Links logo

How many times have you seen American-made games on an IBM PC and hoped it would be as good on your Amiga, only to be let down? Probably loads of times - US programmers have a tendency to convert games from PC with minimum effort (for them) which usually results in slow, jerky and unexciting games.

So when you hear that US Gold are to take an American team, and convert a program that requires a top-of-the-range IBM to be playable, you expect disaster. But Links is instead a minor miracle, and one that a lot of American coders should learn a lot from.

For goodness' sake
From its initial concept, Links looked a bit too advanced to be possible. Its main claim to fame is that the course is constructed from digitised views taken at 10-metre intervals around the real course: trees, buildings, tracks and bunkers are all in their correct places and look realistic.

To heighten the realism, the Links programmers, Access, wanted to use more than 32 colours, and on the Amiga that meant HAM mode. The job sounds less feasible the more you think about it, but Access have produced something which proves that Amiga is a really mean machine when compared to the over-blown PC.

For your money, you get a perfect game of golf, as good as all the established ones like PGA Tour, MicroProse Golf, and the now-aging Leaderboard, plus a vital dose of realism thrown in for free.

Links features a superbly animated golfer (which is also digitised) and a course so real it's a dream. This is enhanced by the obligatory birdsong samples and a commentary which bellows things like "That'll play" and "I think I hit the tree, Jim" when you take a particularly good or bad shot.

Links is easier to 'read' than its competitors, the green undulate, unlike those in PGA Tour, and there's an option to overlay a grid if you're still unsure of the lie of the land. You rarely even need this because the greens are so realistic.

The acid test starts when you hit the ball - and Links passes with flying colours. It's impossible to accidentally hit the ball (unlike PGA Tour). To take a swing, you click on the bar marked swing - simple! For the first-timer, there's another icon 'address' which moves your club slightly back from the ball. You can then swing away to your heart's content without fear of hitting the ball, until you've sussed the power and snap mechanism. This is simple too - you click and hold the mouse button (to swing the club back) and then let go when you've reached your preferred power. The swing-o-meter returns around the dial, and you click again as close to the marker at the bottom as you can.

Unlike PGA Tour, Links' system is not biased in favour of powerful hits - a light tap is as easy as a hard whack - because the swing gauge always returns from the top of the dial, rather than from the point you began your return swing.

Seal of good clubbing
Links is full of neat features, some good, and some great. You can store an unlimited bank of players and choose up to eight to compete at once, on either a full 18-hole course or one of te 9-holers. If you've got a printer attached, Links offers to print out a copy of player's score sheet - which is great for settling arguments over handicaps.

There are three levels of difficulty which each player can choose, and a four different starting tees for each hole. There's even an option to "take a mulligan" when you really fluff up - and this can be disabled at the start of a match. After any shot, you can opt to see a replay from the player's point-of-view or looking from the hole back to the tee, ad infinitum.

Serious players can adjust their stance and club angles for better effect - but you need a bit of golfing knowledge to get the best out of this option.

Preconceptions were that Links would be awful (it's so slow on unmodified PCs) but it's turned out to be the best golf game yet. Despite the HAM mode, Links has a pretty fast screen update, considering what it's doing. It's slow on the maximum detail level, but not unusable.

The biggest down-side is it's hard-drive only (unless you've got more than three megabytes to store a RAM disk version). But Links is one of the few games worth buying a hard drive for. Floppy disk users, for once, can't have it all. OK, we know that would usually be the downfall of a game, but with Links it's forgivable. Why? Because it's so damn good, that's why.

Links logo

Golf war schon immer als Freizeitbeschäftigung für Millionäre verschrien - jetzt gießt U.S. Gold noch Öl ins Feuer: Für ihre Umsetzung der bereits klassischen PC-Sportsimulation braucht man tatsächlich eine sündteure "Luxus-Freudin"!

