Reviewed: December 27, 2007
Released: December 7, 2007
In the world of video games no good idea goes un-copied…for long. High Velocity Bowling is a perfect example of that rule. It not only mirrors the goodness of motion-controlled bowling that Wii gamers have been enjoying for more than a year, it is also one of the games on a growing list of PlayStation Store downloadable titles, a digital delivery system not unlike Xbox Live Arcade.
Bowling games are nothing new and have been around almost as long as golf games. For a decade you simply aimed your shot, set your speed, and let the pins fly. It wasn’t until the Wii came around that video game bowling got a whole lot more realistic and interactive. But even that game could be fooled with quick wrist-flicks for easy strikes and perfect games. The PS3, with its SIXAXIS controller may just be the most realistic bowling game we’ve seen to date.
So what makes High Velocity Bowling so real? Quite simply, the controller…not only in the way it works but in the way you hold it, which is not all that unlike the way you would hold a real bowling ball. It’s quite ingenious really. You rest the SIXAXIS in the palm of your hand face up. Your pinky and index finger rest on the L2 and R2 triggers, your thumb on the X button. This configuration gives you access to everything you need to play the entire game.
The mechanics behind the bowling game are not unlike other bowling titles, even Wii Sports Bowling, but the execution is far superior. You still have to position your bowler and aim your shot down the lane, but to do this you simply hold out your arm and twist your wrist to move left or right. Once you lock in your bowler’s position you can then aim your shot doing the same wrist motion. Once that is locked in you can then make the back and forth swing motion that you would if you were really bowling.
Yes, it’s that simple…almost. There are a few subtle nuances to the art of swinging a SIXAXIS bowling ball. The first is to not actually let go of the controller (yes, that did happen). You also have to carefully judge the strength of your throw as determined by the force of your forward swing. This is gauged by a speed meter. Ideally you want to get your speed up to the gold bar for a perfect swing. If you go any harder you will push the speed meter into the red zone where things get a bit more unpredictable.
During your swing you will be able to put spin on the ball by holding down either L2 or R2. The amount of spin is variable and indicated with the spin meter that will slowly fill up the longer you hold either button. The amount and overall effectiveness of the spin is a complex calculation of your ball speed, ball type, and lane conditions.
That’s right…High Velocity Bowling actually factors in the oil on the lanes, and you can track these conditions with a simple button press that will overlay a multi-color graph over the lane. This can help you plot the best path down the lane based on your style of bowling. There are also numerous ball types, each with their own weight and spin factors. You can choose from any of the unlocked bowling balls in your collection before each shot.
Standard game modes include a solo Challenge Mode as well as competitive multiplayer bowling for up to four players. Make no mistake – if you have this game on your PS3 it will quickly become the number one requested game to play when friends come over. It is so simple, fun, and intuitive to play that gamers of all ages can and will become obsessed with it.
The Challenge Mode is fairly substantial and takes the solo bowler on a multi-level tour of tournaments, one-on-one matches, and trick shot challenges. These will unlock new lanes, bowlers, and balls for use in the rest of the game. The tournaments are nice in that you don’t have to watch the computer bowl. You simply bowl your three games and combine the scores to hopefully come out on top. Matches merely require you beat the computer in a one-on-one match to unlock that bowler and their unique private alley. The trick shot bowling will really test your ability to put creative spin on the ball as you navigate cones, chairs, or even jump the ball off a ramp to pick up various pin configurations.
I am continually amazed at the quality of the gameplay graphics on these downloadable games. Admittedly, most games are these glossy space shooters that are more about special effects than gameplay, but when a game like High Velocity Bowling comes along, you can really appreciate the 1080p clarity and subtle details like lighting and reflections in the wood grain.
Everything about the game design screams FUN, from the neon café style lighting of the title screen to the funky cast of characters that range from hacking grandma, annoying valley girl, dirty old man, rough biker, and the classic soccer mom and suburban hubby with matching bowling shirts.
As unique as each of these characters are, they are also host to their own private bowling venue styled after their distinctive personality. The biker has his lane set up in the garage next to his bike and tools. The dirty old man has his lanes themed after a swanky disco from the 70’s. The valley girl is all trendy with a giant iPod, teddy bear, and other girly gadgets. You’ll spend several minutes just checking out these lanes before you even get around to bowling on them.
High Velocity Bowling has some excellent sound effects that perfectly capture the sound of a rolling bowling ball and the smash of the pins. The THX Dolby surround mix really puts you in the alley, especially in the public lanes where there are dozens of other bowlers playing on either side of you.
Each bowler has a modest library of comments and one-liners they will dispense over the course of the game. They will get repetitive after a few games, but at least they are humorous enough that you don’t mind them too much. The valley girl is probably the most annoying followed by Jim who is constantly worried about the mini-van. I can’t help but laugh every time the old pervert talks about the girls he invited over.
Music is pretty light and keeps to the background with some jazz and lounge-style music. I would have enjoyed a nice theme song for each lane, but you can use your own MP3 music stored on the PS3. Just pick your music folder and then use the L1/R1 to cycle through the tunes or set them to shuffle on their own.
Available as a download only through the PlayStation Store, High Velocity bowling is a great bargain for just under $10. You can keep on adding to the fun by purchasing additional bowlers for a small fee. I easily had $10 worth of fun the very first time I played the game, and considering all the time I’ve spent bowling these past few weeks, High Velocity Bowling is probably your biggest bang for the buck on the PS3 this holiday season.
The solo Challenge game will take a solid day or two of playing. The further you go the harder the winning requirements become, especially in the tournament scores, and those trick shots get downright evil by the fourth stage. As hard as it all becomes, you’ll still have a blast trying to conquer it all.
High Velocity Bowling has rolled its way into the first place slot for bowling games across all systems. It offers the best “feel” of any motion-controlled bowling game out there, and with next-gen visuals and sound, you can’t help but feel you are really bowling in these exotic private lanes.
The game is so simple in execution that anyone of any age can pick it up and play it with minimal practice, but there are so many subtle game mechanics in place that it could take you a lifetime to master. But the best compliment I can give High Velocity Bowling is that when you are playing it you feel you are really bowling and not just playing a video game.