Mean 18

Mean 18
Company: Atari
Model #:
Rich Unruh (Programmer), James Zalewski (Graphics & Program), and Joe Simpko (Sound)
Year: 1989
Also released on the Atari 7800


Golf... Some people seem to enjoy this sport, while the rest of us think it's about as much fun as watching paint dry.  However with the advent of the computer era, clever programmers were able to take golf and expand its core audience by concentrating on the relative few moments of action in the game, and removing all the walking around and endless waiting.  Then again, there are still those of us who think golf is dull beyond all belief.


Mean 18 was one of the more popular golf simulations of its day.  Produced by Accolade for a variety of systems including the Atari 7800, Atari ST, Apple IIGS, and PC, Mean 18 attempted to bridge the gap between serious golf sims and more action oriented golf games.  Sometimes this works, and sometimes this doesn't.  Mean 18's attempt is decidedly mixed.  The game is action oriented, but the interface, although simplified is still cumbersome.  Still, for a late 80's golf sim, it ain't bad.


Mean 18 is the standard 18 hole golf game.  Each hole contains the standard sand traps, water hazards, trees, and roughs.  At any time you can press the select button to see where on the course you currently are, and the path you have taken.  You can select your club by pressing up and down and change your view by pressing left or right.  Selecting the right club for each hole is the key to success, while changing your view will allow you to shoot in the proper direction.


Once you have everything lined up appropriately, you must press the fire button to swing.  Swinging is a two step process the first time you press the button your golfer will start his backswing, while pressing the button again will start his forward swing.  Timing your back and forward swing is the key to winning the game.  If you don't time the swing right, you will overshoot the hole, or worse yet, slice the ball into a sand trap.  To time your swing properly you must use the gauge on the side of the screen.  Each part of your swing is represented by arrows that move up and down the gauge, alerting you as to when you're about to over or under swing.  Learning how to use this gauge will greatly increase your chances of making that perfect swing.


Once you make it near the hole, the game will switch to an overhead view and you will have to carefully putt the ball into the hole.  To make this task slightly easier, a line radiates out from the club showing you roughly the direction the computer believes the ball will travel.  If you successfully make the putt, you will be taken to the next hole.


So how does the Atari XE version of Mean 18 stack up to the others?  Graphically the XE version is similar to the 7800 version, with slightly blockier graphics and less colors.  The color pallet is also much darker and drabber than the 7800 version, but this is most likely due to the limitations of the graphics mode used.  There are few sounds in the game, apart from the sound of the ball being hit and landing at its destination.  Then again, golf is one of the few sports where silence is the rule rather than the exception.


So how about the gameplay?  Sadly this is where the XE version starts to lose ground.  Mean 18 attempts to be innovative by redrawing the screen each time you move the ball or the direction changes.  Unfortunately it takes the poor memory starved XE 18 seconds to redraw the screen.  Yes that's right, 18 whole seconds!  Given that you're almost guaranteed an average of three to five screen draws a hole, the excessive drawing time absolutely kill the game.  While golf isn't exactly the fastest game on earth, having over a minute of load time on each hole is unacceptable, especially given the fact that this is a cartridge game!  Rumor has it that a more complete (and faster) version of the game exists.


Whether it was the excessive load times or the collapsing 8-bit market that killed off Mean 18 is unknown, but in its current state the game is almost unplayable.  Atari would almost undoubtably have sent this one back for further refinement, rather than release it in its current state.  Mean 18 is proof that not all unreleased games are lost gems...


Version Cart Text Description
?????? None Final Version


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