New 3D Golf Simulation: Devil’s Course (True Golf Classics: Wicked 18)
Developer: T&E Soft
Publisher: T&E Soft, Bullet-Proof Software
Platform(s): SNES, PC9801, 3DO, Mega Drive
Release Date: March 5th 1993 (JPN), October 1993 (US)
Have you ever wondered to yourself ‘is there golf in hell?’ If the answer to this question is yes, then the budding Tiger Woods in you will be happy to learn that not only is golf played in hell, but the devil has his very own course!
It has to be said that whoever came up with the name Devil’s Course had a truly brilliant mind; it’s a title that carries a true air of mystery, tension and drama, not at levels you would ever expect from a game of golf, real or otherwise. It’s easy to imagine that perhaps such a title merely suggest a particularly difficult golf course is featured within this ‘New 3D Golf Simulation’, but no, the title can be taken as literally as it’s written; this course is clearly the work of some kind of otherworldly being.
Adorned with floating islands, ruined parthenons, mysterious statues and torrents of lava, this is not your average golf course. Yet despite all these bizarre and rather demonic adornments, the sky is blue and the grass is very, very green; for a course potentially located in the ninth circle, the place is quite well-kept, although understandably it still isn’t the ideal place for a leisurely round. Whilst the ordinary professional golfer would no doubt find getting stuck in the bunker or going out of bounds to be a real nuisance, it’s unlikely they’ve ever had to face up against sheer cliff faces, gorges leading to a seemingly bottomless abyss and floating chunks of earth. Whoever the golfer is taking on this course, it’s clear they’ve got nerves of steel!
Surprisingly and in rather stark contrast with the game’s more supernatural elements, the actual gameplay fails to stray too far from your traditional golf game; a series of menus give you control over your angle, stance, club of choice and of course, the power of your swing, allowing you to carry out the standard golfing manoeuvres you’d expect from any golfing title. It’s hardly a surprise to hear that this game was in fact released as part of developer T&E’s ‘True Golf Classics’ series, consisting of games featuring real world courses such as New 3D Golf Simulation: Storm Wave of Pebble Beach and New 3D Golf Simulation: Miracle of Waialae (which, despite their more grounded premises, still have brilliantly overdramatised names), so the gameplay itself remains essentially unchanged from these titles, something that leads to quite an abstract experience when combined with a satanic golfing green.
As well as control over the way you play, Devil’s Course also offers a surprising degree of detail that creates a fairly authentic golfing experience (aside from the obvious ‘abnormalities’ previously described); one of four different caddies can be selected, each with unique personalities and appearances, who will offer you tips on your swing and the surrounding area. Along with this, your golfer is in possession of a ‘scanner’, which gives you detailed information on the level of the terrain so as to make you better informed about the angling of your shot. Three different styles of gameplay are on offer, a tournament mode that sees you tackling a number of different holes in order, stroke play, which determines a winner based on who has taken the lowest number of strokes in each game, and finally match play, which provides a scoring system based on whether or not you have bested your opponent on each hole. Each mode can be played with up to four players in alternating turns, so this could be the ideal multiplayer title for four golfing gamers who have grown tired of the more conventional flat greens seen in the likes of EA’s PGA Tour series.
In the visual department, Devil’s Course makes a bizarre use of the SNES’s hardware to provide a strange replication of 3D graphics (hence the New 3D Golf Simulation in the less interesting part of the title), but the cartridge itself lacks the unique Super FX chip used to provide ‘3D’ graphics for the likes of Star Fox and Stunt Race FX, meaning that the game runs at a slow and clunky rate. Details such as foliage and demonic statues make use of quite nicely drawn 2D sprites, something extending to the backgrounds which are the best-looking part of the game; the mix of 2D and faux-3D is almost reminiscent of SEGA’s Space Harrier – from a design standpoint, it’s almost as surreal! Portraits of caddies and other golfers use a photorealistic style, which look incredibly 90s and contrary to their appearance, are not a contribution to the ‘Devil’ part of the game’s title. One of the most standout parts of the game is the soundtrack, which is incredibly laid-back and of a surprisingly high quality, despite contrasting massively with the fact that you’re playing golf on a satanic course.
Devil’s Course is hardly a remarkable golf title on the SNES; it runs slowly due to its strange attempt at polygonal-looking graphics and lacks anything particularly groundbreaking in the gameplay department. However, it’s worth a look for its strange thematic elements and remarkable naming choice alone; playing normal golf is great, but to be able to say you’ve played golf on the Devil’s Course is something else. Perhaps upcoming titles such as 100ft Robot Golf and Dangerous Golf could take a few cues from Devil’s Course when it comes to being a truly surreal golfing experience!