Rather than drop $50 on a copy of EA Sports’ Tiger Woods Golf- and be forced to wade through a lengthy tutorial and hefty manual just to learn how to play – desktop golfers in search of an inexpensive and accessible game will enjoy taking a swing with Polar Golfer.
While not a hole in one, this easy-to-pick-up fantasy golf game trades realism for arcade fun, and manages to appeal to golf fanatics and casual gamers alike.
The premise is simple: you play golf as one of a few different characters – such as a Hawaiian shirt-wearing polar bear (first seen in the Polar Bowler game) or a walrus with gold chains — on the luxurious grounds of the Polar Country Club. This scenic 18-hole course features waterfalls, snow-capped mountains, rainbows and ice statues.
Hitting the ball is as easy as clicking on a swing meter on the right-hand side of the screen to select the amount of power. The game automatically recommends a club and swing direction to help novices. If you don’t like the suggestions, you can override them with the click of a mouse.
While only two golfers are available at the start of the game, six others can be unlocked by accumulating a large number of points (note: Santa is the toughest, for obvious reasons!). Each golfer differs in their ability, , with unique ratings for power, accuracy, putting and ball flight. The penguin, for example, is very accurate but lacks power, while the walrus is powerful (and his ball can catch good air), but he’s not terribly accurate. Up to four gamers can play together on the same PC.
It’s a shame that the game only has one course (another golf game, Polar Bear: Pineapple Cup, is sold separately for $19.99) but at least the unlockable golfers add some variety and depth. Players can also try to hit balls through power rings for extra points and other bonuses.
This fantasy golf title also has a unique feature: the ability to control the ball in mid-flight by gently pushing the mouse from side-to-side (or pressing on the left or right arrow keys); this comes in handy if you need to give the ball a bit of help to “nudge” it onto the fairway or green.
Gamers can play as a regular 9- or 18-hole Stroke match (with no power-ups or bonuses) or a 9- or 18-hole Championship game, complete with power rings and the ability to post to an online high score board.
Polar Golfer is fun and easy to pick up, but it does suffer from a few aggravating problems. One is that you cannot save your game. So if you’re playing a terrific round of golf but you must quit on the sixth hole to pick up the kids from school, you can’t start where you left off the next time you play.
While a game like Polar Golfer doesn’t really replace a professional golf game, it does provide an amusing – if unrealistic – opportunity to hit some balls around a fantastic fairway. The upshot is that it’s cheaper, faster and much more readily understood than other similar titles – and you don’t need a pair of those crazy shoes to play, either.