Amiga-Golfer ohne Festplatte können sich das Weiterlesen schonmal sparen, denn ohne 1 MB RAM plus Festplatte oder ersatzweise 3 MB RAM (!) muß der digitale Schläger in der Tasche bleiben. Aber selbst das ist bloß die Mindest-Konfiguration - damit die Bälle so richtig das Fliegen lernen, wäre darüberhinaus nocheine Turbo-karte angebracht. Ein kleines Trost-pflaster: Auf dem 3000er läuft das Spiel beinahe schon zu schnell...

Aber was soll's, wer hätte gedacht, daß dieses Game überhaupt umgesetzt werden könnte? Und wenn es erstmal installiert ist, stehen dem Amigianer wahrhaftig alle Optionen der PC-Version offen: Das Schlagen auf der Driving Range läßt sich noch genauso üben wie die Feinarbeit beim Putten.

Der Profi hingegen wählt gleich seine Schläger und einen der drei Schwierigkeitsgrade, um dann mit den maximal sieben Mitstreitern Richtung Platz zu traben. Und zwar du dem einen Platz - andere Kurse sind ebensowenig vorhanden wie Computergegner. Schon am PC mußte man für Abwechslung teuer bezahlen (pro Kursdisk rund 50 Bälle), auch für den Amiga werden demnächst die ersten Zusatzdisks erscheinen.

Im Gegenzug sind die Geländeformationen bei Links absolut realitätsgetreu, praktisch jedes Hügelchen und jeden Regenwurm findet man an seinem angestammten Platz! Aussehen tut's auch toll, dank HAM-Modus ist fast kein Unterschied zur VGA-Grafik festzustellen.

Den äußeren Glanz erkauft man sich allerdings mit einem unglaublich langsamen Grafikaufbau: Bei maximalem Detailgrad verstreichen vier bis fünf Minuten, ehe das Bild endgültig steht. Und dieses Drama fängt bei jeder Rotation des Platzes und bei jedem Mitspieler von neuem an, da dauert so manche Partie länger als in Wirklichkeit.

Man kann natürlich auch auf die Abbildung jedes einzelnen Grashalms verzichten, dann bewegen sich die Umbau-Pausen in einem durchaus vertretbaren Rahmen. Nicht zu ändern ist aber, daß die an sich gut gemachte Maussteuerung den verschiedenen Amigas nicht optimal angepaßt wurde: Entweder es geht zu langsam (normaler 500er) oder zu schnell (3000er), nur dazwischen (Turbokarte) klappt die Bedienung so, wie es sein soll.

Die Sounduntermalung geht in Ordnung, auf dem Platz selbst gibt's aber nur die üblichen FX. Uneingeschränkt positiv fallen dagegen die unglaubliche Optionsvielfalt auf. Die Grafiken bieten wirklich tausenderlei Details (Wald, Wasser, Häuser) und die technische Ausgestaltung ist bis ins Letzte überlegt.

Im Prinzip muß man Links am Amiga also ähnlich einordnen wie "PGA Tour Golf" - ein weiterer Porsche in der Golf-Klasse. Nur Geduld oder genug PS, äh MHz unter der Haube sollte man halt haben! (mm)

Links logo

We're so pleased to be reviewing this, because it gives us another chance to say 'schwing!'

They say that much business is done down at the golf club. Well it appears American outfit Access, along with US Gold, have been out on the greens a-waving and a-swinging their irons and woods, to come up with Links - American contribution to the Amiga golf war. Well you won't find me giving up my Sunday morning chasing tiny balls with funny shaped sticks over silly, green hills and sandpits. With Links, though, the Ed said that all I'd need was an Amiga.

The first impression you get from Links is its stunning realism. The course graphics have been put together using digitised views of a real course, and the animated golfer has also been constructed with digitised graphics.

What you have initially then, is a golf simulation far more realistic than any other golf game we've seen on the Amiga. Links' realism is enforced by its 'Life On Earth' soundtrack (there's even an option of game commentary, with some decent speech), it all goes to make an enjoyable 'Sunday morning' experience on the fairway, without leaving your seat. All well and good, but what about the game?

