Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.
A collaboration between Maxis and Firaxis, Sid Meier’s SimGolf oddly plays at times more like a Bullfrog ‘Theme’ game than like the other games from its two prestigious developers. You build a golf course, earning money with which to expand, and occasionally play a few holes yourself.
If you’d asked me ten years ago, I’d have foolishly said that it seemed almost easy to design. The template is already there in umpteen other management games – whether Theme Park, Theme Hospital, or Will Wright’s SimCity – for a game loop where buildings attract customers which gives you money to purchase new buildings. But very few other developers seem to have been able to mimic that formula in the years since.
SimGolf is frighteningly moreish once it has you in its sand trap. I confess I have no great insight into why its formula works here and not elsewhere. I can tell you that it is pleasantly green, which makes looking at it for long hours easy. I’ve spent too long placing trees just so, to make my country club look its best.
I confess also to enjoy it as an actual golf game, though it lacks any of the complexity or sensible camera angles of its golfing peers. It’s not uncommon for these games to let you take a ride through your own construction, but in most, it was a novelty I’d perform only once. But I spent almost as much time golfing in SimGolf as I did balancing the books.
If only we lived in a world where more developers or designers could team up like this.