Mario Golf showed gamers that golf could be a fun, colorful, lively, and even silly experience. But most of all it showed us that the sport, even in its fantasy renditions, could be done well on the N64. Now comes CyberTiger - a game with undoubtedly the same mission but, unfortunately, with a different result. Not only does the game tap into the fantasy-golf market a bit late on the line, but its composition and technical merits are subpar at best.
There are several play modes in CyberTiger: stroke, skins, tournament, battle, Tiger challenge, match play, and driving range. When you first start the game, you can dive into a quick-play sequence with a player, a ball, and a course, or you can hop into the various modes. Most of these play modes don't really introduce many new concepts to the golf game arena. The stroke match is exactly that, the tournament mode is exactly that, the skins... and so on. What the game delivers is the concept of power-ups (and not just extending your stroke), the battle modes, the Tiger challenge mode, and the driving-range target practice.
In the driving range, you line up shots to hit the targets placed around the course. If you hit them, you'll earn up to nine power-ups such as a spinner (puts spin control on ball), a saw blade the ball goes through inanimate objects on course), a skipper (the ball goes through water traps), a no bounce (the ball sticks to the ground when it lands), a rocket (adds distance to your shots), a wind cutter (the ball cuts through heavy winds), accuracy (helps send ball to where you aim), and a mystery power up (acts as any of the other eight). These little treats would be amusing additions to a good golf game, but without a solid golf title in place, they do little to season the playing field.
The battle mode, besides being scarred by a horribly presented split screen, is a moderately amusing competition in which you attempt to "bomb" your opponents by aiming your ball right at the platform or green they are putting from - while they simultaneously do the same to you. The last player standing wins. Additionally, Tiger challenge is sort of like strip poker with your clubs.
The game features five true PGA courses in which you play the various modes. In addition, you'll unlock fantasy courses and open hidden players. If the game has one thing going for it, it is its speed. In fact, you can shut the system off entirely and be back into a round inside of a minute, at most. The game speed is pretty decent within play modes as well, provided you don't accidentally hit the replay button after every stroke.But a fast game doesn't make a pretty game. In fact, for a game with a name as purportedly high-tech as CyberTiger, the graphical offerings are anything but. In truth, CyberTiger on the N64 just might be one of the worst-looking N64 games we've seen in a while. The game looks worse than many of the first-generation titles the system broke its teeth on. The characters are blocky; the courses are sloppy and downright bizarre-looking; the fog is unbearable and unavoidable (Scotland is the home of golf, alas, but it's not excusable); and the golf balls (when viewed up close) look like Matisse cutouts, not orbs. CyberTiger' graphics vaguely attempt to ape the Mario Golf/Hot Shots Golf style, with less originality, and, frankly, much less beauty. The interface is unintuitive, featuring cryptic icons and animated goofy images in place of the concise and easy-to-understand meters typically found in golf video games. While the game has been positioned by EA Sports to appeal to novices, it's highly unlikely that most novices will have the encryption skills or the patience to wait out the learning curve in this game.
The audio is another CyberTiger breakdown. It's neither catchy nor interesting, but rather it's bland and nondescript. In fact, what there is of it is annoying. In CyberTiger for the N64, a large aural void compensates for the cheering and jeering found in other such "fast-paced, easy-to-play" golf games. At times the course seems downright lonely.
The CyberTiger controls are easy enough to grasp but difficult to master. Once you manage to get the hang of swinging by using the analog stick (pull back and then push forward), you'll quickly realize that the freedom of movement counts for little when you can't exactly control the power of your swing beyond what seems like an arbitrary range of 20 percent.
We had hoped to see more from CyberTiger on the N64, as the PlayStation version had arrived earlier this year and turned out just average. However, the tables have turned, and the N64 version fared poorly in all categories under the PlayStation version. Overall, CyberTiger just doesn't feel like a fun, escape-for-a-day-on-the-green kind of golf game. It's a chore to play and not even fun to look at. If you are a novice or a serious N64 gamer who wants a fun, fantasy-style title that still plays like an earnest game of golf, check out Mario Golf or hold off for Mario Golf 2 instead.