PGA Tour Golf 96
Game Gear
Electronic Arts
John Seigesmund
Golf is a sport that seems to translate well into videogame form. Since Access released Leaderboard for the Commodore 64, golfing games have been very popular and are often highly playable affairs. Personally I find this rather surprising, given the sport's inherent lack of cool, snail-like pace and complete lack of excitement - but then you'd never catch me in a pair of plus fours and a Pringle jumper. A party dress at the weekend maybe, but that's a different matter...

Like Leaderboard and seemingly every golf game released since, PGA Tour uses the 'swingometer' method of control. For those unfamiliar with this method, three button presses are required to play a shot. The first starts the power bar rising, while a second stops the bar at the desired amount. As the power bar returns to zero, the golfer begins his swing and a third button-press is required to determine accuracy. If the bar is stopped precisely at zero, the stroke will be played on target. Stopping the bar above or below zero causes the golfer to hook or slice the shot. A default set of clubs is chosen for the player before the game begins but these can be changed. Similarly, before each shot, a suitable club is chosen by the CPU but players can override this when necessary.

The camera view is set behind the player at a raised height and the course ahead is displayed in semi-3D. At the putting green, the control system remains the same. However, prior to taking your shot, you are presented with a three-dimensional wireframe representation of the green which is useful as it indicates the lumps, bumps and slants of the surface allowing for more precise putting.

There are three courses to play on and several play modes to try out. For practice, driving range and putting green modes are available as well as the option to play any of the courses solo. When you're ready to compete, Tournament and Skins game modes can be played by up to four people and feature the world's golfing elite as CPU controlled contenders.

How not to take screenshots of a Game Gear game

Added difficulty in the form of a swarm of bees

Being a huge fan of the Megadrive PGA series, I approached this version with some trepidation. I found it hard to believe that EA's classic could be successfully translated to the Game Gear without huge compromises being made. How wrong I was. First of all, let me point out the few, very minor deficiencies present. Firstly, before each shot, it does take a while for the screen to draw itself. This may annoy some despite golf's inherent leisurely pace (personally, it reminded me of the wonderful Leaderboard). Secondly, the wireframe putting greens are less accurate and easier to play. The reason for this is obvious - the Game Gear has a much lower resolution than it's 16-bit cousin, so it can't display such intricate detail. Apart form those two (very) minor gripes, PGA plays exactly like the Megadrive versions. The graphics are lovely, sound is obviously minimal (hey, it's a golf game), options abound, and gameplay is as absorbing as it is on a big screen. If you are a fan of the Megadrive series and want to play on the move, rest assured this version is every bit as playable and addictive. If you've never played a PGA title, why not make this the first?

Graphics: 82%

Sound: 49%

Gameplay: 94%

Overall: 93%
The digitised golfers are large and nicely animated. The environment is great looking but has a very slow draw rate. The putting green wireframe graphics are a bit chunky. Swish. Swish. Hey it's golf. Fairly decent title screen music. Rather surprisingly, PGA is as playable on the Game Gear as it is on the Megadrive. Apart from the simplified putting screen, the control system and 'feel' of the game remain intact and fans of the 16-bit versions will find this just as absorbing and enjoyable. An outstanding conversion of an outstanding game.
R E C O M M E N D E D   A L T E R N A T I V E S

O T H E R   F O R M A T S
World Class Leaderboard (Commodore 64) • PGA Tour Golf (Megadrive) • Mario Golf (Color Gameboy) • Kirby's Dream Course (SNES)

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