Reviewed: November 27, 2008
Released: October 14, 2008
The Wii has been available in western markets for over two years now, and in that time has all but single-handedly legitimized the video gaming industry with its alluring motion-based controls. The little white wonder saved Nintendo following two generations of console blunders, by using the unique control scheme to attract the likes of kids, parents, and grandparents alike.
Two of the smartest decisions that Nintendo made with their “revolutionary” console, was to price the console affordably, and to pack in the pseudo tech-demo disc Wii Sports. Ironically, even after 24 months of retail, many gamers still covet Wii Sports – with its Baseball, Tennis, Golf and Bowling modes – as the most enjoyable party title on the system.
Every so often, developers try to find their spot on the Wii Sports bandwagon; by releasing their own takes on the Wii Sports minigames. EA has released a series of motion-based Tiger Woods Golf that have bested Wii Sports Golf, 2K has upped the ante on Wii Sports Tennis with Top Spin 3, Activision added depth to Wii Sports Baseball with Little League World Series.
But until now, few developers have been able to top the perfection that is Wii Sports Bowling – by far the best and most realistic mode included on Wii Sports. True, Crave released the enjoyable Brunswick Pro Bowling – but the imprecise controls and lack of Miis kept the game in the No.2 spot.
It is not surprising that developers would want to cash in on the Wii’s popularity – but what is astonishing is how many developers are willing to release utter rubbish that cannot hold a candle even to the free pack-in disc that every Wii owner was given at purchase. Ten Pin Alley 2 is such refuse; an unappealing and frustrating take on Wii Sports’ best addition that leaves most gamers wondering how XS Games themselves can feel good about.
The first thing that gamers will notice is how ugly the game looks. Everything, including the loading screens, menus, and in-game graphics looks terribly outdated – and by outdated we mean circa N64 days. The characters and environments are blocky and flat, looking like they came straight out of the late-90’s. The perspective is too far removed from the action, making the alleys appear too narrow and the characters too far away to control precisely. The game supports neither progressive scan nor widescreen visuals, and is the first and only Wii game to cause my television to reset its display to 480i with each boot-up.
With respect to the audio quality – well…it sucks as well, with terribly annoying background music, generic bowling alley sounds, and some of the most embarrassing character sounds in the industry.
As for the controls, compared to Wii Sports Bowling, Ten Pin Alley 2’s controls are horrendous – requiring gamers to achieve incredibly awkward wrist and arm extension, and to maintain levels of precision that are unattainable with the inaccurate controller recognition. In fact, my first Ten Pin Alley 2 session was with a group of friends who play Wii Bowling on a weekly basis, and out of about 30 combined attempts to roll the ball down the alley, only about 5 rolls actually registered. I found that we were not cranking out wrists back far enough for the game to register, but as the required angle was pain-inducing, we decided to go back to our old favorite in a grand total of 5 minutes.
Ten Pin Alley 2 only offers a handful of gameplay modes – and none are all that impressive or offer any reason to deviate from the standard free play. Sure, you can play league tourneys and a handful of trick shots for up to four players – but without unlockables or additional modes to open up, the drive to break away from a quick-pick game is all but lost.
The game eschews the Miis for the use of a hackneyed cast of whimsical characters ranging from the afro-sporting funk master to the gothy vampire girl, to the beefy militant. Each round seems bookended with overly lengthy and irritating character cutaways, where we get to see the same three character scenes relating to good, mediocre, and bad bowls.
Even the pin action is in question; with beautiful pocket shots rendering less than expected damage, and sure-bet spares often being lost somewhere in the shuffle. Wii Sports Bowling made sense, Ten Pin Alley 2 does not. Ten Pin Alley 2 might retail for $20, and even then it is still $20 more than the superior Wii Sports. The decision is simple - stick with Nintendo’s first party fare.