My Love for the Apple IIGS and Zany Golf
In 1987, I was five years old living in Clarkston, Michigan and for some reason, my mother made had just made the excellent lifechanging decision to buy a household computer. Our family didn't have a lot of money for things like that back then. My father barely worked and my mother was working her way through graduate school. It is surprising then that she did not pick a low end, more affordable computer. She picked an Apple IIGS.
The Apple IIGS for those that do not know was the next generation of the wildly successful Apple II computer. The GS stands for graphics and sound. Basically what the computer allowed for was excellent resolution for the time through Apple's extremely sharp RGB monitors. The speakers on this thing also added to the enjoyment. In short, if a game came out on multiple computer platforms, it looked and sounded best on the IIGS. In addition to the rather small library of IIGS games and software, the computer was also compatible with the entire line of thousands of Apple II games of the previous generation.
Over the next several years, applications and games started to filter their way into our house. These games were things enjoyed by my entire family. I learned to read on this computer using Reader Rabbit and learned math playing Math Blaster. By age six, I was waking up before anyone else booting on the computer and getting games started on my own. My mother would wake up and head into the living room to see me halfway through a game of Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego, Gold Rush or Maniac Mansion – a game to this day is still my favorite video game ever. That IIGS gave me an intense appreciation for what a computer could do and built it into my mind to this day.
I would have friends over to play games and my family would sit in and play as well. We didn't have multiplayer games, but there was on that we all loved and played together: Will Harvey's Zany Golf.
Zany Golf is not a terribly complex game. It's a mini golf game that starts with a giant scrolling animation showing off the graphics and sound. This wasn't simple 80s style computer music. This music was orchestrated with multiple tracks and playing sounds like I've never heard or since. Its music is still beyond categorization.
Playing Zany Golf was a rhythmic, hypnotizing experience with the most beautifully and diversely crafted levels I've ever seen in a game. One level you'd be at a typical windmill, the next you'd be clicking frantically to bounce a giant Hambuger to reveal the hole underneath and banking your ball off giant ketchup bottles to land in the hole. Then you'd be in a pinball table. Calling this game zany was definitely apt. To this day, I've not seen such a creative, well designed mini-golf game. The gameplay was also simple. You'd just use the mouse to select your ball and drag back a dotted line that indicated the direction and power you wanted to use to strike the ball. Because it was easy to control, my entire family including my sister, mother and father could enjoy it. Those memories of playing this with them are some of my fondest ones from my childhood.
But alas, time self-righteously passed and made us all move on. New computers came into our house and offered different experiences. Nothing though brought us together as a family like Zany Golf did. Nothing encoded itself onto me like that first Apple IIGS so sometime in college, I started to talk about that it again. I had to revisit those experiences. The nostalgia was and is unbearably strong for me to see and hear that game again. I asked my mother if maybe the IIGS and all those games were maybe tucked away into a closest somewhere. She is known for saving mostly everything from that time in our lives so I figured she'd have held onto the games we loved. Sadly though, her news to me was that she donated all of it to a local thrift store. Every game and piece of hardware gone.
Now, I don't know if you follow the retro video game collecting scene like I do, but old games have quite an economy around them. It's basic supply and demand like anything else. Games from the 80s started to skyrocket in price due to eBay coming online and this being a time when those 80s kids had jobs for the first time and the same intense nostalgia I had. Suddenly, these weren't distant childhood memories anymore. They were experiences we could easily order with a Buy it Now button and have delivered days later. So I looked up the Apple IIGS and some of the games I remembered. I was quite surprised to learn that Apple products much like today really do retain their value. Owning a IIGS again was out of my price range and impractical living in a college dorm. So I pushed the idea aside and instead chose to emulate those experience on my modern computer and use ROM files instead. It wasn't the same.
