Friday, November 2, 2007

Review: Tour the world's sweetest bowling alleys in "Brunswick Pro Bowling"

Note to any potential Wii developer thinking about making a bowling game: Consider the king, "Wii Sports," exhibit A.

Crave Games didn't flinch at the chance of trying to dethrone the champ of Wii bowling. In fact, "Brunswick Pro Bowling" brings additions that enhance bowling on the Wii.

If you are familiar with bowling in "Wii Sports," then you understand the basic setup. Your Mii duplicates your movements onscreen and you toss the ball. It's simple - and very, very basic. However, "Brunswick Pro Bowling" does it even better. At the beginning of the game, you can customize your avatar with tons of clothing options - from the color of your shirt and pants - to the kind of shoes your avatar will wear (The rental shoes totally rock). You can even buy new Brunswick bowling balls, shirts, shoes and accessories. As you advance, you unlock items you can buy in the Pro Shop. Still, give me the rental shoes!!!

There are just two modes - but they are more than enough to keep you busy. There's the quick play mode, where up to 4 players (yes!) can duel it out in multiplayer mode (in the quick play mode). Of course, the player in the lead after 10 frames wins. The next is the in-depth career puts you in the amateur leagues to start. From you, you can advance all the way to become THE Brunswick Pro Bowling Champion. As you win, you earn reputation points, earnings and your bowling average. Your progress is tracked in the league standings.

You can also select Practice Games in the Career Mode to refine your game. There are two game types - Pin Select allows you to set up the pin configuration you choose to practice several potential shots without pressure. The other game type, Standard, allows the player to practice on 10 pin sets in standard game play. The benefit? You earn reputation points AND improve your skills. Not a bad way to improve your game and earn rep - without competition.

Advancing through career mode also builds skill points that can be used to upgrade your bowler's performance in these areas - arm strength, accuracy, hook control, stamina and reputation. All of the areas benefit your game - stamina's great to maintain your performance during grueling tournaments - while arm strength is great for handling heavier bowls while maintaining ball speed. In-depth features? Compared to "Wii bowling," oh yeah.

Gameplay is solid - though it's definitely a lot harder than "Wii Sports." Your avatar reacts when you bowl a strike - either by pumping his/her fists or just raising their hands. Do anything less - especially get a gutter ball or two - sit back and watch them clown. I do admit - I love watching my avatar go nuts when I would knock over 9 pins on my first shot and hit oxygen on my try. It's pretty cool ...

A really cool feature is the ability to see the lane's patterns. It's called Oil Patterns. You can see how your ball will roll on different surfaces, and in what direction the ball will end up.

Control is very, very unforgiving on "Brunswick." Unlike "Wii Sports," the remote is very, VERY sensitive to your arm and wrist movements. The slightly twitch will send your ball in the opposite directions of your pins. It's definitely something a serious bowler - or gamer in love with simulations would love.

Graphics are good - they are better than "Wii bowling," and the avatars are very, very animated. And the locales are something unlockable - and pretty sick. You can bowl all over the world - from Houston, Texas to Japan. And each bowling alley is well detailed and remarkably, the environs are different too. Just like the other features, you can bowl in more alleys as you advance.

The only gripe I have with "Brunswick" boils down to the learning curve. If you have played "Wii Sports" bowling into a coma and want something different, it's an awesome simulation. It's loaded with features and really adds a lot of depth to bowling on the Wii. However, the average gamer may find themselves longing for the simple life with "Wii Sports" due to the learning curve.

It's definitely a step up from "Wii Sports," and the replay value rocks, but can be a wii bit frustrating for the average gamer.

Why I should care:
It's a pretty sweet bowling game on the Wii that adds way more depth for the sports than "Wii Sports" can dream of.

The good: A career mode that offers avatar customization, way-cool shoes (go for the rentals!), skill upgrades, nice visuals, cool bowling locales and multiplayer (up to 4) mode.

The bad: Controls are very sensitive - no online gameplay or options - steep learning curve (it's not "Wii Sports")

The ugly: My opponent's expression after hitting a gutterball

Overall: 8 (out of 10) - the only real drawback to this otherwise awesome game is the steep learning curve. With the Wii bringing a lot of nongamers to the table, having a game mode so dumbed down that a caveman could do it would be sweet. However, if you can look past that, definitely consider checking this title out. If you loved bowling with "Wii Sports" and want some real competition, check "Brunswick Pro Bowling" out.

See you in the alley ... and get the rental shoes!

No comments: