"Unfortunately, Brunswick Pro Bowling is hard to recommend to anyone, even the most hardcore bowling fan. Although the bowling mechanics are decent and there is a wealth of licensed Brunswick gear, they in no way balance the negatives. The lack of game modes and uninspired audiovisual design is a disaster; you’d be better of spending your money elsewhere."
Capturing the magic of the bowling alley has always proven to be a difficult task. There's no real substitute for grasping the ball and launching it as hard as you can down the alley, but developers keep trying to make successful bowling simulations. Brunswick Pro Bowling is the latest attempt, but despite its Brunswick-licensed equipment and simulation-style approach, it fails to deliver.
The act of bowling is simplified into two stages. Before throwing, you can adjust the direction, angle, and spin on your bowl. Once you’ve lined up your shot, the left analog stick is used to determine accuracy and power. Holding down on the stick starts a moving meter where your aim is to release on the sweet spot; this will get you the best throw possible. It’s a simple and accessible way to play the game, but the satisfaction soon diminishes; you’ll find it too easy to score strikes and spares using the same direction/angle/spin combination over and over again.
You can jump straight into a game with the quick play option or begin your career as a professional bowler. Quick play allows you to bowl a game against the computer or up to three friends. There are a handful of characters to select with varying skills, such as power and spin, but they don’t feel awfully different to play as. Beginning the career allows you to create your very own bowler, although the character creator is disappointingly limited; you’ll find it difficult to transfer your features to your avatar. From there, it’s on to the league. Participating in league nights, a best-of-three match against the computer, is where you’ll spend most of the career. Winning is rewarded with cash to spend at the pro-shop and new gear that will increase your bowler’s abilities. Your reputation also increases, which is a requirement if you want to enter the bigger tournaments.
Despite its efforts, the career mode is largely unsatisfying. The ease of the bowling system, coupled with the inconsistent AI, makes matches largely a formality. Although your opponents are perfectly capable of bowling strikes, they also come up with their share of poor shots. You’ll also find that the load times are frequent and moderately long, which break up any sense of rhythm the game may have had.
Visually, Brunswick Pro Bowling is a disappointment. An effort has been made to make the environments feel more alive, but the presence of people bowling in the lanes next to you doesn’t really cut it. One of the game’s selling points, the Brunswick licensed gear, is diminished due to the lack of visual detail. Most people won’t be able to tell what kind of ball they’re bowling with, and to be frank, most people won’t care; bowling enthusiasts will be the only group to have a remote interest. The actual character models are equally disappointing; the words blocky and bland come to mind. If that wasn’t bad enough, the disappointing character models are plagued by poor animations. There is little variety in the swing each player takes, and the small number of celebratory animations means you’ll be seeing them quite often.
In terms of sound design, they’ve got the key sound effects right. The sound of the ball travelling down the alley and the pins getting hit is just right. Unfortunately, this isn’t echoed in the background music. Dull, repetitive, and unmemorable tunes drone out of your speakers, both while you’re bowling and in the menus. It might not sound like such a problem, but some variation in the background music might have spiced things up a little bit.
Unfortunately, Brunswick Pro Bowling is hard to recommend to anyone, even the most hardcore bowling fan. Although the bowling mechanics are decent and there is a wealth of licensed Brunswick gear, they in no way balance the negatives. The lack of game modes and uninspired audiovisual design is a disaster; you’d be better of spending your money elsewhere.
Freelance review by Paul Josua (November 02, 2007)
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