Reviewed: March 17, 2011
Released: February 15, 2011
Brunswick Pro Bowling only has 12 achievements. I thought that would be a good introductory sentence, because it really encapsulates the amount of effort from the developers that went into this game. I donít think itís that they couldnít come up with more than 12, it just seems like they had no interest in doing so, and that really defines the whole Brunswick Pro Bowling Experience. There could have been a lot more effort put into this release, but the developers just had no interest in doing so.|
For starters and itís a big starter, the game controls horribly. Overall the Kinect has been a pretty impressive experience. There is lag associated with the device tracking movements, and sometimes the tracking goes a little crazy, but for the most part, it works pretty well, and in the worst case scenarios, it usually works simply well enough. Brunswick Pro Bowling barely works at all. Whether youíre trying to throw the ball down the lane, or simply selecting which mode you want to play, you are going to struggle.
The majority of menu items are selected by placing your virtual hand over the icon, and waiting for a rotating dial to confirm your selection. This is how selecting works with the main Kinect menu and it works well there, but not here. Your hand will constantly fly all over the place, never staying still quite long enough to make your selection. And when your bowler is on screen, they twitch and arbitrarily flail as though they have lost control of their central nervous system. The game is trying to track your movements to be translated to the onscreen avatar, and it is doing a horrible job.
The actual bowling fares only slightly better. After trying a number of methods in an attempt to create an realistic bowling ball dismount with no luck, I finally settled on a decidedly non-bowling-like stance. I would stand completely still, only stepping left and right to line up my shot, and then move only my arm in a bowling action. This was the only way I could really bowl successfully, and my ball consistently went down the middle. I attempted to spin the ball, and send it off in left and right leaning directions, and though I could force the ball off-path slightly, I was never able to put any kind of significant torque or direction on the ball.
There are tournaments and leagues to play in, as well as one on one rivalries. If you can find a way to enjoy the act of bowling in this game, and you have a few players, then the league does have it merits. You simply bowl as a team, and it can be enjoyable. Playing by yourself can be infuriating though for a reason that is actually a bit strange. It is incredibly difficult to skip the CPU bowlersí turns. Itís possible, but if your timing is not quite right, or more commonly the Kinect sensor assumes you are wildly flailing your arms about, then you have to watch each and every computer controlled bowl. You will be hoping they get a strike just so you can get to your turn faster.
Skipping the CPU involves the seemingly simple act of selecting the skip player option that pops up on screen while the computer is lining itself up. The problem, aside from simply not being able to get your hand over the option because you are not being tracked correctly, is that there is only a window of about seven seconds to select the option. That sounds like plenty of time, but you have to understand that if you can get the sensor too cooperate, selecting the option takes about four seconds. Successfully selecting the skip player option becomes itís own incredibly frustrating meta-game in itself.
The tournaments, leagues and one on one rivalries play as you would expect, and all basically rely on you bowling well repeatedly. There is an additional mode though, where the player is given a series of splits to complete. The further along you get, the harder the splits become. You are also playing by yourself, which means to need to skip anyone. This is the only mode that is markedly different from the standard bowling, and it is also one of the most fun.
As you progress through the game, you will gain money, and unlock assorted equipment and clothing to dress your incredibly generic bowler. None of the selectable bowlers do anything to differentiate themselves from one another. Skin tone and hair are slightly different among the choices, but thatís about it. All the men have the same body type, and all the women have the same body type, and they are all forgettable.
Brunswick Pro Bowling includes an online mode, but I was never able to get in a game. Quick match couldnít get me into a game, pulling up a list of available games always returned empty results and opponents never appeared when I would set up my own public room. It makes sense though. As practically unplayable a state the game is in, I really canít imagine anyone being interested in trying to hop online to take on other bowlers. You donít even have the option of skipping opponent turns when playing online.
There are one or two things I will admit I liked. The physics of the pins and design of the assorted lanes were well done. They really do look like bowling alleys, and the videos that play for getting strikes, turkeys and spares look like they are licensed from actual bowling alleys. They donít seem like they were created specifically for this game, and it makes them genuine. It feels like a bowling alley, which is a good thing. When the Kinect sensor is working correctly, strikes are pretty east to get, which makes the game rewarding. The game controls terribly, but when it works it feels pretty good. The music of the game -- is terribleÖabsolutely terrible. It will make you remember, ďOh yeah! I can do custom soundtracks!Ē I couldnít devote a whole paragraph to positive, could I?
If this is the future of the Kinect, then the future is looking bad. Like post-apocalyptic bad. A bowling game could have been a must-buy for the Kinect. If Wii bowling has proven anything, it is that people of all ages and genders love virtual bowling, and pretending to do it can be a total blast. This is not the bowling game that the Kinect deserves, and I would advise waiting until somebody crafts one worthy of the Kinectís impressive abilities.