15 December, 2011

Mario Golf

  • Release Date: 1999
  • Platform(s): Game Boy Color
  • Developer: Camelot Software Planning
  • Genre: Sports

As Mario's unlikely shadow career as the world's most versatile sportsman evolved with the glorious playable Mario Kart games, golf was perhaps the most likely candidate for further expansion. The rolling hills of the Mushroom Kingdom would be an ideal location to sink a few holes. Golf games already had an established formula to riff on -- Nintendo had already made a couple of stand-out entries -- and Mario's crazy cast of friends and enemies would probably look delightful in plaid slacks, polo shirts, and funny little hats.

Who knew it would turn out as well as this, however? Camelot's game has (exceedingly light) elements of an RPG as you explore the local clubhouse, learning the ropes, setting up matches, and making friends, but it's also a smart, calculated, gold sim for one or more players. It may be easy to play but Mario Golf is filled with variables that affect play, as well as charming, rich details, such as a suite of brilliantly structured courses; nice physics and ball effects; and a lovely, comprehensive leaderboard made for keeping track of your best shots and bragging about them to your friends. Visual and aural feedback is absolutely great too, as you might expect, and the whole thing basks in the warm glow of the Mario universe -- even though you spend a rather large part of the game unlocking a range of characters who aren't the famous plumber.

Some of Mario's later excursions into sports have seemed a little tired at times as the branding, special moves, and general gimmickry became increasingly desperate and shrill, but here, on the Game Boy Color, the whole thing meshes perfectly together, and Mario is as at home on the emerald greens with a putter and sand wedge as he is dressed as a raccoon soaring over a gaggle of Koopa Troopas.

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