Midnight Bowling (WiiWare)

Game Review

Midnight Bowling Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Spencer McIlvaine

How many points does a game score for a gutter ball?

Gameloft has given Wiiware some of its best titles like Midnight Pool and Wild West Guns, so it was with great anticipation that we sat down to enjoy their latest offering, Midnight Bowling. Although some would argue that Wii Sports renders any other bowling game redundant, we feel that there is room for a more rewarding take on the sport and the quick to pick up and play Wiiware service is the perfect place for such a game. So in that spirit, let’s take a look at Midnight Bowling.

Right away, you will recognize the style and art design as a Gameloft product. There are five bowling alleys each with their own garish theme. Our favourite is the "Aqua Bowling" alley, which is mysteriously located at the bottom of the ocean and features large glass windows so you can watch sharks swimming by.

Although the characters are all new, the theme could easily be described as Midnight Pool goes to the bowling alley. If Gameloft’s character development were any deeper, there could have been room for some sort of continuous storyline between both games, but unfortunately the characters in Midnight Pool were fairly one-dimensional, and in Midnight Bowling they have even less depth . Lacking any sort of description at all now, the characters are just avatars with names and unlockable costumes. During games, they each have two lines of voice dialogue: one for a good result and one for a bad result. Get used to hearing the bad result after every single frame you bowl when starting out, because the control scheme is your enemy.

Speaking of the controls, some may find them unresponsive and inconsistent. It turns out that this is true, but probably not for the reason you think. The controls are very awkward and it is difficult to predict what the result of your throw will be, but this is, ironically, not the most likely reason you will have difficulty early on. The problem is that this game has an entirely different control scheme from Wii Sports Bowling, and no instructions or tutorial to explain this. As a result, your first efforts will likely produce bizarre results that in no way match your intended swing or hook.

To better explain the problem, Wii Sports Bowling measures your swing and uses the accelerometer in the Wii Remote to measure the angle at which you are holding the Wii Remote. In that game, you could adjust your hook (the curve the ball moves in down the lane) by adjusting your grip on the Wii Remote very much like in a real game of bowling. It turns out that none of this works the same way in Midnight Bowling, but we only discovered this after accidentally coming across some text that casually appeared on-screen during one game that, in the most unassuming way, told us that everything we knew about bowling was all wrong.

The correct way to bowl in this game is to “Hold the B button and swing the remote.” That’s right, you hold the trigger and don’t release it. How does the ball get released from your bowler’s hand? And what if your swing doesn’t match that of the onscreen bowler? Well, it’s best not to ask such questions. The ball just knows to throw itself. All of our efforts at adjusting our release time and hook were a complete waste, because upon discovering this block of text (and actually reading it without skipping through it), we discovered that these are not the real challenge of the game like in real bowling. Here’s where the ‘Matrix’style world turning on its head moment happened: the real challenge of bowling in Midnight Bowling is in what you do after you throw the ball.

Let us repeat - bowling in Midnight Bowling happens after you throw the ball. This is the point where you are expected to twist and turn the Wii Remote to apply spin to the ball. You may be wondering if this is some sort of cartoonish bowling inspired game, but not real bowling. To be honest, we’re not sure. It certainly looks like it was intended to be a bowling game but the controls are so maddeningly unresponsive and unrealistic that anyone buying this game thinking they will be playing something approximating real bowling is certain to be disappointed. And anyone buying this game for a fun ‘alternative’ to real bowling will also likely find that the learning curve for the controls is far too steep for any sort of casual fun.

Realistic controls that take time to master would have been appreciated. Over-sensitive controls that hook the ball to dramatically different and unpredictable degrees, are not. We’re sure that the controls to Midnight Bowling can be mastered, eventually. It may take as much, if not more time, than it would take to learn the real sport of bowling, but it can be done. It just takes a lot more patience and dedication than any reasonable video game player is likely to have.

It certainly will take longer than one night, which completely ruins the game’s casual get-together-with-friends selling point. When friends go to a bowling alley for the first time and throw nothing but gutter balls, they still have a good time. We’re not so sure if they’ll be as happy with a video game version of that experience. But that is exactly what will happen and the likely result is that your friends will leave frustrated and annoyed with you that you didn’t just let them play a ‘better’ bowling game like Wii Sports Bowling.

