It may or may not be directly related to the popularity of Wii Sports Bowling, but people seem to have an increased interest in bowling video games these days. One game that's hoping to capitalize on this trend is Brunswick Pro Bowling from Crave Entertainment. We were able to spend some time with the Wii version of the game, which is also set to be released for the PlayStation 2 and PlayStation Portable.
Whereas Wii Sports Bowling was a fun yet shallow bowling experience, Brunswick Pro Bowling is shooting for a deeper, more realistic representation of the sport. You can play a quick game with up to four players and play in real-life Brunswick locations, such as San Francisco, Houston, Paris, Tokyo, Honolulu, London, and more. But the game's real appeal lies in its career mode.
In career mode, you create a (left or right handed) male or female bowler and then modify your bowler's appearance in a number of ways. We created an old guy named El Guapo, complete with plaid pants, bad hair, and aviator sunglasses. Once we brought El Guapo to life, we checked our schedule, which was filled with league nights and tournaments. Winning events not only gives you money, but it also improves your reputation and skill. You can then use skill points to improve your bowler's arm strength, accuracy, hook control, and stamina. Money can be spent on new shirts, shoes, wrist guards and hats, as well as licensed Brunswick balls, which are rated for hook potential, breakpoint shape, flare potential, and R6 average.
When you hit the lanes, you won't need the Nunchuck because the game is played with only the Wii Remote. You can view the lane's oil pattern (this shows how the ball may behave as it rolls down the lane) with the 2 button and choose from two different types of balls with the 1 button. Next, you hold down the B button and twist the remote to change your position relative to the lane; you press left or right on the D pad to refine your aim. You'll then press A, which takes you to a side view of your bowler. When you're ready to bowl, you raise the remote, hold down the B button, swing the controller back, and then release B as you swing forward. There's a meter that shows your accuracy and power, but we weren't able to figure out exactly what made a shot more or less accurate. But we did find that what felt like a good shot generally was, in fact, a good shot. A training mode would have helped clear things up, but even without one, we were able to bowl 216 just five games into our career. The game touts a realistic physics engine, and other than a few stubborn pins, the pin physics seemed to be just fine.
Visually speaking, Brunswick Pro Bowling isn't mind-blowing, but most people don't pick their bowling games based on their visual appeal. There's plenty of variety to the look of the bowling alleys, while the lanes are nice and shiny. There also seemed to be quite a few different ball designs. Bowlers perform some subdued celebrations after each turn, and there are some funny animations that flash across the screen as well. If you get a strike, you might see a cartoon bowling pin with a baseball bat swing and miss at a pitch, or if you pick up a spare, a tire might roll across the screen.
Apart from the fact that the Wii has a different control scheme, while the PSP has ad hoc play and extra character customization options, the three versions will largely be the same. Brunswick Pro Bowling is currently scheduled to ship on August 14.