I will admit that I was pumped to check out Brunswick Pro Bowling after my initial experience with PlayStation’s Move controller. The accuracy and fluidity of the sports games in Sports Champions was remarkable. Take that into account and add HD graphics to Wii Bowling and you had to have a winner on your hands right? Well not all is pleasant in the land of lanes as Brunswick suffers from some tacked-on motion controls that make the game feel more like a chore to play than an actual enjoyable experience.
As far as bowling games are concerned Brunswick offers up a nice array of modes and options. You have the standard career which benefits from the license. There are also tournaments in both 1-on-1 variety and team matches. You can team up with the CPU or team up locally with some friends. My favorite mode though was the Spare Challenges where you are given a setup of pins to pick up. These range from challenging to downright brutal, really testing your bowling game skills. Multi-player is also available in both local and online flavors featuring nearly all of the same modes as the offline portion. Needless to say you get quite a bit of content for the cheaper price tag.
In order for all of this to work well though the controls need to be in place, and sadly the dreams of having an HD version of Wii Bowling are crushed within the first few minutes of gameplay. Blame it on Wii Bowling for making the feel of the game more casual than real bowling, but the first frame I played was all over the place. My speed ranged from 3mph to a whopping 12mph regardless of how fast I would swing my arm. The consistency just didn’t feel right at all. After some practice and calibration with the camera, I finally did get the hang of when to release the ball, but everything still felt out of wrong.
Now I know some players will cry foul or say I don’t know how to bowl, but frankly that is kind of the point. Videogames are supposed to offer some leniency and assistance to make the experience more fluid and approachable. The Move controls on Brunswick simple just left me more frustrated than entertained. This could all be forgiven if the game offered a standard controller option, because it really is chock full of great content, but alas the controller layout also utilizes the motion controls; and to a much more frustrating end. Here you hold down on the d-pad and swing the controller back in the same motion as you would with the Move controller. It is disappointing that neither control scheme offers up a solid pick-up-and-play function making the game hard to approach from a casual perspective.
Visually the game looks and feels like a lower-priced title. The menu navigation is the opposite of elegant and the in-game visuals don’t fare much better. When a downloadable game (namely High Velocity Bowling) looks better than your boxed title, you have a problem. Animations are stiff and character models are very clunky. I like the themed lanes, but rarely will you feel a difference playing in each one of them. Sound is nearly non-existent and what is there is definitely forgettable. Overall the presentation in this game is downright disappointing.
Brunswick Pro Bowling is a fantastic package wrapped in some questionable control schemes. If you have patience and dedication you can learn the nuances and be throwing strikes in no time. My problem is that after so many years and advancements we cannot replicate something that was packed in for free. Even for PS3-only owners High Velocity Bowling offers a more manageable and approachable control scheme for all users. It is a shame that so much awesome content is dampened by the poor implementation of motion-controlled support.
Review copy provided by publisher.