Review: Wii Sports Club: Bowling (Wii U eShop)

No splits here

When it comes to the games in the original Wii Sports that felt the most realistic and compelling, Bowling would have to be a candidate as the best of the lot. Golf and Baseball may have a say, too, while Tennis and Boxing — most definitely the latter — perhaps had the greatest degree of waggle. The fact Bowling reappeared in MotionPlus form in Wii Sports Resort made Wii Sports Club: Bowling an absolute no-brainer: Nintendo already had this one down, it just needed to add a fresh logo and some important touches.

And that, right down to almost the last pin, is what Nintendo's achieved. The MotionPlus implementation feels the same as it did in Resort, which took already excellent mechanics and added precision into the mix. You can either opt for an automatic motion (where you hold B through the whole move) or the more natural manual option in which you release B at the key moment. With your on-screen Mii mirroring your actions, this swing and release motion feels like the real deal, albeit a Wii Remote is far lighter than a bowling ball; this precision allows you to expand your skill set, alternating between straight throws or curling the ball either way. When you factor in the ability to change the starting point and angle of your delivery, along with the controls punishing a sloppy or over-zealous movement or twist of the wrist, this is a control scheme that is honed to perfection.

Just like Wii Sports Club: Tennis, there are also three training games — branded as Skill Shapers — included that are designed to test your abilities and enable you to master the skills required for a Perfect game. Shoot for Spares is self explanatory, serving up increasingly difficult formations for you to conquer. Skittle Skills is the trickiest, as various lines and formations are set up for you to take down in one shot; these can require tight control of spin and overall accuracy. Triple Whammy is the least useful, as different 100-pin formations are there to be toppled; though some skill is needed to maximise the results, it has a reliance on luck that makes it the weakest of the three.

Away from these tests of skill, single and multiplayer can be enjoyed in three flavours — there's a standard 10-pin game of ten rounds, a suitably anarchic 100-pin alternative, as well as a more complex mode that necessitates tricky spins around barriers to even reach the pins. Purists will likely get plenty of enjoyment out of the default option, as it's as simple and compelling as always when played with others, while the other modes at least shake up the formula; though they are recreated from Wii Sports Resort, of course.

One particularly important feature that this has over Resort, of course, is the ability to hop online for matches. Once again the choice is to play with Everyone, others in your Club or Friends, and Everyone is the safest and quickest way to get into a match. Credit is due for the process of jumping into a match, as you initially go into a practice area while waiting for three others to join; this takes longer than the immediate matches in tennis, but after a short wait the title has the sense to start a game with those that are in attendance. We had rounds with a full complement of four — which takes longer but is enjoyable — and we've also been in two-player alleys due to a player or two becoming disconnected. Most importantly, though rather simple considering the turn-based approach, there aren't any issues of lag that affect your play — animations of competitors may jitter occasionally, but the scoring and your own bowling action is smooth throughout.

While hardly worthy of commendation due to the fact it should be standard, we are pleased that this online component has been put together proficiently. That does somewhat fall-over, again, when joining friends for a match. As described in our Wii Sports Club: Tennis review, we encountered an awkward dance while trying to get a game underway with Friends; the game failed to match us when we were both in the waiting area, instead leaving us reliant on joining the other in a match when kicked to the initial lobby; it's an exercise in timing and fiddly co-ordination that's baffling, especially when trying to use the quirky system and not having the other appear in the lobby as expected. It has a random feel, at the time of the writing, and will surely be fixed at server level or in an update.

Aside from these odd issues when playing in the Friends section, the online works as advertised. This extends to the Club mechanic, with your region of choice being regularly graded in an overall leaderboard, and Miiverse messaging being utilised for pep talks, general notes or in-game messages to opponents. The pre-set messages are also nice and positive, and it was heartwarming, in our experiences, that when playing with others online they'd often send encouraging, supportive messages to those struggling to nail strikes. In a world where online play can be a childish, malicious affair, it truly is a haven of uncomplicated and pleasurable competition.

The only issue with Wii Sports Club: Bowling is its inevitable similarity not just to the original Wii Sports — which is expected — but also its Wii Sports Resort iteration. While it can be legitimately argued that Nintendo could have gone slightly lower in its pricing, the online play and — to a lesser degree — the Club mechanic do add to the experience, embellishing a well-established and tight bowling experience.

Conclusion

Wii Sports Club: Bowling was always, barring an unfortunate split, a clear Strike opportunity for Nintendo and its contracted developer of choice, Namco Bandai. Aside from the flawed Friends online setup, online matches benefit and work handsomely due to the turn-based focus, while options to play standard, 100-pin or curve challenge modes add to the experience. Stepping on from the Wii Sports Resort offering, the Miiverse and Club implementation also work well, while the Skill Shaper modes are quick but fun diversions.

Unlike the flawed experience of its Tennis counterpart this truly does feel like a natural evolution of the original two iterations, and is well worth consideration.

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