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Cybertiger (N64) Review

Publisher: EA
Release Date: March 2000

Background Info

Have you ever wished you could master golf? I'm sure on occasion we have all tuned in some weekend to a golf tournament and thought we could play just like the pros. Unfortunately it's just not that easy. Let's face it. Most of us suck. Yep. The closest we will get to scoring even par on the links is to head to the mini-golf course. Just make sure you don't hit the windmill.

For us mere mortals who simply aren't in the same league as the Leonards, Faxens, and O'Mearas, we must be satisfied with the world of electronic golf. Electronic Arts brings the Nintendo crowd a golf game where we can live out our fantasies as none other than golf's best player, Tiger Woods.

CyberTiger makes its debut on the Nintendo 64 and offers direct competition to Mario Golf. Now if you had a choice, would you rather live vicariously through Tiger or Luigi? That's what I thought. Hopefully you can make Tiger proud by battling it out in stroke or match play. If you're having a little trouble with the competition, the game features multiple power-ups to keep things interesting. And with support for up to four players, CyberTiger is the ultimate multi-player golf game.

Presentation/Graphics : 70
Upon starting CyberTiger, I was struck by how similar the graphics are to a game like Pokemon Snap. Not that that's a bad thing. It's just that I was expecting more natural textures on the courses. For the most part, greens and fairways are somewhat flat when it comes to detail. I never had the impression I was playing on grass but rather a smooth carpet. While the roughs were darker in color than the fairways, there was no detail to give the illusion of deeper grass. Likewise, sand traps appear as flat beige patches.

On the Badlands course, which is a desert style course, three-dimensional rocks are nearly extinct. Rather, we are restricted to poorly textured surfaces meant to represent rocky surfaces. While I wasn't expecting perfectly detailed objects, I was hoping for better presentation of the course. A cactus was spread here and there about the course, but still the graphical presentation of the Badlands course reminds more of a run-down municipal course.

The "Best of the TPC" course was significantly better. I played a few rounds of night golf, and CyberTiger proved it had the graphical muscle to give the illusion of real golf. The TPC course is a traditional style course, with tree-lined fairways and plenty of bunkers and water hazards. While the flora was limited, overall the course looked better. The night-lights shone perfectly, and in the distance a lighted cityscape added to the atmosphere. A nice touch by the programmers was the addition of car lights in the distance.

As you'd expect from a non-traditional golf game, the golfers' appearances are exaggerated in size. By default the players have heads proportional to their bodies. But if you want big head golf, CyberTiger lets you pump the heads up. So if you feel Tiger is full of hot air, here's your chance. As heads get bigger, they tend to lose some of the detail, but you can still make out the pros represented in the game.

Presentation/Audio : 50
After about one minute I had to turn the music off in CyberTiger. That's got to be an all-time record for me. Simply put, the music loops consistently and starts to annoy like a dripping faucet. Once the music is turned down (or off), you can experience the sounds of golf. What? I can't hear anything. CyberTiger has limited sound effects. Prior to striking the ball, you may hear a cricket, but mostly you hear silence. Whacking the ball sounds realistic enough, and the ball flies through the air with an over-emphasized whoosh type signature. Good shots garner the applause of the invisible gallery, and sinking putts will usually get Tiger to say something.

Even though Tiger's comments are varied, the sound effects are just too limited. The game can be easily played with no sound at all. Unfortunately this time EA didn't live up to their slogan "If it's in the game, it's in the game."

Interface/Options : 90
The controls and menus in CyberTiger are a snap to work with. The main screen gives the option to play a game or go into quick start. Quick start limits you to a round of stroke play, whereas the second option opens a menu with several modes of play. The analog stick or digital pad can be used to cycle through the game modes, and once a style is chosen, the golfer select screen opens. Golfers can be chosen here as well as the course to play. It took a while to find how to change the course. Above the player selection is a "Tee Off" icon. Selecting this opens up the course selection screen.

Once on the course, the game can be paused by pressing the start button. This brings up a menu of options including memory pack functions, stats, and your inventory of power-ups. Other key options include the L and R shoulder buttons, which change your club selection. The up yellow button cycles through the types of strokes (normal, pitch, and chip). Power-ups are selected with the left and right yellow buttons. CyberTiger offers several methods to view the course. Pressing the Z button displays the expected ball trajectory from above. This also gives you a great overhead view of the hazards. The down yellow button brings up a secondary menu where you can traverse the course and plan your shot. Unfortunately the view is low to the ground and its use is limited. Also in this submenu is the ability to pump up the heads.

Hitting the ball is a natural with the Nintendo controller. The analog stick replaces a real club, and as you pull down on the stick, the backswing starts. A power meter increases, and at the height of the backswing, it starts to decrease. Pushing the stick forward at any time starts the downswing and eventual ball strike. The controls, while simple, really put you in the game.