And, because it bears mentioning in every review, there is no online multiplayer. We hated the absence of such a feature in Midnight Pool, but here, we just don’t really care. An online bowling game would be awesome but this game just doesn’t play like bowling. And whatever kind of game it really is isn’t fun. So online would not really help.

There are a few alternative game modes. A ‘story’ mode that let’s you play against the computer like normal, except you have to read a sentence or two of pointless banter before and after each game. You’ll unlock additional items here. At least you feel rewarded every time you unlock a new bowling ball or costume. This is a feature Gameloft included in Midnight Pool as well, so there must have been some sharing of ideas going on between the two teams, making the disparity in gameplay quality all the more puzzling.

The other mode is party mode. This is, without a doubt, the only thing worth considering getting this game for. It features a Mario Party style game board where each square represents a different challenge that the player must complete in order to advance. Think Golf Bowling, but with more extreme challenges like ramps, barricades, and even a loop. Because of the obstacles and last minute adjustments to aim required by this game mode, the abysmal control scheme actually makes sense here. Even so, you will struggle just as much with the controls as before, except now you’ll be struggling to avoid obstacles at the same time.

Had this ‘Party’ feature instead been the actual game, and perhaps in some way hinted at before downloading, then Midnight Bowling might look more appealing to casual players and even to hardcore bowling fans. But as things stand, this feature serves merely as a life raft on a sinking ship.


The Wiiware service has certainly had its share of disappointments but Midnight Bowling may top the list. The party mode saves this game from being a complete disaster, and the presentation in terms of graphics and music is as good as you would expect, but a game has to be playable to be fun. And we know bowling -- we’ve got the purple tournament champion jacket to prove it. “Midnight Bowling” isn’t bowling, and it isn’t a fun video game. It should just be called “Midnight”. If you’ve already downloaded this game, tell it that it doesn’t have to go home, but it can’t stay here.

From the web

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User Comments (58)



Gavin_Rozee said:

LOL. Damn. Gamelofts clean record just got dirty.

This is released in Europe tonight if anyone wants it.



Yasume said:

2!!? Wow, I sure wasn't ecpecting that. It's quite disappointing, since Midnight Pool is a great game.



Tides_of_Chaos said:

Wow, that's pretty bad. A two? I wonder if the version on the Midnight Play Pack for the DS is any better.



Ben__Harlan said:

LOLOLOLOL. A 2?! Gameloft, you had luck with Midnight Pool and lock Breaker Dekuxe, but with this...



Corbs said:

Ouch is right. Wow, I do agree that the Party Mode is the only really interesting part of the game at all. The lack of responsive controls killed it for me personally. Great review Spencer, as always!



bboy2970 said:

I downloaded midnight bowling and have to say a 2 is very very critical. I've played the game for a couple hours and mostly enjoyed it. It's true the controls are bad at first, but not impossible to work with. By the 3rd game i was regularly throwing 200s. I don't know what they were talking about when they said you control hooks and such after you throw the ball, I just release the B button when i throw anyway(eventhough they dont tell you to) and put in a hook similar to how i do in wii sports. If you keep the B button held down, then yes, the ball will take unpredictable turns, but that is easily avoidable. All in all, I like MB and say it deserves at least a 7



KnucklesSonic8 said:

ITS REALLY THAT BAD?! Wow! I knew neither this or its predecessor were worth it but I didn't think it was THIS bad...



WeeGee said:

Not gonna buy it if someone pays me to. Well, actually, if they pay me to.



Kawaiipikachu said:

I never expected another game to get a 2 in a short time since Corbie Reviewed Pong Toss .

I im worryed that we get a 1 one of these days .



Dazza said:

I downloaded Midnight Bowling and I can only say it is a bit meh. At first the controls sort of feel like Wii Sports bowling, but it quickly becomes apparant that some other factors are at play. After about 10 minutes I had about as much as I could take, I didn't feel like I was in control. That's not to say I could get high scores, simply aiming from the far right of the lane diagonally towards the first pin gained me five strikes in a row! The awful O.C. inspired characters don't do the game any favours either.

