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I normally associate golf with total boredom, bad American Express adverts and highly coloured twenty-two inch bell ends, and golf games with horror. So the last thing I expected when somebody mentioned the feared words 'golf simulation' was a highly and instantly playable arcade golf game which I constantly returned to 'just for another go'.
Leader Board is incredibly easy to get into and no knowledge of golf is needed, and even if you do get stuck the informative manual helps you choose the right sort of clubs etc. Graphically the game is superb -- the animation on the golfer is stunning with incredible realism. The sound is great too, no music but amazingly accurate spot FX. Even if you don't like golf, look at this sports simulation of the year; you'll be amazed.

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After suffering at the hands of Ariolasoft's
Golf Construction Set I wasn't looking forward to playing another golf simulation. But I was more then pleasantly surprised by Leader Board, in fact I was amazed. It's not just a golf simulation on a computer -- it IS golf on a computer. Unlike GCS, Leader Board is extremely easy to get into and use, and ultimately it's far more enjoyable to play. The way that the golfers move is very lifelike indeed, and the sound effects -- such as the swish of a stroke and the rattle of a ball in the hole -- are perfect and make the game incredibly realistic to play. Quite honestly, Leader Board makes all other golf simulations look clumsy and antiquated in comparison. It is without doubt the sports simulation of the year, if not the decade!

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Welcome to Game of the Week! Each week there will be a new featured game on this page. The game may be good, average or diabolically bad, it really doesn't matter! Just look at the pics, read the text and enjoy the nostalgia! :-) Game of the Week! is open to contributions so if you would like to contribute a game article for this page you're more than welcome to! Every article we receive will be considered!
 
Leaderboard
1986 Access Software
Programmed by Bruce Carver & Roger Carver
 
Most text of the present article comes from the review published in the fifteenth issue of the British C64 magazine ZZAP!64 (street date: June 12th, 1986).
 

LEADER BOARD
US Gold/Access, 9.95 cass, 14.95 disk, joystick with keys


July 1986
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"... and it looks to me as though Sevvy's taken out his trusty pitching wedge ..."
"Er yes, Peter, I think you're right, but I wonder if Sevvy is. That's still a fair distance and his lie isn't a happy one."
"On the other hand, Arnold, that pitching wedge has travelled the world and brought the Spanish champion much luck ... nice relaxed stance, good, easy swing ... yep I think he's happy with that --"
"Indeed, Peter, and it's looking good --"

"Oh my word -- yes! Well, what do you think about that?! Straight in -- an absolutely superb shot, hit the stick and dropped straight into the hole!"
"My goodness, when was the last time we saw something like that?! Well, that has given Lloyd Mangrum something to think about."

However, Lloyd Mangrum (no relation) needn't have worried -- on another occasion altogether, he scored one of the most amazing holes-in-one ever recorded. None of which has much to do with this new golfing simulation other than the shared excitement of achieving a hole in one, for Leader Board actually lets up to four armchair golfers play a 3D game from the golfer's point of view in a manner realistic enough to have everyone inventing typical Peter Alliss style commentaries to accompany play.

The ubiquitous ZZAP photographer, Cameron, about to
drive off the tee on hole 1, course 1. It's a par 4, 230
yards, so he's using maximum power on a number 5
wood club (max range 234 yards), and there are few
water hazards in the way. The wind is very light and
blowing across from left to right and slightly towards
him. It shouldn't affect the ball much.

There can't be many people who don't have some knowledge of golf, but the wryly brief introductory paragraph in the accompanying instruction booklet is as good a description as any! Object of the game, it says, is to sink the ball into each hole by hitting the ball with a club the least number of times possible. As far as it goes, that may be an accurate description, but there's a lot more to golf than that, and there's a lot more to Leader Board.

A selection of four different courses of varying difficulty (all of 18 holes) is on offer, based on the 'landscaped water course' notion more popular in America than in Britain. Thus there are no bunkers to contend with, but you find yourself coping with some very tricky drives over lakes, sometimes having to land on small mid-way islands in order to reach the green. Provision is made for difficulty levels by introducing effects such as wind and tightening up the accuracy required on club control during shots. When more than one player takes part, each player can select an individual skill level irrespective of what the other players choose, thus introducing the effect of 'handicaps'.

