Brunswick Pro Bowling Review (PS3)
Bowling has been a staple of motion-controlled mini-games since its inception on the Wii in Wii Sports. And it’s sort of easy to see why: It’s a familiar game that lends itself to intuitive motion controls. In other words, just about anyone, including your grandfather, should be able to pick up a controller and virtually bowl.
I say should, because Brunswick Pro Bowling is far from intuitive. The controls are inconsistent and frustrating, removing any enjoyment from a sport that has been the backbone of the genre.
Controls are the biggest issue in Brunswick Pro Bowling. They seem designed for the Move controller, but they also allow for rather shoehorned Sixaxis control. After a number of sessions with this game, I was not able to generate consistent or expected results with either control scheme. To be clear, this is completely different than saying the game is hard or has a steep learning curve.
For instance, spins were not the intuitive flick of a wrist you would expect, especially if you have enjoyed other bowling simulators. Instead, exaggerated movements produce seemingly uncontrollable movement. Additionally, the speed of the ball does not seem to be related to the speed of your throw, which is probably the most egregious flaw for a game of this type. It’s very frustrating to have really no idea what’s causing your ball to slowly creep down the lane.
Part of the problem seems to be in the way the game handles the Move controller. This is not one-to-one input, as you might expect. Instead, your backswing starts the bowling animation; your swing forward indicates release. This reduces the great feeling of control found in other bowling games, and it produces a very stiff experience that seems removed from user control.
Besides these Move control issues, the Sixaxis option is not much better. It favors the often overlooked internal motion sensors in lieu of any button or analog control. This is not a terrible choice, but it certainly reduces the already low accessibility. Swinging the controller around is not the most natural thing, although the results are a little more consistent (though less fun) than the Move controller.
In either case, lining up the shot on the lane is a bit of a chore. Worse yet is that in some cases it does not seem to make a difference. It’s very difficult to skirt the edge of the gutter with any kind of regularity; often it simply drops right in the gutter. These control problems undermine what could be a fun party game.
There is a pretty vanilla Career mode with little customization or incentive to keep playing. More fun than that, however, is a series of challenge modes called Spare Challenges. These are not full of over-the-top crazy lanes or misplaced obstacles; instead these are real splits and pin arrangements that you might find in-game. In addition, tournaments and high-score challenges round out the mode set.
Graphically, this is an average looking game with not much in the way of mentionable style, beyond lots of neon. The little strike/spare signs look especially dated, but I’m guessing the developers were going for a "retro" feel. In the end the whole game just ends up looking a little cheap.
So, in all, Brunswick Pro Bowling is hampered by poor controls, which is a serious crime for a motion-controlled bowling simulator. It’s not going to appeal to many as it is, and minus the accessibility, this game loses even more luster. Keep grandpa away from this one.
Even given better controls, this game would simply be an average game: fun but ultimately shallow. If you are hungry for an in-home bowling experience, you should look elsewhere.
In the Alley: A solid bowling simulator crippled by inconsistent and spotty controls, which eliminate the accessibility and fun.
Visuals: Unremarkable and rather bland graphics do nothing to hurt or help this title.
Audio: Replace "graphics" with "audio" in the above sentence.
Entertainment Value: The controls will really hurt your enjoyment of the game. Those with enough patience to persevere probably won’t find much to keep bringing them back.
Learning Curve: The controls are tough, but I’m not sure more time would help. This isn’t as intuitive or “pick up and play” as other bowling games.
Online Play: Online play is supported should you want to take the frustration online.
Score: 4.0 (Bad)