PBA Pro Bowling is here. FarSight Studios has taken the opportunity to bring a new bowling sim to the gaming community. It is not one of the major sports titles, but PBA Bowling looks to offer the fans a new and exciting version of the sport. Included in PBA Bowling are numerous bowling alleys, from dive alleys to outdoor and state of the art PBA venues. There are also a variety of different locales, a variety of oil patterns, bowling balls and PBA pros who create a realistic re-creation of the PBA Tour.
PBA Pro Bowling is successful in many areas, but there are some aspects of PBA Pro Bowling where FarSight Studios puts it in the gutter. So let us take a deeper look at PBA Pro Bowling and determine how this sim holds up.
What I Like
PBA Pro Bowling delivers on the graphics front. Each of the real pros looks spot on, and the game captures the uniqueness of all of them. The pros have their specific bowling styles, and the commentators provide historical success on each pro. From the shine and design of the bowling balls to the spin and reflection of the oil on the lanes, it all works here.
The lighting and camera view of the AI bowler gives you a replicated view of what you would experience watching on TV. Each venue played at will also have its own specific characteristics. These include a variety of backdrops, ranging from dive-bar-style lanes to PBA tournament locations. Each graphical touch between venues creates an individual feel that gives the locations a fresh feel and experience.
My expectations were not extremely high when booting the game up. Regardless, the gameplay is solid. It also delivers decent presentation and commentary. Each spare opportunity you have will be accompanied by commentary relating to the tour average success rate. This is a nice touch that makes picking up spares more rewarding.
The actual gameplay is done well but is a bit bare bones. You have one character to play with and you cannot change camera views. There is some learning curve to be successful. Each bowling ball has its own characteristics to evaluate. Weight, hook, and control will all impact how hard you throw the ball and how much spin you should put on it. The overall controls of the game are simple. You use your right stick to throw the ball, and accuracy is determined by the straightness of pulling the right stick back and pushing forward. Speed is determined by how fast you push the right stick forward. When the ball is going down the lane, you must then add spin by pushing the left stick in the direction you want the ball to spin. This is similar to a breaking putt in golf. If you hit it too hard, the ball won’t break. If you hit it too slow, the ball will break too much.
The learning curve in PBA Pro Bowling is to know what the oil pattern is, and thus know the correct speed to match up to the amount of spin you add. Correctly putting all three of these variables together will lead to big numbers. The AI in-game is realistic. The pro bowlers you match up against will very rarely miss the pocket when bowling. They also rarely leave a frame open during a match. This requires you to be on point and time all of your variables to keep pace.
The depth of the in-game equipment is okay. There aren’t as many options as I thought but it’s not bad. There are a variety of bowling balls that can be selected and added to your arsenal. You can use tickets or pins to purchase locked balls and improve your ball effectiveness. In arcade mode, you can use balls with special features that can improve your ability to knock down pins. You can select and level up several types of bowling balls with different weights and attributes like speed, hook and control.
There are also a substantial amount of oil patterns to accompany several venues. Oil patterns can be selected individually in quick play so you can take advantage of needed practice prior to a pro competition. Knowing the oil is a major part of bowling, as this will impact your line and ultimate success.
What I Don’t Like
PBA Pro Bowling would have been far more impressive had there been additions to multiple areas of customization. There is no option to customize your character’s features. Unfortunately, the only option is to play as the transparent model developed for the user. You’re unable to change clothing, height, weight, skin tone, etc. You’re basically left with one character to look through as you prepare each time you hit the lanes.
Secondly, there is no bowling ball customization. It would have been fantastic to edit and create your own bowling ball. The ability to change graphics, colors, text, etc. would have made for a completely customizable experience. The same goes for the lanes themselves.
I was also disappointed in the fact that you can’t change the camera view. You can only play the game from the first-person point of view. When the AI bowls, you view a wider broadcast-style presentation that is a lot more visually pleasing. I would have liked the option to set my line and spin from a first-person view, but then have my character bowl from a broadcast view. This would have created a total broadcast experience and enhanced the flavor of big-time events.
FarSight Studios makes a solid attempt with its addition of PBA Pro Bowling to the gaming community. The game is graphically pleasing with a variety of venues, bowling balls and pro bowlers. Solid commentary complements the gameplay, and provides useful mentions of each pro bowler’s history and the tour average success for each shot you face. Ball and pin physics are done very well. They may even be some of the best I have seen in a bowling game.
However, the lack of character customization, equipment customization and additional settings leaves this title as more of a spare than a strike. I’m pleased with what PBA Pro Bowling has to offer, but I wish there was more here. That being said, if you’re desperate to get back on the digital lanes, pick yourself up a copy of PBA Pro Bowling. It may be a title that is right up your alley (sorry, I’ll see myself out).