the ball. I thought that was a really nice touch. It's a little difficult at first to get a feel for where the ball is going to go as one maneuvers the golfer and its stick around the ball. Having this option of a few "practice strokes" to better understand my aim did save a lot of frustration.
2. Something I wasn't crazy about was when one gets the ball into the hole, one is instantly transported to the next hole. No fanfare. Nothing. I would have preferred to be given a moment or two. Just to breathe and check my score while I was still in the context of that hole.
That's it. Tune in next time. yada yada yada.
PS: (While playing Golf, I did find myself thinking "If only I could shave two strokes off my golf game!" and "Existence is pain!". I don't know where that could have come from...)