I am glad Spencer persisted longer than I did to figure out what was actually going on with the controls to write this review. It's a little clearer now! What a shambling mockery, lets hope Gameloft turn it around again for their next game, it's a shame that their otherwise good track record on WiiWare has been tarnished by this mess.



theberrage said:

I bought the Wii initially because of Wii Sports bowling. I love bowling and I hope that nintendo eventually makes a bowling game that tops the Wii Sports version



Objection said:

I can't remember who, but kudos to the person who warned most of us in the Monday's Releases article!!



Cheezy said:

Congrats! Worst rating for a WiiWare game on this site so far. Let's see if there's a game that deserves a 1!



Chunky_Droid said:

Having not downloaded any Wiiware yet (my Wii is getting repaired so I can't play Megaman 9!), I'm wondering if Wiiware games don't have operations manuals like in VC games? If not, I'm guessing the control scheme's not explained there? That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard

Oh well, I'll have to play DS to tide me over until my Wii gets back

EDIT: Fixed my terrible grammar lol



AlexSays said:

I'm wondering if Wiiware games don't have operations manuals like in VC games?

Yes they do.
Each and every WiiWare game comes with an Operations Guide.



Final_Starman said:

Wow, I thought these guys had a streak going! Let's hope (ugh…) Brain Challenge won't be so bad.



MarkyVigoroth said:

Another #2? That whomps.

A least there are a lot of decent-at-the-least WiiWares (like Pool which costs the same)...

By the way,I like your new avatar, x.SuperMario.x-san, whatever that character represents.



AlexSays said:

And it's the main character of the game, de Blob.
I bought it just the other day and fell in love with it.
It's easily one of the better games I've ever played.



Gabbo said:


Here's the thing, before I figured out the controls, I was releasing the b button every time, just like in Wii Sports. With disastrous results. Usually the ball would just drop and very slowly list over into the gutter. You have to hold the b button at least through to the release. I suppose you could throw the ball just in a straight line and then immediately release the b button in time to avoid any hook at all, but heck, that doesn't sound like much fun either.

@ everyone

I was really looking forward to this game. Some of you may recall I reviewed Midnight Pool as well. The controls are just so bad, though, that I had to give it a score that Wiiware world labels 'bad'. And that number was 2. I would have gleefully given it a 1, but the party mode is just fun enough that I actually plan to go back and play it again.

Yes, a 'bad' game with horrible controls can still have some value to the right person, so don't be too horribly upset if you've already played the game and liked it. To each his own. But I still don't recommend it to anyone! I would have had this review done a lot earlier if I hadn't thrown so many wiimotes out the window in frustration that I had to go buy more.



XCWarrior said:

It's too bad the developer isn't allowed to patch the game to fix the controls. The video on Nintendo channel made it look interesting, but controls are vital in a game like this. Very disappointing.



Corbs said:

It took me quite awhile to get a grip on the controls and even then I never did feel like I was controlling much. The Party Mode is a great idea, maybe Nintendo should rip it off and use it in the next version of Wii Sports.

@ x.SuperMario.x - Glad to see you got that avatar problem under control. Oh and I just ordered de Blob from EB Games. Thanks for the recommendation.



that_dan_guy said:

@ XCWarrior - Is there no way that games can be updated at a later date to fix bugs or simply to add features or functionality? We have seen it done with the Photo Channel, and I was hoping we may see updated versions of games in the future as well. It would certainly prolong their 'shelf life' from a sales perspective, perhaps attracting new sales in the process as well as rewarding earlier adopters of the game.

@ Corbie - De Blob is a fantastic game, you won't be disappointed.



StarDust4Ever said:

I don't understand how a company like Gameloft can produce an excellent title such as Midnight Pool, and then release garbage like this. I just don't understand that logic. It don't make any sense. But I definitely felt that since Wii Sports Bowling was the best bowling simulator ever, and although the pool emulation on Wii Play is superb, that does not make up for its lack of depth. And Midnight Pool has lots more depth of play for sure.