Structurally, Links seems to be a well put-together game. Initially you're confronted by the menu screen. Among the options here are practice, new game, resume an old game or your choice of players. To start off you type in your name - there's room for up to five players, so if you've got some mates round you can have a tournament. Then it's a good idea to go to the practice mode for a quick bash at either the putting and chipping green or the driving range.

Once an option has been chose you'll eventually (and I really do mean 'eventually') find yourself surrounded by a great deal of graphic detail including a deck chair and your caddy. This is typical of the whole game - you're overwhelmed with course detail. But let's not forget about the scenery and objects for now - there's no doubt that this is a graphically superb game. The real crunch, as ever, is the gameplay.

With a sports simulation it's the mechanics of the game that make or break it. Being a golf game, it's the swing control that I'm concerned with. You'll find this at the bottom of the screen in what appears to be a very complex control panel. This instrument is the crux of the game - without it there'd certainly be some lame golf!

To drive, chip or putt, click on it with the mouse. A circular red gauge comes into effect, and as it reaches the top mark you must release the mouse button. When the gauge falls back to the bottom mark on the dial, click on again.

You're overwhelmed with course detail

The swing gauge will always return from the top of the dial, so there's certainly no bias towards power hitting as I found with PGA Tour Golf. Now watch the results of your swing action as the ball makes its way towards the green.

On the right hand side of the control screen are the statistics of your drive, chip or putt. Here you find out by measurement in feet or yards just how well or badly you're doing. It's certainly a very easy to use control method, and, once mastered, a pretty accurate one - so first impressions of complexity are completely unfounded.

If your swing stats show that things aren't going as well as you'd like, then a few adjustments are called for. Help is at hand in the form of the set-up option. Here you can change your stance by moving the shoe icons in the desired direction, alter the swing plane or change the angle of the club face as it hits the ball.

As well as this there's also an address-the-ball mode, allowing you to step back from the line of contact with the ball, which is an option that makes a lot of sense if you just want to have a few practice swings without hitting the ball.

Links is easier to play than either MicroProse Golf or PGA Tour, with its satin smooth controllability, but what else does the game offer?
If you're really fussy then you'll probably want a choice of clubs, although the game does select what it thinks is the best club for a particular shot. Links even provides a choice of different clubs on the control screen, contributing once again to the game's flexibility. Links also offers the choice of playing one of three different skill levels - professional, amateur or beginner. Even if you really louse up, there's always the option of a Mulligan, enabling you to retake a shot, so there's plenty of scope for players of all abilities.

With so much course detail, judging the lie of the surface can be confusing, but the game does provide the option of an overlying grid. If you get stuck in the rough like I did on a number of occasions, then finding the direction of the green can become a problem, but Links covers that one too with a top view option.

This gives you an overhead perspective map showing where you are and where the green you're heading for is, also giving you some useful stats - how far the ball is from the pin for example.

Once you've found the direction of the green it's useful to click on screen to bring up the marker, to aid the direction of your hit. This facility really comes into its own when you're facing a long putt on the green.

Easier to play than either MicroProse Golf or PGA Tour

Links is probably the most playable golf game on the Amiga - it far exceeds either PGA Tour or MicroProse Golf in terms of controllability. It certainly offers scope and flexibility with three different skill levels, the facility to play a five player match and the option of either the nine or 18 hole circuit.

Sadly, it's also the most frustrating golf game on the Amiga. Where MicroProse Golf follows the ball in play down the course to the next position of play, Links simply shuts down to redraw the game detail before any play can recommence.

At the lowest level of detail this period of waiting is almost bearable at 40 seconds. But if you want the detail that makes the game so stunningly real, you'll have to wait over two minutes (even if you're only after a replay)! This is slow, frustrating and tedious, and very seriously spoils what could otherwise be a perfect golf game - there's no flow whatsoever, and it makes the Links feel more like a long succession of practice shots than an actual progression through a course.

