Software Review - Z88 Golf

by Michael W. Hey (0703)

When I was a lad at school the nadir of my week was the miserable two hours spent on the football pitch. Without my spectacles I could not even find the goal, never mind locate and kick a moving ball. Any opportunity to escape from the field was welcome.

When I reached the fourth year I was introduced to golf. This was much more civilised: you could play properly clothed for a start, instead of rushing around dressed ridiculously in shorts.

Now reluctant sportsmen like me do not even need to go out of doors, because someone at Wordmongers has written a golf program for the Z88!

To start the game, you execute a CLI file called "golf" supplied on the EPROM. This fetches all the other files from the EPROM automatically and then RUNs the BASIC program. This CLI does not work awfully well - on my Z88 it went (for some unknown reason) into the Panel and messed about with the serial port baud rate settings. However a better CLI could easily be written and saved on the EPROM instead (there is enough room for one there).

Also the files are all placed in :RAM.-, a potentially suicidal course of action. On the strength of the CLI one would expect the game to be badly thought out and full of bugs. Happily, this is not the case.

One must appreciate that game designers face a difficult task: if a game is too easy players soon get bored, too difficult and they become discouraged. I think that Transworld Golf gets the balance about right.

"Z88 Transworld Golf" uses the best implementation of graphics that I have ever seen on my Z88. The opening screen mixes text and graphics (a golf-ball on a plastic tee) and as you play the game a rather natty plan of each hole is drawn out. These plans are very effective, and are well laid out across the Z88's long thin screen.

First you select a course. You may choose from Augusta National, Georgia, and Kemper Lakes, Illinois (in the U.S.A.), or from Royal Troon and the Belfry (in the U.K.), or a made up course called "Fantasia". The sixth selection ("Shadowlands") picks holes at random. (A quick bit of maths indicates that there are 90 holes altogether.)

When you start to play the the graphics get really splendid! First a plan of the hole is drawn out, with a key to the left showing which pattern depicts the tee, green (with little flag), rough, bunkers and water hazards. First you are invited to select a club. A row of little clubs is drawn, with the name below each, and the cursor keys and ENTER are used to make your selection.

Then you have to take aim (or what ever real golfers call it). An indicator moves briskly up and down the sides of the plan, and pressing the space bar stops it. This selects the direction the ball will take. Some practice is required to get this right. At first the ball usually shoots off into some hazard or other, but after a while a more reliable aim is achieved.

Finally you must select the length of swing. The space to the left of the course plan shows a swinging golf club. Pressing the ENTER key makes your selection, but this demands split-second timing or the club will have swung past the point you want.

As soon as the enter key is pressed the ball moves across the screen in the direction you have chosen, straight towards the green (you hope). The length of your shot depends on the length of the swing and the club you have chosen. In order to help there is a "lie of the ball" indicator to the right of the screen, together with distance to the "pin" (i.e. the little hole with the flag stuck out of it.)

Depending upon the accuracy of your shot the ball sails down the fairway, or lands in the rough, or up a tree, or sinks without trace into a water hazard (in which case the shot must be re-played). If you make an embarrassing mess of a hole the escape key allows you to chicken out and return to the tee.

Sooner or later your ball will land on the green. The screen is re-drawn to show yourself armed with a putter and a look of earnest concentration. You must select the correct power of putt to propel the ball into the hole. A power indicator on the left of the green oscillates up and down and pressing the ENTER key halts it. A nice animated sequence shows the player putt the ball, which trundles across the screen towards the hole. If your judgement was correct the ball disappears down the hole and the player raises his arm in triumph!

Throughout play the score is displayed either in a window on the right of the screen (or on the bottom line whilst putting). All the scoring and adding up, and how many shots under or over par and how-many-yards-to-the-hole are all automatically calculated and constantly updated - as you would expect where there is a computer involved.

The game can be played by either one or two players (no foursomes, unfortunately). It is easy for the wrong player to play a shot - a small number is all that indicates who is to play next. As in "real" golf, after teeing off it is the player who is furthest from the hole who plays the next shot and so the game becomes more and more like musical chairs.

If you want to show off you can even play several games simultaneously, like a chess grand-master.

The graphics can become corrupted if you try this, because the program re-defines some of the graphics characters for different stages of the game, but it is still great fun.

As the Club's Chief Program Destroying Expert I am pleased to announce that this program is very hard to de-rail. Because it only responds to the cursor keys, plus ENTER, ESCAPE, SPACE, "1" and "2", it is not possible to crash it with invalid input (it ignores all the other keys).

Details of the various courses are held in appropriately named files. If one is missing the program reports that it cannot find that file. While the program is running the files are marked "In Use" and cannot be deleted.

Z88 Golf can be suspended at any time, so if you are amusing yourself at work, and someone inconsiderately interrupts you your Diary or PipeDream are instantly available, and you can resume the game later exactly where you left off.

One little gripe: the *NAME command is missing, so the 'Your Ref.' column in the Index displays the name of the last program to update it. (This could easily be remedied in a revised CLI automatic-loading routine without having to change the BASIC program at all.)

A very minor criticism about the overall style is that all the holes are as flat as pancakes. No slopes or hills can be found anywhere. I think I am being rather over-critical here: there is a limit to the realism that can be squeezed out of a Liquid Crystal Display, after all.

On the whole this program runs very smoothly - I was most impressed. Drawing the plan of each hole is rather slow (this is BASIC after all!) but thereafter the action is impressively fast! If your hand/eye coordination is not finely tuned you will send the ball whizzing all over the screen.

This is an ideal game to play indoors when the weather is horrid (you can carry your Z88 to the 19th hole and impress your friends) or you can sit in the garden if the weather is nice. And at only £25 Z88 Transworld Golf is much cheaper than a set of clubs! Highly recommended!

Z88 Transworld Golf is available from all Wordmongers stockists, price £25.00.

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