Mario64DStyle said:

Is de blob really that interesting? I was thinking about renting it sometime, but I'm out of free game rental coupons...
I might have to just go buy it if its that amazing =p

also... how is the multiplayer?



Djungelurban said:

So if I absolutely hate the Wii Sports Bowling and considers that control system to be a vile abomination and among the worst control systems ever without counting games that are down right broken, could I possibly enjoy this game? Never could get the timing right, not that I really bothered either but anyway. Maybe these control would feel more natural to me.



Gabbo said:


Ooh, good question! That's hard to say. I, of course, think that Wii Sports' controls are more intuitive. But the 'timing' of the release is irrelevant in Midnight Bowling, so maybe you'll have an easier time here. But overall these are definitely not easier controls .

I've always considered Wii Sports' controls to be such a good approximation that the only thing missing is a bowling ball attachment for the wiimote to recreate the tactile feel of holding a bowling ball. Perhaps I'll get on building one right away.



Starwolf_UK said:

Each and every WiiWare game comes with an Operations Guide.
It is a pain it is not stored with the game and you have to connect to the internet to read it. The upside is you can read manuals without buying games Though personally I don't like how they tucked away under 'More info'.



AlexSays said:

@ Mario64DStyle- I haven't even tried the multiplayer yet.
I've been too busy with the story mode to let anyone else play.

The one thing I will say though, is the game doesn't look as good when playing multiplayer.
I heard the complaints and played mutliplayer by myself for a second or two, and the game didn't look as good.

@ Corbie- You won't be disappointed.
The game looks great (in single player), the story is amazing, and there's a ton of challenges to keep you busy well after you've completed the campaign.
Make sure to let me know what you think!



Corbs said:

@ x.SuperMario.x - I'll let you know as soon as I've had a chance to play some on it. It looks really cool and I was already considering buying it when I saw you recommending it. That pretty much cinched it for me.



zombiekillr said:

@-x.SuperMario.x ... isn't it kinda wierd how ur name is supermario and ur avatar is de Blob..... idk... just sorta weird.... but anyways... wow.... i was expecting more for this game



AlexSays said:

@ Corbie- Glad I could help.
@ leon/zombiekillr5000- Actually I was thinking of deleting this account and starting over with a much broader name. SuperMario pretty much limits me to one avatar. lol

As for this game, nothing will ever beat Nintendo's bowling in Wii Sports, unless Nintendo makes another bowling game.

@ Objection_Blaster- It's a deal.



Objection said:

@x.supermario.x--if you do start over, don't tell us your new name! Let us figure out it's you. Don't worry, as soon as "Wrong" appears we'll know who's behind the new screenname



Mario64DStyle said:


The only new bowling game that would make sense would be a Mario bowling.. they are the only franchise that I know, that can make any sports game completely original and insanely active



Ricardo91 said:

I think I'll get de Blob on my Wednesday game shopping spree, along with WL: Shake It!. Nice to hear that it's really good!

Ooo, Ouch. I didn't expect this game to be spectacular, but I didn't expect it to do this bad! Good thing I waited on the review!
Too bad too, given all the good games Gameloft has made for WW.
Ah well, I still got Wii Sports.

@Objection_Blaster. Even if he didn't say "wrong", I could probably tell if it was him. He has many distinct characteristics.

Edit: I wonder what the first game to get a 1 will be...



Objection said:

@Bensei--It just might be World of Goo! Or at least a 9...
@Mr Cheez-I Know, I just used "Wrong" as a humorous example since someone was giving him a hard time with it this week.



DarkLloyd said:

wow you guys dont buy games base on how you feel about and what you like about it

you buy it base on what other people think
when you cant hate something till you tried it your self and thats how it works



Mario64DStyle said:

@_you buy it base on what other people think
when you cant hate something till you tried it your self and thats how it works_

Do you not realize you can't "TRY" these games? its an option of either wasting your money, or spending money while HOPING its something you can actually enjoy...



robbob88 said:

Wow thats pretty disapointing. Why would they make controls that make no sense? That doesn't make any sense



Dawnclaude said:

Hm cant understand the rating. I had my fun with this game a few days and no realy problems with the controls. Overall 6 / 10.

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