Then again, maybe Access wanted to convey the realism of walking across a golf course - though, it would probably be quicker walking from green to green then waiting for Links to redraw the course view.

Access would have been far better off simplifying the game, and including less background detail to enable a bit more speed - after all, most of the background serves no real purpose. Consider also that Links runs only with a hard drive and all those superbly realistic graphics begin to look just a little bit less attractive.

  1. Altering the swing plane changes the angle at which the club strikes the ball.
  2. Experiment wit the stance option - you'll find a change is sometimes necessary.
  3. Swing meter - where the golfing action begins. Click on for the perfect swing.
  4. Alter the position of the ball to change the distance of your hit.
  5. Here's the line of your ball and the point at which the club will hit it.
  6. If you just want to try out a couple of swings without hitting the ball, try the address icon.


With all that superb course detail around it's very easy to get lost - especially if you end up in the rough like old Squizz here. But don't worry, that's where the top view map comes in, not only showing where you are, but also where the green is. Your position is indicated by a flashing due dot.

You don't wanna do it like that - it's no good losing your temper when you're stuck in the rough. What you need is one of those maps.

Here we have the top view map, with the green to the centre and our man Squizz stuck in the rough to the north.

Links... ...Bountiful Golf Course logo

US GOLD * £17.99 * Hard drive only * Requires original Links program

This is the first in a series of planned Links add-on disks, and it's an excellent starter if you're thinking of building a collection. There are many good views, right from the first hole which shows the rolling fairways, bordered by a road with a white picket fence. The backgrounds depict the Wasatch mountains (part of the Rockies) on a slightly overcast day.

A new feature of all the Links add-ons is the upgrade included for the original Links games system: now it does its screen redraw secretly, saving time. On-screen messages in the corner tell you the redraw is occurring. There's also an improved wind indicator which is easier to read. The whole lot is dead easy to install and upgrade: it's all automated and virtually idiot-proof.

The Bountiful course is fairly difficult, but supplied in the packaging is an original Bountiful scorecard, showing the layouts of each hole in detail. This comes in useful when you're dealing with Bountiful's trickier holes.

Links Datadisk

Links... ...Bountiful Golf Course logo

Digi-Golf macht Spaß - vor allem, wenn der Schläger Links heißt, der Caddy ein leistungsfähiger Turbo-Amiga ist und am ersten Loch ein wunderschöner Zusatzkurs auf den Spieler wartet!

Die Qualitäten von Links in allen Ehren, doch etwas dreist war es schon, das Originalprogramm nur mit einem einzigen Kurs auszustatten.

Immerhin hat sich Access Software mächtig beeilt, den Nachschub auch am Amiga so schnell wie möglich ins Rollen zu bringen, offensichtlich will man dabei zumindest annähernd dieselbe Reihenfolge einhalten wie bei der PC-Version.

Tatsächlich wogten die Edelgräser des Firestone Country Clubs und das Bountiful Municipal Geländes nämlich bereits vor über einem Jahr schon auf den DOSen-Monitoren; letzteres ist ab sofort auch für die "Freundin" erhältlich. Für die nächste Zukunft stehen dann noch die Club-Äcker von Bayhill, Barton Creek, Pineburst und Hyatt Dorado Beach auf den Ankündigungslisten.

Der Bountiful-Kurs lieft am Ausläufer der Wasatch-Bergkette in der Nähe eines großen Salzsees. Detailversessen, wie Links-Grafiker nun mal sind, haben sie dieses Panorama ebenso berücksichtigt wie die exakten Ausmaße und Eigenheiten des Platzes selbst.

Das landschaftlich abwechslungsreiche und sehr hügelige Gelände wird von Baumgruppen aufgelockert und von geteerten Wegen durchkreuzt, was das Golfen natürlich etwas erschwert.

