Review: Bowling Bonanza 3D (3DS eShop)

This is bowling. There are rules.

Bowling as a sport has enjoyed a long and rich history, going as far back — in one form or another — to Ancient Egypt. The activity has become much more refined in recent years, and has been given similar treatment and media attention to that received by more popular sports, including several films on the subject. From countless alleys around the world to just as numerous video game adaptations, bowling has permeated modern society in a big way. This time around, Enjoy Gaming has decided to try its hand at a strike with Bowling Bonanza 3D.

There are four game types here, including Quick Play, Arcade, League, and Knockout. While all of these have titles that imply differing gameplay, they’re all just slight variations on the exact same thing. After selecting a name and ball weight for your profile, jumping into Quick Play will allow you to simply play a ten frame game and get a feel for how everything works. Arcade is exactly the same as Quick Play, except you have the option of playing against up to three CPU or local opponents. League has you playing against more CPU opponents in the hopes of defeating them and earning trophies that will then increase your rank and allow you to participate in more difficult leagues. Finally, Knockout mode has you playing one-on-one matches against different CPU opponents in an attempt to boot them out of the roster and advance in the bracket. No matter what mode you’re playing though, it’s all just 10-pin bowling with no variation to the actual gameplay.

As you play and win more games, you will be rewarded with new bowling alleys, with different themes to play in and different coloured pins to use. There is also an in-game achievement system that allows you to track your progress. The rewards may not be spectacular, but at the very least they're something to work towards in an otherwise two dimensional game. Many players may get tired of virtual bowling before too long, but having something to look forward to unlocking can add a desire to return.

Controlling Bowling Bonanza 3D is as simple as it should be, with every action being attributed to the 3DS’s touchscreen. From rolling your ball to setting up your perfect shot, everything is done with a simple tap or flick. Tapping on designated arrows will change the alignment and angle of your ball, as well as the amount of spin that you want to put on your roll. It can sometimes be difficult to get the exact angle or spin percentage that you're looking for with the touchscreen, begging the question whether or not button controls would have worked better in this instance.

For the most part, this touch-based control scheme works well and is reminiscent of the Silver Strike Bowling arcade cabinets. Where the controls really falter, however, is in the throws lacking discernible sensitivity. The game’s digital manual claims that the power of your shot is determined by the speed at which you swipe the touchscreen, but whether you flick the ball with force or slowly drag your stylus across the bottom screen, it always seems to travel at the same speed. As there is also no option to change the touchscreen’s sensitivity, and no speedometer tracking your ball, it is impossible to tell whether or not this really is the case. This makes it especially difficult to perform rolls that may require a bit of precision.

Bowling Bonanza 3D is far from a bad looking game, but it is also very plain. The alleys that you can choose to bowl in are all designed well in their themes, but what the visuals really come down to are straight lanes with pins set up at the end; each alley may have its own unique motif, but none of them are visually striking. It is a bowling game though, and the style gets the job done, so maybe we’re just grasping at straws.

The actual concern with the visuals, however, is the 3D effect. While it may not be as bad as the nausea inducing Gummy Bears Magical Medallion, finding the sweet spot to effectively view this game in 3D isn’t easy, and even when you’ve found it the game can still be a bit dizzying. It’s unfortunate though, as a three-dimensional bowling game is a great idea on paper. It’s especially unfortunate as they chose to include the word “3D” right in the game’s title.

The soundtrack is composed of mostly jazz-infused beats that are reminiscent of what you might hear at an actual bowling alley that isn’t playing radio top 40 hits, or in a nightclub that no one visits. Like the visuals, the soundtrack gets the job done, but it’s nothing that will impress and you will easily forget it. The sounds of your ball rolling down the lane and striking pins are quite realistic though, and it’s possibly the most polished aspect of this game.

Conclusion

It’s far from perfect, but Bowling Bonanza 3D is honestly and unabashedly a 3D bowling simulator. Rather than trying to disguise itself as a deeper game than it is with characters, plot, or backstory, this one simply invites you to participate in some ten-pin action. Sure, there are several different types of games that you can participate in, but the reality is that they’re all just slight variations on the same exact thing. This one would be much better if it wasn’t riddled with control inconsistencies, a nauseating 3D effect, and redundant gameplay. As it stands, it may be a decent game to unwind with, but its flaws tend to outweigh any enjoyment that you may get from it.