Albatross18: Realms of Pangya is a free downloadable, massively multiplayer online (MMO) golfing game for the PC/Windows. I know what you're thinking... MMO golf?! Well, its not so hard to imagine, is it?
Game mechanics are simple enough for anyone to understand and similar to those seen in home console golfing games. Hitting the space bar activates your power bar, which then returns across the screen to be hit a second time, determining your accuracy. Hitting the accuracy bar just right allows for a special "Pangya" shot. Pangya shots have the utmost accuracy, and allow for special button combinations to be made for extra range, among other things. If you make a lot of good shots, your power meter fills up allowing you to make, guess what, power shots! Power shots are sometimes crucial to special button combination shots.
Editor's note: this review was submitted by JIG reader, Tomoki, using the game suggestion/review form, with additional analysis provided by JIG contributing author, Andrew.
To separate it from other golfing games, Albatross18 introduces fun items like "Nerve Stabilizer" which slows your power bar as you make a shot. Or a wind stopper to reduce the wind to 1M temporarily.
Other items include clothes, which although they are fashionable, can also augment your stats to help you along the way. Need some extra power? Save up your Pang and get those shoes! You can also buy special balls, Phoenixes, which have their own special abilities when used.
Albatross18 also sports fun and imaginative venues to play on. From the beginner stage "Blue Lagoon", to the super hard "Sepia Cannon"! (Currently not available in US version, though coming soon.) It requires a free sign-up to download the client. Sign-up takes less than a minute and play is free! Hope to see you all playing :)
Analysis: This is one of the first games in what is looking like a wave of casual oriented multiplayer games. The game has a strong console game feeling. It's mostly reflex based, with some strategic planning (don't forget to look out for the wind). On that note, it's easy to pick up and easy to play. The players are generally either silent or friendly, so there is certainly a social aspect to the game, especially since there is no real option to play solo. The closest thing to solo play is that you can play in 'family mode', which means hot-seat with all the items you have on your character. I didn't really mess with it, but I imagine this would be fun if you have a few friends over that you want to play the game with.
There are a few features of the game that are worthy of nitpicking. Character progression is relatively slow, but you do level up over time, and as you improve you will gain pang as increasing rates. In addition, it is possible to invest 'real world' money in buying items. So you can end up playing with people who have an advantage because they were willing to sink in the cash. However, due to this being a skill based game, and due to the fact that you do have the same opportunity to get roughly the same quality of items even if you don't pay (it just takes longer if you're not willing to pay), it shouldn't be a show stopping issue.
The game itself, once installed, is very casual friendly. It's possible to load it up and play anywhere from fifteen minutes (2 person and 3 hole games) to a hour or more (4 person and 18 hole games). I recommend trying to either start or join games that only have 2-3 players, as the more players you have, the longer in between turns you have to wait. So unless you really want to play with a group of friends, the best way to keep the games short and the play time high is to play with a smaller group of people.
In conclusion, the registration and client download might be a barrier to some. However, a quick and simple game mechanic coupled with character advancement and customization, not to mention a healthy amount of socializing, makes it an appealing way to spend some gaming time. If this sounds like your sort of thing, head on over to the Albatross18 website and try it out for yourself. Click.