Leader Board
Copyright/Publisher: Access Software, Release Year: 1986,
Genre: Golf, Number Of Players: 1 to 4

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 traveled 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.

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 this 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 enact 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).

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 nag (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 bail 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.

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. Leaderboard reflects this quite accurately, allowing a greater flexibility in shot positioning.

DISK OR CASSETTE AND WHY
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 needed 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 the initial loading time. The disk version comes complete with a protection dongle that 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 of July - suitably American independence day.

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 golf 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.
AIM, POWER AND SWING
Your shot is aimed via the direction cursor, but various influences must be taken into accout 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 off 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 wind and selected direction, two other vital items affect your shoot, 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. Snapping is done by re-pressing the fire button at the deired moment as the power bar descends 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.

Julian Rignall
I normally associate golf with total boredom, bad American Express adverts and highly coloured twenty-two inch bellends, 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.

P.S.
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 end for the first time you can play a golf simulation that approaches the real thing. I'm only surprised it has taken so long fore 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 attentions soon to a 'links' style British course with bunkers! It's qualities and its single and multi-player options make Leader Board a great game for everyone.

Gary Penn
After suffereing 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 swush 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!


INTRO SCREEN

PRESENTATION 95%
Good sensible and comprehensive documentation. Plenty of useful options and it looks good on the 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 the sound, the rating reflects the superb accuracy of the spot FX.
HOOKABILITY 97%
Couldn't be easier to get into and everything about the game grabs you from the word go.
LASTABILITY 97%
72 holes to play and varying difficulty levels should keep you tied to the screen for a long while. 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 98%
A finely polished sports game likely to appeal even to those who don't consider themselves sports fans.


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