When Crave announced it would be publishing Brunswick Pro Bowling for the Nintendo Wii, we couldn’t help but get excited for what would no doubt be the ultimate party game. Nintendo’s very own Wii Sports: Bowling paved the way with spot on controls and a sense of speed that allowed for quick pick-up games with the friends and family, but the promise of 10 playable bowling alleys, a career mode, customizable characters, a pro shop to purchase authentic gear and ball upgrades seemed to make Wii Sports Bowling look like an afterthought. Unfortunately, what sounded like a six-pack strike on paper somehow ended up in the gutter.
Once you’ve customized your character or picked through the various preset bowlers, you’ll quickly see how different “Brunswick Pro Bowling” is than its Wii Sports counterpart. Where you could quickly step forward, hold the B button and Wii Remote at 90 degrees, pull back, swing forward and release in Wii Sports, you’ll have to clear more floor space to take a proper 4 to 5 step bowling swing and release and twist the Remote perfectly to get a pro like curve down the bowling lane. It literally took us a few frustrating frames to get the timing down. To add to the frustration, Crave decided to animate the bowler in a slow and precise way that doesn’t move in sync with your Remote. We never really felt connected to the animated bowler and thus it took us out of the game. Once you get over the fact that this is not Wii Sports: Bowling and you get accustomed to the controls, there is actually a lot of depth to the gameplay. Unfortunately, casual gamers (Wii’s prime market) may not have the patience to get that far as it takes quite a lot of Remote skill to accomplish strikes.
Oil patterns play a significant roll in Brunswick Pro Bowling. Early in your career you’ll be introduced to very forgiving patterns that allow for straight shot strikes with very little hook. However, as you advance to higher rankings you’ll be introduced to difficult oil patterns, requiring specific hooks and spot on aiming to take down the 10 pins. The fact that oil plays such a vital roll in the gameplay is a commendable addition, but we couldn’t get over the fact how difficult it was to determine how to send the ball down the alley.
Wii Sports Bowling utilized Nintendo’s Mii characters, which was fun to a certain extent, but you couldn’t upgrade your characters statistics. Accumulating 1000 points in the game would net you a pro ball, but that was merely an aesthetic feature rather than improvement in your game. Brunswick Pro Bowling comes with a limited character attribute generator. Although, we would have liked to see more options and a smoother presentation, we were impressed by the number of game enhancing Brunswick gear you could purchase in the pro shop as you progress through Career Mode. The attributes are broken down into arm strength, accuracy, hook control, stamina, and reputation. Reputation points can be gained by purchasing clothing and eye wear and is vital when facing tough opponents to throw off their game. The ability to upgrade your character is a nice addition, but there’s that casual gamer in us that would have preferred to play with our Mii characters.
From the offset players have the option of choosing between the Quick Play, Career, customize your character, or visit the pro shop. Quick Play mode allows up to four players to bowl through 10 frames with relatively pro level character stats. You’re also given the option to utilize any configured bowlers from the Career Mode. In Career Mode you start out with a bare bones player. Your overall skills are low and you will notice right away how differently the game controls over Quick Play mode. Once you win a few games, purchase some gear, and get used to the precise controls you’ll start to appreciate the game.
After spending a considerable amount of time with the game we’ve managed to break the steep learning curve and now consider the game to be fun, especially, with more than two players. However, we have to emphasize that this is in fact a bowling sim title and not the pick-up and play style of Wii Sports: Bowling. If you’re a diehard bowling pro, or think that you are, then you might appreciate the advanced gameplay mechanics that Brunswick Pro Bowling has to offer. If you consider yourself a casual gamer then you might want to stick with Wii Sports to send that virtual marble down the oil slicked pine.
– Jason Thomas