What's the meaning of life? We all have wondered about it at least once in our lives. Whether it's on the commute, while taking a shower or when rolling a bowling ball down the lane. When you think about it, Bowling is pretty similar to life, a continuous cycle that depends on numerous factors that we usually take for granted - Sometimes a little spice can bring back the passion we've been missing in our daily routine, and sometimes that extra spin can throw our lives into complete chaos.
The fact that we came up with an intro for this review that is as bizarre as the concept of bowling itself points to the power encased in Brunswick Pro Bowling for the Wii U. This is one of those titles that once you put the controller down it will leave you with more questions than answers.The thing about falling into a philosophical funk in which you question everything in life, is that it usually leaves a path of destruction that's difficult to recover from.
Why does Brunswick Pro Bowling exists? What corporate head honcho said it would be a great idea to give the company's license away to a small studio to make a game about a line of business it decided to leave behind in May 2015? What is it winning out of this venture?
Given the fact that Brunswick Corp. was a pioneer in making bowling accessible to everyone across the US and the world, it probably wanted to give one last goodbye to its longtime fans.
It should have left through the backdoor of the alley…
Unfortunately, Brunswick Pro Bowling is not the bowling title we've all been waiting for. There's nothing about this title that can make it worthy of your time. Not the music, not the visuals, not even the gameplay. How could a Brunswick Pro Bowling fail where games like Wii Sports Bowling have thrived?
One of the game's biggest faults is not understanding what makes a video game, well… a video game. In no way is it an immersive, appealing or fun experience. From the gameplay all the way to the visuals and audio, there's nothing memorable or good to write about it.
Brunswick Pro Bowling doesn't waste the player's time with snazzy intro videos; as soon as it creates the save file the player will be prompted to create his/her own avatar. Options abound as the game allows the player to choose the avatar's gender and handedness - neither affect the gameplay, nor you can modify the appearance, height or weight of your avatar. Simply put, the avatar is there for the sole purpose of occupying a virtual space. The whole process takes about five seconds to complete.
Not that it would matter much, visually the game evokes memories of early N64 titles - low polygon count, stiff animations and laughable use of pre-rendered images. It isn't an exaggeration saying that every single environment of the game is a still image. No dynamic lightning or shadow, no details let alone any texture on the surfaces. Everything you see is the product of a pre-rendered image, with the exception of the bowling balls and the pins, both which are rendered in real time. The avatar who you spent so much time creating to look just like the mug of a person who sells shady items from the trunk of his/her car is used sporadically to express joy or disdain after a shot. The funny part is that this avatar is placed over the still image without any attention to dimensions or perspective.
The game takes pride in the simulation of the sport, claiming that it boasts a physics engine that emulates the behavior of the ball and pin as if they were real. Everything sounds great but there's a caveat - the controls are over-simplified and so lenient that when it comes to mistakes that there is nothing stopping the player from having a perfect game once they learn how to recreate the controller stick movement that guarantees a strike.
In order to throw the ball down the lane the player must pull the left stick and then push it towards the opposite direction. If the pushing motion is angled then the ball will spin in the respective direction; the sharper the angle the stronger the spin. It is extremely easy to master, which is why in the end it detracts from the whole experience, as there's no real skill or randomness to the main gameplay mechanic of the title. Furthermore, while the previous title in the series published for the Nintendo Wii had motion controls, for some strange reason they're completely absent in the Wii U version.
Which takes us to the next point - the only real reason the game designers decided to give the player an avatar is to dress him/her up with the official Brunswick-branded equipment. Each piece of gear adds certain attributes. Some of them give the player more power or extra accuracy, but the fact that it is possible to get a perfect score without having them makes them trivial. The real contribution is that each piece of equipment makes it easier for the player to cheat.
But that's not all. In the in-game shop players can also buy special balls that will act in ways that a bowling ball wouldn't do in real life. From the Ying-Yang ball that splits in two to make it easier to hit those splits, to the remote controlled grenade ball that blows up when prompted by a command.
So where's all the life-like simulation the game took so much pride in? Is it in the game graphics? In the eardrum tearing music? The gameplay? Simply put, Brunswick Pro Bowling is not worth your time. It's better advised to pay the entry price for the Wii Sports Club game, or just fire up an old copy of Wii Sports Resort.
Ultimately, it's a pity to see so much effort going to waste in projects like these - sure, some games exist for the sole purpose of generating income to the license, while others are the training wheels for small studios that want to grow big. Brunswick Pro Bowling is a bit of both, a mediocre licensed title developed by a relatively small studio with little experience. Sadly this one was doomed since the day it got greenlit.
Brunswick Pro Bowling did things to our head… unspeakable things.