Außer Wasser, Sandbunkern und viel Gras befindet sich auf der Disk auch ein Update für das Hauptprogramm, mit dem anscheinend kleinere Bugs ausgebügelt werden, die das Original noch enthielt. Im Unterschied zum diesem muß die Datadisk auch unbedingt auf Festplatte installiert werden - ob es am Ende daran liegt, daß das gute Stück mit 59,- DM genau zehn Mark mehr kostet als seinerzeit am PC?! Tja, es ist schon wieder etwas teurer geworden, einen besonderen Geschmack zu haben... (pb)

Links... ...Firestone Country Club logo

US GOLD * £17.99 * Hard drive only * Requires original Links program

The Firestone add-on course is set at the Firestone Country Club, in Akron, Ohio. Filmed on a beautiful clear day in the autumn, Firestone looks as gorgeous as it plays. The trees are all resplendent in their golden brown autumn colours, providing a wealth of stunning displays.

Firestone is slightly easier to play than Bountiful - most of the greens are visible from the tees but that doesn't make it any the less interesting - it will take a while to master, just like the real thing. The third hole is a tight right-hand dog-leg (and the pin is totally obscured by trees), and there's a nasty stream running right across the fairway just short of the hole. If you haven't heard Links' 'wet plop' sound effects yet, this is where you'll most likely catch it.

As with Bountiful, Firestone includes an upgrade to the original Links program. Also included is a scoresheet from the Firestone course - with all the holes displayed very clearly. If you already own Links, Firestone is an excellent choice if you're looking for impressive visuals.

Links Datadisk

Links... ...Firestone Country Club logo

Jetzt geht's wortwörtlich Schlag auf Schlag: Kaum hat Access das große Kovertierungswerk vollbracht, wird eine Kursdisk nach der anderen hinterhergeschoben - da kommt ja direkt ungolfmäßiger Streß auf!

Nachdem Links-Golfer bereits 18 Löcher des Bountiful Municipal Grüns mit kleinen weißen Ballen auffüllen dürften, lädt man uns nun auf das Betriebssportgelände des edlen Firestone Country Clubs in New Jersey ein.

Angelegt wurde der teure Rasen im Jahre 1928 vom Millionär Harvey Firestone, 1959 hat Robert Trent Jones das Design dann nochmal gründlich umgeackert - herausgekommen ist schließlich einer der schönsten Golfplätze der Welt!

Damit nun auch die Liebhaber digitaler Natur auf ihre Kosten kommen, hat man das Gelände während der Herbstzeit mit Fotoapparaten und Scannern erfaßt. Und, ist die goldbraune Bewaldung nicht wunderbar stimmungsvoll?

Das ist sie fraglos, doch bringt das ganz tolle Holz einen nicht unerheblichen Nachteil für unerfahrene Golfer mit sich: Die relativ dichte Beforstung läßt ein klein wenig zu lasch geschlagene Bälle des öfteren im Unterholz statt in der Nähe der Lochstange landen.

Wer also "par" (oder gar darunter) spielen will, muß sich daher auf kräftige und hohe Abschläge einstellen, wegen der teilweise Bananen-förmigen Bahnen sollte er darüberhinaus das Anschneiden gut beherrschen.

Auch das Einlochen verlangt auf dem unebenen Gelände viel Fingerspitzengefühl; kurz und anspruchsvoll: Das is' hier keine Einsteiger-Veranstaltung, Leute!

Wie die erste Links-Zusatzdisk muß auch dieser Meisterschaftskurs auf Festplatte installiert werden, und als Bonus gibt's auch hier wieder ein Update für die Systemroutinen des (selbstverständlich nötigen) Hauptprogramms.

Der Eintrittspreis bleibt mit 59,- DM ebenfalls unverändert, genau wie unsere Empfehlung, als Caddy einen Turbo-Amiga zu benutzen - sonst wird der Schlager schnell zum Schläfer... (pb)