But alas, time moved on again. I graduated college and eventually got a decent paying job that allowed for me to having my own living space and money. I still desperately wanted an Apple IIGS again, so I jumped onto eBay and looked them up. To my surprise, a complete setup was affordable and easy to purchase. So I jumped on it. I eagerly waited thinking endlessly of the joy of playing around on a real IIGS again. It arrived and it was the same as I remembered. I loved the experience of using it.
I was able to track down a handful of loose games and play those. But here's the problem with retro games on Apple platforms. They run solidly so there is a large crowd of people that want them. Many have stopped working due to not being taken care of very well. And most people who still have good ones love them as much as I do so they do not want to sell them. So the titles I wanted are extremely expensive especially for a complete boxed copy.
It took years but I was able to find a boxed copy of my favorite game ever: Maniac Mansion on the Apple II. The box is in very poor condition and it does not have the original inserts – just the game and the box, but I proudly display it on my shelf.
But I waited years now... Not one copy of Zany Golf. Not a loose disc even. Nothing. It was like eBay didn't even know the game existed which is strange because the IIGS community usually ranks Zany Golf as the best game on the IIGS. Zany Golf did come out on other computers. It was released for DOS, Amiga, and even was ported to the Sega Genesis and those versions are all affordable and easy to buy. The Amiga version is the closest in quality to the Apple version, but the others are laughably bad. Here is a video of the DOS version with the same intro, but no music. Note: I did not make this video.
So clearly, the original Apple version was the one I wanted. I had accepted I would never own it and went on with my life. There are Compact Flash cards you can buy and download files to play on real Apple computers. They aren't super cheap cards, but essentially you can have any game you want playable on real hardware. There are many options for how this can work and I will dive into the variations and provide my recommendations at a later point. This was my solution for awhile and I introduced friends again to Zany Golf. I thought I was done.
But then something amazing happened and this is why I am telling this story.
I got a notification for eBay on an idle Tuesday morning. I setup lots of eBay search notifications so they email me immediately if certain things pop up for sale. After years of waiting, you can guess what popped up.
I frantically opened the listing and saw pictures of a box. A box in perfect condition that looked exactly like the one I had as a kid. I was convinced it was the same one, but thought that would be impossible. Every insert was still with the game and the game was shown working perfectly. It was also in mint condition. I knew I had to have this. Then I saw this was an auction and there was no option to Buy It Now. I had to do something. To me, this was a virtual once in a lifetime listing. For about 8 years, there were zero listing of this game and this one was perfect. Nothing better would ever come along. So I looked up the seller so I could message them to work something out. I had to make this copy mine anyway possible.
Upon looking over the seller's profile, I saw that they were selling the old computer junk their Grandfather had collected. He recently passed away and they needed the money to support their grandmother's living expenses. My heart went out to them. I scrolled a little further and saw something beyond amazing.
The family lived in Waterford, Michigan.
Waterford, Michigan borders Clarkston, Michigan the small town in which I grew up. I would say it's not only possible this is the exact same copy I had as a child, it's very likely. The odds of two of them in great condition popping up in the same town is not high. Remember, the IIGS did not sell very well and this game sold even less well. The ones that would still be around at all has proven very low and the ones in my hometown... well, the odds are very low of this happening twice.
I was beyond ecstatic. I sent them a message instantly telling them my story. The best they were willing to do was allow for me to come pick up the game in person IF I WON the auction. The countdown clock was ticking and I had as much money as I needed to make this game mine.
So long story short, there was another person bidding and interested in the game, so the bids went blazing to the last second. But for a price of $103, I was able to go pick up and bring home once again my boxed copy of Will Harvey's Zany Golf!
I've collected video games nearly my entire life and have thousands by now that I love deeply. This is not my most expensive game and most people don't even remember it or recognize it on my shelf, but Zany Golf on the Apple IIGS is without a doubt my most prized game in my collection. It's so nice to have finally filled in the biggest gap in my collection after all these years. It is truly a masterpiece and looks amazing on my shelf once again as I'm sure you can tell.
I'm extremely grateful to the family that allowed me to pick up this game. It was a day I will never forget and I will treasure this always.