Gameplay : 70
If you are looking for realistic golf, look elsewhere. Like Mario Golf or Hot Shots Golf, CyberTiger is not intended to be a serious golfing title. Sure the basic ball physics are there, but the game is targeted to a wider audience than your typical golf sim fan. A few things separate CyberTiger from a simulation.

First, there are the power-ups. Power-ups are earned by making birdies and eagles on a hole. If you have a tendency to hit the ball too long, the no-bounce power-up stops the ball as soon as the ball hits the ground. This is effective if you want pinpoint accuracy to reach the green. If you just don't have the distance in your shots, you can use a rocket style power-up which propels your ball through the air. With Tiger, typical drives with the driver range from around 270 yards to 330 yards. Using this power-up, expect drives over 500 yards! Water hazards are easily avoided using the skipping power-up, which allows your ball to skip across the water rather than sinking. Beware, however, as if the ball comes to rest on the ponds, you've just earned a penalty.

Besides power-ups, you can add spin to the ball once it leaves your clubface. Driving off the tee, pressing forward on the analog stick puts forward spin on the ball and usually nets an additional 30 yards or so of roll on the ground. If you hit your approach shot long on the putting green, pull back on the stick to initiate backspin, bringing you closer to the flag. You can even couple the spin control with the spinning power-up, which gives you additional control of the ball during its trajectory.

Aside from the power-ups and spin control, CyberTiger gives a decent representation of the game of golf. Play can either be stroke or match play, and a Skins tournament is also available for those who love to win a little green. Four-round tournaments give you the opportunity to club it out over 72 holes.

Once playing, you'll find that the game is relatively easy. Ball control is tight, and hitting poor shots is a rare occurrence. With the exception of the water hazards, hitting into the hazards rarely affects your game negatively. In fact, recall the rocky borders of the Badlands course. As stated earlier, the rocks come across as flat textures rather than three-dimensional rocks spread over the course. You can use this feature to your advantage by aiming for the rocks. Balls seem to roll forever on the rocky surfaces, which in real life would stop your ball quickly. It's more like rolling on concrete. Balls roll, and roll, and roll.

Once on the putting green, the putting game is a breeze. Using the analog stick to putt is similar to regular strokes. Pulling back on the stick increases the power of the shot, and pushing forward starts the forward stroke. The problem lies with the putting greens themselves. There is no way to view the breaks on the greens. When putting, a strobed line provides feedback to how the ball should break. From there you have to adjust your shot and speed to make the putt. Elevation changes on the greens are virtually non-existent even though the ball does break, so you must depend on the ball trajectory curve to plan your shot.

Despite the inability to view the topography of the greens, putting with the unpredictable breaks is simple. In fact, I found the putting to be so easy it made the game unchallenging. Rarely did I three-putt, and the majority of the time I either made pars, birdies, or eagles. I had a few bogies and double bogies, but those were usually due to poor approaches rather than miscues on the putting green. As an indication on how easy putting (and the entire game for that matter) is, my first four-round tournament on the Badlands course netted a 32 under score. I played a four-round tournament on the Best of the TPC course and scored 39 under. This was with no practice on the course and represented my first time on the course. And rarely did I utilize power-ups. Just straight golf for me thank you.

And there lies the problem. The game is simply too easy for the single player. The AI in the tournament mode was no problem. In fact, I won by 18 strokes on the Badlands course. And with only three courses available, there's just not much variety. Rounds typically take twenty minutes if playing solo, so you'll quickly exercise all the game modes and courses. CyberTiger is really meant to be played as a multi-player game. In this capacity it shines. The power-ups keep it interesting, and the easy holes should keep even unbalanced players close.

Replay Value : 70
I'm writing this review the day after I received the game. Typically I like to work my way through a significant portion of the game to see how the mechanics play out and assess the overall fun factor of the game. For golf games, this usually means playing all the courses as well as each game mode. By writing this review the next day, I've given an indication of the replay value. The game is exhausted within hours.

As a single player game, there are too few courses and the AI is too amateurish to keep you interested. The multi-player action is the best part of the game. With enough human players, the game is fun. The control of the ball will appeal to every shape and size of player from children to adults. Putting is not frustrating like more realistic golf games. Overall the game just lends itself to playing with friends or family.

Overall : 69
If you are looking for a golf simulation on the N64, this isn't it. With arcade style game play, CyberTiger is a quick play best suited for multi-player action. The lack of courses and simple AI keep it from being a must buy for the single player or golf sim fanatic. But if you want a game you can play with the siblings, kids, or friends, CyberTiger is definitely a game to try.

By: James Smith 3/22/00

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