Brunswick Pro Bowling bowls a solid sim bowling experience

Posted: September 27, 2009 in Sports

The game of bowling has been around since Ancient Egypt with the video games of the sport probably around as long as that or so it seems with all the iterations through the decades. On the iPhone/iPod Touch platform, more than a handful of bowling games exist, and unfortunately most of them aren’t very good. Sure, a few good arcade-type games (e.g. Midnight Bowling and Downhill Bowling) are out there, but a solid sim bowling game has been non-existent…until now. Brunswick Pro Bowling is a straight-up bowling game combining high-quality 3D graphics with well done ball and pin physics. While it could use additional bells and whistles, Brunswick Pro Bowling delivers a relatively true bowling experience.

First things first…Brunswick Pro Bowling is all about bowling and creating a more or less realistic simulation of the game. So you don’t have theme music, outlandish crowd noise (unless you score well and only at the end), and crazy looking opponents. What you do have is a rather immersive experience with realistic ball spin and hooks and pin physics coupled with the sounds of live bowling as balls make impact with pins.

The 3D graphics are top notch so much so that you can watch the spin of a ball as it speeds down the alley towards the pins. The pins themselves react as they should when a ball makes contact. For the most part, the alleys look like alleys, with the only visual exception being in the surrounding design. In addition to auto save, the game automatically reverts between landscape and portrait modes depending on how the device is held.

Brunswick Pro Bowling offers two game modes: Quick Play and Customize. Quick Play randomly selects a player, lane and ball. Customize is more involved where you can choose everything from the player and his throwing arm to ball type and arena. In addition, there are two player modes: single player and multiplayer. Multiplayer involves play with up to 4 AI (amateur, league and pro levels of difficulty) or humans via hot seat players. It’s unfortunate that there is currently no online multiplayer since this is well suited for it. Otherwise, the AI is well balanced, and I would suggest you play at the league and pro levels for some challenge.

The game offers a good degree of customization where you can select from 8 different players each with different characteristics in terms of strength, accuracy and hook, as well as whether they are left or right-handed In terms of arenas, there are 5 to choose from, although 2 are locked to start—Joe’s Alley, Houston, Dublin, Tokyo and Honolulu. Tokyo is unlocked when you score 150 or get a turkey (score 3 strikes in a row), while you need to score 200 or get a 6 pack (score 6 strikes in a row) to unlock Honolulu.

As for balls, there are 10 balls each with unique features based on hook potential, breakpoint shape, flare potential, and RG Average. 4 balls are locked until certain scoring challenges have been met (e.g. score 225 to unlock Wild Ride ball). These balls have names such as Avalanche Slide, Atomic Bomb, Python, Rattler, and the aforementioned Wild Ride to name a few. In any game, you can play with and switch between 3 different balls.

The physics in the game begin with the controls. The process of throwing the ball begins with lining up your bowling position. This is done through directional arrows which you can drag left or right. An aiming line allows you to aim the direction of the throw. One additional element to note is the oil patterns which impact lane conditions affecting ball direction. Each lane has a unique pattern that changes during the course of a game that impacts ball rotation and spin.

The game offers two throwing options: Touch and Motion. The touch control is done fairly well and very accurate from my time with it, allowing you to put a degree of spin on the ball. As is typical with most video games on the platform, you simply swipe upward to throw a ball—the faster the swipe, the stronger the throw. Where Brunswick Pro Bowling goes a step further is in the ability to put spin on the ball. To put spin into a ball, you swipe in a curved motion in the appropriate direction. This works like a charm, and it does take a bit of practice to get just the right spin to throw strikes consistently. Whether you throw straight or with a spin, you’ll be able to watch and see the movement as it rolls down the lane.

The Motion control is not something I would recommend especially if you have butter fingers. Literally, you hold your device in your hand with your thumb on the screen. As you swing your device and move your arm left or right to create spin, releasing your thumb will throw the ball down the lane. The controls work pretty well after overcoming a slight learning curve, although I would be wary about doing this too often.

The gameplay really does set Brunswick Pro Bowling apart from the arcade-style games. The single player games are ideal for practicing spin on the ball, and you may want to experiment with both right- and left-handed play for some extra challenge. Because of oil patterns and lane conditions, ball movement changes so you’ll need to alter your throw motion ever so slightly. The multiplayer competitions are actually pretty fun, but the AI is pretty basic on the amateur setting.

The local scoring keeps track of the top 10 best games, although a career mode would be welcome. Unfortunately, there also isn’t a replay option to record for example, your success to secure a spare from a split. In addition to a career mode, the game could use a more elaborate achievement system recognizing milestones such as strikes and spares, opponents defeated, and winning in certain bowling alleys.

Overall, Brunswick Pro Bowling offers a solid bowling experience on the platform with top notch graphics, realistic ball spin and pin physics, and entertaining single and multiplayer gameplay. While it lacks a few bells and whistles, the replay value is obvious for fans of bowling.

Albie Meter: 4 Stars (solid sim bowling experience with relatively easy-to-use controls; lacks online multiplayer and career modes; single and local multiplayer modes are done well and should appeal to bowling and sports fans)


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