What do you see on screen? Well, for a start off, there's no 'map' option to show where you are, because there's no need for one. The booklet contains a map of each hole with its par and distance in traditional yards. This information is repeated on the screen, which is divided vertically into a full height square on the left for the action, and a quarter strip on the right with the telltales. Here we find the hole number being played, its par and the course. Below is the score indicator. The pre-entered name of the player whose turn it is heads four lines, one for each of the players. The number of strokes taken by each player on the hole so far is shown together with how much under or over par they are. Beneath this is the wind indicator, then comes the club selection line, the distance to the flag (in yards) and finally the power and 'snap' indicator (see separate panel).

Taking a put on the green of hole two. Poor Cameron,
with 26 feet to go, he's overpowered the shot, giving it
the umph to travel about 40 feet -- it'll probably jump
the hole. The green slope indicator can be seen on
the left, showing a fairly strong slope away from the
golfer and breaking towards the right.

The angle of play isn't exactly from player's point of view, more from above his shoulder, showing (from the tee) the entire hole disappearing away in perspective to the green. Once a club has been selected you use the joystick to move a cursor left or right for aim and pressing fire animates the golfer. Up to a critical point, the longer you hold fire the greater the arm swing and therefore the greater the strength of the shot. You see the ball fly away, also in detailed perspective, its shadow trailing along the ground, until it lands in the distance, bouncing variously according to height of trajectory, wind strength or lie of the fairway or green. If you land in mud, water or go out of bounds, the stroke has to be retaken, losing you a point.

Once a stroke is completed, the screen redraws the landscape to present you with the view of the green from your new position, and the distance indicator changes to show how far from the flag (or 'pin') you now are. On the green, the putter is selected for you automatically -- no taking out huge 'divots' on these pristine putting surfaces with anything as crude as a 3 iron! The distance indicator switches to feet so you can assess the strength needed for the stroke, the flag is removed and you judge the lie of the land from the slope indicator (see separate panel). In keeping with the overall realism of this simulation, putting on a bad slope causes the ball to curve quite strongly as it heads hopefully for the hole. As with drives, putting direction is cursor controlled.

After each player has holed out, the scene cuts to the leader board which shows the state of play to date. There is no option to play any hole you like, but selecting more than one course at the outset allows you to play the courses in any order, or even repeat one.
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. . . COURSE 2, HOLE 3
. . . . . 450 yards, Par 5

. . . . . Our two golfing heroes, 'Sevvy' and 'Lloyd', battle it out over
. . . . . this awkward hole which places the mid-way islands at just the
. . . . . most awkward points. Let's see how they fare on the fairway . . .
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Sevvy takes a 1 iron off the tee and plays a nice, safe shot of 192 yards to the second island.

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Lloyd follows suit with a 1 iron but uses more power and goes 223 yards to end up slightly more off line than Sevvy.

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Being furthest away from the pin, Sevvy goes next, choosing a 9 iron, aiming to reach the third island safely . . .

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Unfortunately it's the wrong club. Disaster! 2 shots go in the water before he sensibly switches to a longer iron -- a number 7 -- to go 140 yards.

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Lloyd takes his trusty 7 iron and safely lands behind Sevvy, leaving himself an 85 yard long pitch to the green.

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DISK OR CASSETTE AND WHEN

For once here's a sports simulation that both disk and tape owners can enjoy equally. We reviewed the disk version and noted that no disk access was required during the game at all, at which point US Gold confirmed that the cassette version had been completed and was a single load. So the only advantage for disk owners is initial loading time. The disk package comes complete with a protection dongle which must be plugged into the cassette port before loading can take place, the cassette version does not. Leader board will be released on the 4th July -- suitably American Independence Day.
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It's Lloyd to go next. Over-confident, his 7 iron is under powered and 2 shots fall short into the water! He goes for a 5 iron instead and almost overshoots the green, landing right on the furthest edge. Phew!

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Sevvy's fifth shot is with an 8 iron, a short pitch over the water and safely onto the green, leaving him with a 5 foot put.

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TOURNAMENT ADD-ONS

If you find that you enjoy Leader Board, then you'll also be pleased to know that US Gold intend releasing additional Tournament Disks each containing 4 further courses of varying difficulty for use with Leader Board. Here is a good opportunity for Access to consider a full implementation of a British 'Links' style course! This sort of course is also very popular with Americans, especially professionals, who enjoy the different challenge that links offer, gusty and changeable wind, irregular fairways and, of course, bunkers or sand traps as the Americans call them.
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Lloyd's shot back is 25 yards, so he uses the pitching wedge and -- MYWORD! -- it hits the pin and goes straight in! Just as well after those watery disasters.

