It seems a long time ago when mobile phones functioned more as a phone than anything else. You could download games for them, of course, but the whole experience was hard work and underwhelming at best. In fact, you’d be forgiven for wondering why you’d even bother. And then along came Vijay Singh.
I’ve always loved golf video games, even if I have no real affinity with the sport. First there was Leader Board which gave us the first real taste of golf from the player’s viewpoint, albeit rendered to screen at a glacial pace. Still, it laid down the triple-click power and snap control mechanic that remained the default golf game control scheme for years to come.
That was more than enough for me for a while, until I read about a new golf on its way. One that offered a fully 3D world and accurate simulation of the game – multiple courses, camera angles, tournaments and your own player profile. It was Microprose Golf and it offered something truly new. It was the stuff dreams are made of, or at least it’s the stuff that keeps a family of gamers glued to a 14” portable TV for months on end. It was real golf, on your computer. More about that in a forthcoming review.
In the following years, many great golf games graced my TV screen: Mario Golf, Everybody’s Golf, Links, Tiger Woods. As arcade representations of the game they were all good games that were a lot of fun to play, but none of them captured the essence of the sport quite as much as Microprose Golf. But then along came Vijay Singh.
It came pre-installed on a Sony Ericsson phone I’d upgraded to and was, in short, all that is or ever has been great about golf games distilled into one beautiful 375kb java archive. Obviously a labour of love for it’s creators it played like a dream. It was a modern Microprose Golf in the palm of your hand. An astonishing achievement for a mobile phone of the time.
The game added some great new touches of it’s own: putting featured the now standard grid that maps the contours of the green, with the addition of small particles that flow along the grid lines showing the the direction and severity of any slope. Also (and this is the bit that really made me smile) at certain points - more often than not when you’ve landed yourself in a bit of a pickle - the game goes into TV mode. This put you in certain money making scenarios such as “our sponsors will give you $25,000 if you chip the ball in from this bunker” which, coupled with a vibration heart beat effect, really kept you on the edge of your seat. The vibration effect was also used sometimes when putting to make you that little bit more anxious as to whether or not you’ve got your angles right. I played it to completion and then hoped for downloadable courses which had been hinted at, but they sadly never materialised. And that was that…
Until, in September 2010, Gameloft released Real Golf 2011 for iPhone/iPod touch and iPad. It’s a next generation incarnation of Vijay Singh in all but name and it plays like a dream. Of course, Vijay is featured in the game’s roster of real golfers. It just wouldn’t be the same without him.