The Kinect had a very successful launch late last year, but ever since its launch new software for the Kinect has been slow to come out. Let’s face it, there’s only so much of Kinect Adventures and Dance Central that you can really play until you get tired of it. Bowling seems to be a natural game made for Kinect. It was probably the most popular sport on Wii Sports, and a bowling game was included with Kinect Sports. Now Crave Entertainment is bringing the alleys to our house without a controller with Brunswick Pro Bowling.
Brunswick Pro Bowling features modes that you would expect in most other games. There is the Quick Play to get you into the action right away, the Spare Challenge to get better at converting spares, and the Career Mode where you can play in leagues and tournaments.
The career mode is actually deep, something you wouldn’t expect from a bowling game. When you start, you select a bowler to represent you. Four male and four female bowlers are available to select from. While you aren’t going to see the front of the bowler very often, you can’t really do anything to customize the bowler other than change the name. No clothes or hair changes are available.
From there you can go to the Pro Shop where you can purchase different bowling balls, shoes, wrist guards, and other accessories. Some of these items can increase your skills or strength, but it will take a while for everything available to be unlocked. Most, if not all, of the items are based on Brunswick equipment, so if you are familiar with some of their productions you’ll be familiar with the items in the Pro Shop.
When it comes to actual bowling, you go to the Leagues and Tournament Games. Two league games and three tournaments are available when you start. The Leagues vary with the number of players on each of the teams. You can also by highlight the locked leagues and tournaments to see how to unlock them. There are also Rival Challenges that are a single game against a competitor. As you compete against rivals, they get tougher and tougher. Completing these unlocks items in the Pro Shop.
As you go through the game you’ll see several different bowling establishments, from the seedy bar with two lanes to the high-tech bowling alley with a large number of lanes. Each one looks different, but they can also play differently because of the way the oil patterns lie. You can select the option in the pause menu to show what the oil pattern looks like. This can definitely change your approach to how you approach the lane.
The bowling portion of the game is easy to do with the Kinect controller. You stand in place, let your arm go back, then swing your arm forward. If you want to hook the ball, then your hand should move across your body at the height of your swing. If you want, you can take a step forward as you swing to get a more natural motion. A radar shows your position to the Kinect camera, so you know if you are out of the range of the camera.
Aligning yourself before the swing is just as important as what happens during your swing. Moving to the left and right alters your position on the lane. Now, if you bowl, you know there are dots on the lane to help you know how you are positioned. Unfortunately, there isn’t any good way to see your position in the game. If your character was transparent before the approach that would have helped.
Raising your left hand will bring up an arrow that shows the direction the ball will go on the lane. This lets you angle the ball to the left or right. Getting the arrow to show up was difficult at times, but it was really frustrating that you needed to do it every single time. It would have been helpful if the game remembered your angle of attack for the first ball.
Raising your right hand brings up the option to switch which ball you are throwing. Each ball has a different amount of hook. The higher the number, the more hook it has, and the difference is noticeable. Experienced bowlers will take a ball with a higher hook for a strike ball and a ball with a low hook number for spares.
You would think that a bowling game would be easy to program a bowling game. Bowling balls generally weigh between six and sixteen pounds. Pins weigh between three pounds six ounces and three pounds ten ounces and must fall over if it tips seven and a half degrees. The pins fall all based on physics. To me, the pins seem heavy, but that might be because I don’t feel like I throw the ball as quickly in the game as I do while actually bowling. Sometimes I feel like the pins die when they hit the sideboards. Messenger pins don’t happen that often. Seeing a rolling pin on the lane is rare too. I have had this issue with every other bowling game I’ve played though, and it shouldn’t decrease the fun for a group who isn’t too serious about their bowling.
After you throw the ball, the speed of the ball is shown. If you want to throw your ball fast, you really need to swing your arm quickly. You can definitely tell a difference between a fast ball and slow ball going down the lane, especially when you hook the ball. After you hit the pins you get to see the slow-motion replay of the pins. On spares and strikes a short animation is played. If you’ve been to a bowling alley that runs the Brunswick scoring software, then it’s quite possible that you have seen these animations. It’s nice that they are included.
The bowling ball rolls down the lane in a realistic fashion, but you only hear the occasional pins falling from other lanes. You hear quite a bit of background noise, but you don’t see anyone else as you are bowling. The music that repeats over and over again during the menu gets very annoying very quickly.
The tracking is pretty good, but its not perfect. Occasionally the ball release doesn’t happen and you can’t even shake the ball off your hand. It’s almost like there is super glue in the finger holes. Occasionally my dog would get in front of the camera and cause the bowling on the screen to do a little jig, but I think that was more because of the tail wagging than the sensor itself.
If you bowl in a league you can decide to bowl just yourself or bowl for everyone on your team, or have others bowl on your team or even let the CPU handle it for you. You can skip the bowling of the AI players if you like, but you have to hold up your hand in the right spot to hit that option. It takes a while for the game to recognize that and sometimes the CPU will bowl before it finishes activating the area. A check box for skipping CPU bowlers in the pause menu would have been nice.
Bowling through the Career Mode and unlocking everything will take a while. It takes several games through get through a league, especially with four bowlers on each team. Then there are the many bowling alleys that open, and you’ll need the equipment from the Pro Shop to help make you a better bowler.
You can play against others online as well, but the experience is lacking. Part of the reason for this is that everyone bowls at the same time. You don’t switch turns or have the option of watching others. It does make for a quick game, but it’d be nice to have some variety in the multiplayer, such as a Skins challenge or trick-shot competition.
Brunswick Pro Bowling for Kinect had the potential to be a great bowling game. The number of features included in the game is strong. The bowling just seems to be a little bit off for someone who bowls a lot. It’s not a bad experience for getting a group of friends together and just have some fun. With a few tweaks, this could be a great experience for the hardcore bowler as well.