Links Extreme Review
By Michael Richter |
Although there's been some fierce competition of late, there's no real doubt that Access is the established golf master. Their Links series has sold a bazillion copies over the years and until Deer Hunter hit the shelves was one of the most popular non-gamer games ever made. So what now? Links LS has already been on the shelves for ages, and the new version of Links won't be hitting shelves until sometime in the next century. The answer? Links Extreme.
While Links Extreme is built on the solid Links engine, it doesn't seem to follow in the footsteps of its big brother. The controls are basically the same as Links (the 3-click and you're off method), with only a few added variations, like an 'easy' swing feature where you just hit a button and off your ball goes into the wild blue yonder. Unfortunately, the controls and game engine seems much more sluggish in Links Extreme than it did in the regular game, with more pauses than the original.
One of the biggest letdowns of Links Extreme is that there are only 27 holes to play, a full 18 in Mojo Bay and 9 in Dimension X. Mojo Bay is definitely the better of the two, and uses a voodoo-inspired motif. The basic design is set up like a traditional golf course, but features wandering undead, talking skulls and huge monsters lurking in the water hazards. They don't affect your gameplay at all, but they do offer up some neat visuals while you wack a few balls around the course. All of the extra graphical touches look good enough, but the creatures are rather flat and stiff. Dimension X is a very hilly course that is set in the trenches of World War I - complete with diving biplanes and barricades. I comparison to Mojo Bay, Dimension X is a joke of a course, weighing in with only 9 holes, and is best utilized for multiplay deathmatches where you try to knock out your opponents with explosive balls.
The Links Extreme package also includes a Demolition driving range. Here the player gets 5 minutes and 20 exploding balls to hit as many objects as they can. Targets that are further away or moving faster are worth more points. Once you hit a certain point level, the environment changes and a new set of targets are presented. Most of the objects that you'll be aiming at in the game are the sorts of things that real golfers have been wanting to take a pot shot at for years - armadillos, lawn mowers and golf ball collectors are just a few of the hazards they'll get a chance to get even with. All in all, though, there's not really all that much to the driving range though, and the novelty will quickly grow stale.
The most extreme feature of Links Extreme is the 'kooky' balls ... it's also the best part of the game. Each time a golfer gets his turn to whack the ball, they get to choose between hitting a regular golf ball or one of several powered-up balls from their bag of tricks. Since these balls are limited in number, players have to be careful not to use up all of their best tricks before the game is up. The balls in the game are split into two groups, helpful balls and pranks balls. Helpful balls, like the rocket ball (which will give your ball a lot more distance), the ghost ball (which will enable your ball to travel through any obstacle) and the water skipper (which will skip or float on any water hazard it hits) are used before the turn and give the player a beneficial effect that will, if used correctly, get them in the hole faster. In addition to the special balls, you can also use prank balls after your turn, placing them on their opponent's tee in order to screw them up. Examples include the right and left turn balls (which travel half their distance and then take a sudden 45 degree turn), the worm burner ball (which skims along the ground and usually goes wayshort) and the super-bouncy ball (which bounces wildly until it comes to rest, usually a good distance from its intended target. Sure, the wacky balls are neat, but not enough of a hook to make Links Extreme worth playing for more than a few hours at most.
So, as it turns out, Links Extreme isn't all that extreme at all. It's basically just golf with some explosions and the walking dead. It's an interesting concept, but it could have been done much, much better. The thing I really wonder about is who this title is aimed at. Golf fans will loath the wacky game mechanics while action gamers will find Links Extreme boring.
-- Edgar Dupree