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PBA Pro Bowling Review: A Quality Spare

PBA Pro Bowling

PBA Pro Bowling Review: A Quality Spare

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.

Camera View

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.

Bottom Line

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).


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  1. "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."
    That's exactly why I'm not getting it. Also, the inability to play as any of the pros and create custom  tournaments. That would have increased its replayability by miles and should have been common sense from the developers. Oh well.
    I'm shocked there isn't an absolutely stunning bowling sim for XBox One. I have one for $3.99 on my Macbook Pro and love it, but it's for solo play only against AI, and it's played w/ the trackpad. Bowling is still a very popular sport and again I don't get why there aren't several really excellent titles for modern consoles. Just a good solid basic game with fabulous graphics/physics w/ head-to-head play w/ friends is what I'd love to have. Developers put too much into bells n whistles while missing the basics. I bought PBA Pro but returned it for a refund once installed and discovered to have no option for H2H play.
    I refuse to buy a bowling game that doesn't give me the option to set the ball spin before the release. I've bowled a lot and don't ever remember being able to set the spin after I've thrown the ball. I hate that about bowling games. Tiger Woods golf was the same way. It was fun for a bit but got boring quick after constantly planting every shot within' a foot or two from the cup.
    I want realism.If you can control the spin after the release, that's arcade mode if you ask me. Forget all the exploding ball crap! If it makes the game more difficult that's great. Bring it on! Lol
    You made some valid points, most that I agree with - lack of camera angles, customization. But your point about ball spin (and it seems a lot of people) is flat-out wrong. I'm playin' the game in Jan. '21. There are two modes of play: Simulation or Arcade. You make this choice in the beginning. If you play Sim. mode, you set both spin and power 'before' the release. After that, you can do nothing but watch and pray. However, in Arcade Mode you can add spin after the release. Also in Arcade Mode, you can buy balls with special features that do, well, who knows what...don't really care. So I'm not sure what game others are playing, but thats how it works in my copy.
    Second point. I love the reviewer's comment, "It might be some of the best pin physics he has ever seen". Really, what exactly does "might be" mean? Tell me, be specific, what console bowling game has better pin physics? The pin physics engine in this game is light-years ahead of any other console bowling game...and I understand the 2021 version is even better. And if a PC bowling game is out there somewhere that has better pin physics, I really want to know, I'll try it.
    I love the game. Say what you want, but there hasn't been a decent professional bowlers tour game on console EVER! This is a first, unless you want to go back to Brunswick Pro Bowling for PS1.

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