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Links for OS/2- by Colin L. Hildinger


If you've been using PC's for any length of time, you've probably seen a number of golf games come and go. While there have been many quality golf games, variations of Links by Access Software have remained the standard by which all others are measured. From the original VGA mode Links, to Links386 Pro, to Links LS, no other golf game is as widely recognized as the Links series. Many of you may not be aware that the popular Microsoft Golf for Windows, one of the few true successes in Microsoft's "Home" series, is actually just a licensed version of Links for Windows and not an original game by Microsoft.

Now On OS/2!

Now this game has been brought to OS/2 by Access Software and Stardock Systems. The final version is set to ship in early June so it should be available shortly after you read this.

Links for OS/2 is one of the final results of IBM's now abandoned efforts to court game developers to write games for the OS/2 platform. Like the other ports which were made as a result of IBM's campaign, Links was ported by Jim Thomas of SoftPort (formerly WinWare). Thomas has also done such ports as Doom I and II (never released by IBM), SimCity Classic (DUX never released the DIVE version of this), SimCity 2000, SimTown, and Widget Workshop.

Despite its common heritage though, Links has advantages over some of the other games that have been ported to OS/2 to date:

The Game

I've spent the last week playing a very late beta version of Links for OS/2, and one of the things that really impressed me was the fit and finish of the game. Even though there were a few minor cosmetic bugs in the beta that I received, none affected game play, and they are sure to be fixed by the final release in June, as I reported them to Stardock. Links has more polish than any game released for OS/2 that I have seen to date. It could stand toe to toe with any Windows or DOS game.

Having played Links and Links386 Pro, I came into the game familiar with its controls and interface. Links plays in such a way that it is simple enough for someone who has never picked up a bag of golf clubs to play, yet someone who knows golf can control every detail. At its simplest, the player lets the computer caddie select the clubs for their shots and controls the backswing and the point at which the club strikes the ball. For those who revel in reality, you can manually set your stance (GIF, 6k) and the way the club face addresses the ball to create higher or lower shots with varying degrees of draw and fade.

The only part of the game that I couldn't replicate was a good bump and run game, though this is made up for in the rest of the short game, which was easier than real golf, at least for me. (I probably could have managed to play a bump and run game if I'd tweaked the stance and address some.)

The game also lets you customize your player (GIF, 14k) in several ways. You can change colors of outfits, skin, and hair, as well as sex, and player skill. Player skills range from beginner to professional, with the professional player being capable of out-driving Tiger Woods. The game keeps statistics not only for your player, but for each course, for those of you who enjoy that sort of thing.

It also has a very customizable interface. You have eight windows (GIF, 36.5k) which you can view and arrange within the main Links window. The game comes with a standard arrangement for opening the three windows you will usually use while playing the game (the main view and info and swing windows [GIF, 28.4k]). You can also save a specific arrangement, so you could have one arrangement for 640x480 and another quite different one for 1280x1024, or one arrangement for driving, one for chipping, and another for putting.

The sound in Links for OS/2 is also well done. This is the first game to use Softport's SimpleSound (tm) real time mixing interface, which is an interface to the DART engine written by Jim Thomas specifically for games. Jim wrote SimpleSound based on the knowledge he has gained from several years of experience in the computer game industry of what game programmers need to create high quality, real time sound effects. (In other words, it's a sound system developed specifically for people writing computer games.)

There are sound effects throughout Links for OS/2, ranging from swing sounds, to the player commenting during or after a shot. Each player comment is recorded in a male and female voice. You can assign your own sound or no sound at all to any of the dozens of sound events, and save specific sound setups. You can also turn each of the three categories of sounds (commentary, wildlife, and all other sounds) on or off as desired.

Links for OS/2 ships with two courses, the Firestone Country Club - South Course and Banff Springs. Each course comes complete with flyby (GIF, 12.2k) animations of each hole which tell about approach strategies and give information about the green or other information about the hole. There are also several course collections available from Access (which are OS/2 compatible), so there is no need to play the same courses over and over. Just because you can't afford to spend thousands of dollars on greens fees doesn't mean you can't play the world's most famous golf courses!

OS/2 Specifics

As mentioned, the action in Links for OS/2 occurs simultaneously in each window. As the ball is flying away from the tee box (JPG, 21.2k) in the main view, it is traveling across the overhead view and toward the green in the green view. This is where OS/2's multithreading really stands out.

Links also takes advantage of OS/2's newer multimedia capabilities, DART and DIVE, so if you are still using hardware that doesn't support them, you will need to upgrade to play. (You can play with no sound, but it isn't quite the same -- I tried it.) Otherwise, the game should run on a wide variety of machines.

Support for three levels of detail is provided, each adjustable for the near, medium and distant ranges, and the best detail level for your system is automatically selected the first time you run the game. Since the game lets the player adjust the detail level, you can change it to higher or lower levels. Adjusting to too low a level for the near view is not something I would recommend, as it can make things look a little awkward, but the only thing adjusting to too high a detail level will do is make you wait for long periods between shots while your machine renders the terrain. On my Pentium 133 system, I was able to adjust all the detail levels to maximum without bogging down the play too severely.

Conclusions

Unless you have a severe aversion to this genre of game, I would recommend Links for OS/2. It plays well, has good graphics, and the best fit and finish of any OS/2 game I've played. Hopefully it will be successful enough to convince other game developers to support OS/2. And since it only took Jim Thomas a little over six months to complete the port, it should be theoretically possible to get whatever the next big hit is within a few months of its Windows release.
 * Links for OS/2
by Access Software
published by Stardock Systems
MSRP: US$49.95
Colin Hildinger is an Aerospace Engineering senior at Oklahoma State University and has been using OS/2 for the last 3 years. In addition to being the Games Editor for OS/2 e-Zine!, he maintains The Ultimate OS/2 Gaming Page and the AWE32 and OS/2 Page in his "spare" time.

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