Back in the '80s, one of the more memorable sports games for the Atari 7800 was Ninja Golf. It was a traditional golf sim until you reached certain areas, and then your character--you guessed it--fought ninjas. Ninja Golf was ill-conceived, without a doubt, but Digital Bridges' attempt to throw a little RPG into dbi 3d Golf actually works really well.
Dbi 3d Golf is fairly detailed but welcoming enough for any player; any golf game with quick play as an option has a broad audience in mind. Besides the straight 18-hole play, you can also go against the computer opponent, the oddly named Steve Temple, or against a friend. With the latter, you'll be passing the phone between you and a buddy--unfortunately, there's no network play.
The golfing screen itself is minimalist but gorgeously detailed. Small icons show the weather and wind direction, and the par/stroke information is shown at the beginning of each stroke. The default view is an overhead view of the course, and you can use the 1 and 7 keys to survey up and down. An arrow, with a length representative of the selected club's range, can be moved with 4 and 6 to the desired direction.
Even cooler, pressing 0 will give you a 3D view of the course from your putting position. Not only are the graphics well done and accurate, but the perspective actually helps with determining your options in ways you couldn't from overhead--like if you really can clear that patch of trees ahead.
Once the direction and club are decided, pressing 5 (the action key) will bring up the swing meter. Shaped like a backward J, the meter rises to measure your power and then comes back down to a line to measure your accuracy. The closer you are to the line, the more accurate your putt. The higher you let your power go up, the harder it is to hit the line. I was able to get the hang of it by my second game (it took about 30 minutes to complete my first 18 holes).
And by my second game, I was totally hooked. Your character actually has experience points and stats, adding even more incentive for replay. Completing my first hole gave me 70 experience points, all of which went to my four attributes--driving ability, putting ability, woods, and irons. I was still ranked amateur at all four--after all, I was about 20 over par--but knowing that I could get to the next level by playing more made the game even more addictive.
The only letdown about dbi 3d Golf is the lack of computer opponent variety. Steve Temple is a heck of a player, but I still would rather have a choice of opponents. If I keep getting better, Steve's going to become less and less of an adversary. Also, there is only one course--more a limitation of the cell than of the game. As it is, just a little variety would have made this game perfect.
However, this is still one of the more addictive games I've played in a while. And, thankfully, there's not a ninja in sight.