Rather than reviewing another SNES game that nobody’s going to play, I decided that I would review a current game this month. And by “current,” I mean that this game is my “current” addiction. In case you missed it in last month’s Cheat Codes for Life, my soul is currently owned by a Korean game full of Brazilians and Chinese people. Yes, I know that describes basically every MMO game. The one in question here, however, is Albatross 18: Season Two.
When I first heard about the game, I had trouble believing it would be fun. A golf game for the PC? Every time I’d played a game like that, it ended up less fun than watching Windows shut down. Could it really be possible for a golf game to be fun? Sadly, as with any MMO, there is no clear answer to this question. When you’re stuck playing with random people on the good ol’ Internet, there’s always the chance to have a bad time, no matter how good the game is.
Online hooligans aside, though, does Albatross 18 actually manage to be fun? When I first started playing, I was surprised by how much fun the game was. The controls—mostly just the arrow keys and space bar—were easy to learn and simple to use. The concept and method of play were a little more difficult to grasp, but learning how to play well is the largest part of the game. Playing together with a few friends who got me into it, I had a great time.
Unlike Hot Shots Golf and other similar games, Albatross 18 has a more fantasy feel to it. The courses look like something you’d expect to see in an RPG, not a golf game. Giant windmills, laser cannons and cat-shaped pyramids get in your way, while ball teleporters and hidden paths help you get to the hole faster, if you can make the shot. Following this fantasy feeling, there are also special shots like the Tomahawk and Cobra that would make real golf much cooler if they existed in real life.
Yet, even with all of these great ideas, the game still manages to turn stale within days after you’ve downloaded it. As with nearly all MMOs, Albatross 18 suffers from a lack of point. In single player games, there’s usually a definite ending—something to complete or a story to resolve, and a point where you put the game down and move on to the next one. In a game where the reasons to play include fun and competition, the first usually gets beaten down by the second, especially when for-fun players are forced to play with competitive players.
This problem gets worse when the truly competitive players choose to spend real money to buy new equipment. Most equipment can only be purchased using real money, and, as a general rule, these are superior to what little you can buy with in-game money. Combining this with the need to spend a week of for-fun play in order to afford any of this inferior equipment quickly turns the game into yet another grindfest. Prepare to see a lot of the first three holes of Ice Cannon.
Graphics-wise, the game is about average for games these days, and its sound and music fit in with the visual aspects. While the game’s visuals are conceptually unique for a golf title, they’re nothing amazing overall.
As for my final word on the subject? If you have a friend or two and a couple of hours to kill, the game is amazing. It’s great fun for as long as you can laugh at your failures and not care about who’s winning. Step into a public game, however, and you’ll quickly find yourself drowning in the flood of non-English-speaking players, competitive losers and just plain morons. I’ve come across a few good people in the public games I’ve played, but it usually ends up that we leave that game to go play with each other in a private room.
Hey, at least I’m not reviewing the Wii version.
Anyway, prepare to spend a lot of time and/or money if you want to play competitively, though the game itself is free. Otherwise, I hope you have a few friends who want to play. If not, this game probably isn’t the one for you.