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Sevvy's short put is a sure shot.

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*SPECIAL OFFER*

LEADER BOARD

WATCH OUT NEXT
MONTH FOR
A SUPER SPECIAL
DEAL IN ZZAP!

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So there we are. Both players took 6, a very bad two over par for the hole, and after 3 holes that leaves Sevvy in the lead at 1 under par, and Lloyd trailing with 3 over.

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IN THE CADDY BAG

Leader Board is an American program, and no self-respecting Stateside golfer would dream of perambulating round the course without a richly supportive bag of clubs. None of your municipal course six club selection here, there are no less than 14 available; woods 1, 3 and 5, irons 1 through 9, a 'pitching wedge' and the putter. Each club has it's own range, and the booklet helpfully lists the minimum and maximum length in yards that each club can ideally achieve. This is useful in conjunction with the on-screen distance indicator in judging which club to select for a particular stroke. It's to be noted, too, that higher number irons tend to have a higher trajectory available and a ball landing from a more vertical angle rolls less on landing. Leader Board reflects this quite accurately, allowing a greater flexibility in shot positioning.
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AIM, POWER AND S W I N G

Your shot is aimed via the direction cursor, but various influences must be taken into account depending on the chosen skill level. There are three; on the Novice level a shot is not affected by the wind and the stroke will not 'hook' or 'slice' (shoot odd line through an inaccurate connection between club and ball). On Amateur level the ball may hook or slice but is not affected by the wind. Professional level adds wind effect to the slicing and hooking. The wind indicator works in a similar fashion to the green slope indicator. A variable length vertical 'stake' shows the wind strength and a 'shadow' indicates the direction. If the wind is blowing strongly towards you, then the power of your shot should be substantially increased.

Apart from the wind and selected direction, two other vital items affect your shot, power and snap. Power is straightforward enough. Holding down fire starts the backswing indicated on the bar graph. A line runs upwards from min backswing to the top -- max power -- and then runs down again (downswing). To select power required, you release the fire button.

Snap is the term that describes the wrist action at the moment of contact with the ball and controls the ball's flight. Snapping early 'hooks' the ball to the left, at the moment of contact gives a straight flight, and snapping late 'slices' the ball to the right. Slapping is done by re-pressing the fire button at the desired moment, as the power bar descents from the upper swing section down into the lower snap part of the bar graph. Snapping has no effect on the Novice level however.

When putting, the power indicator is slightly different, a descending line that runs through eight bars, each bar representing approximately 8 feet of putting power. Again, releasing the fire button sets the strength of the shot. Factors affecting how the ball travels are green slope and slope direction. These are indicated by a vertical stake on the green (stake height indicating amount of slope) with a 'shadow' showing the slope's direction.
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Let's face it, golf simulations have mostly been more worthy in their aims then in their execution, Nick Faldo's being the best to date. Leader Board changes that dramatically and for the first time you can play a golf simulation that approaches the real thing. I'm only surprised it has taken so long for someone to look at golf through the golfer's eyes, so to speak, rather then offer plan views. The feel you get from a shot, judging the degree of arm swing needed to send the ball on its way, and then watching its flight through the air and its shadow on the fairway, makes this not only a game of skill but also of excitement. There's a real sense of triumph when you watch the ball land just where you intended it to. The perspective views and real spatial geography of the courses are splendid. The sound, too, is tremendous because it is so spot on. I can only hope that Access and US Gold will turn their attention soon to a 'links' style British course with bunkers! Its qualities and its single and multi-player options make Leader Board a great game for everyone.
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Presentation 95%

Good, sensible and comprehensive documentation, plenty of useful options and it looks great on screen.

Graphics 89%
Although the backdrops are generally simple, tremendously realistic animation and perspective set the game apart visually.

Sound 88%
Despite the scarcity of sound, the rating reflects the superb accuracy of the spot FX
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Hookability 97%
Couldn't be easier to get into and everything about the game grabs you from the word go.

Lastability 96%
72 holes to play and varying difficulty levels should keep you tied to the screen for a long time. Leader Board makes computer golf really addictive for the first time.

Value For Money 96%
As cheap as two rounds at your local municipal course.

Overall 97%
A finely polished sports game likely to appeal even to those who don't consider themselves golfing fans.
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Htmlized by Dimitris Kiminas (13 January 2006)

Many thanks to Stephen 'Mort' Stuttard for scanning the small screenshots of the original ZZAP! review at high resolution especially for the needs of this reproduction.

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