In the past, a game based on a movie or television license was conceived as a platformer almost by default. If a blockbuster movie was released in June, you could expect a run-and-jump action version by Christmas. Recently, though, the rules of licensing have begun to bend, and new genres have consequently been exploited. Witness, for example, the great number of upcoming licensed kart-style racing games. The latest Flintstones game takes this evolution a step further, combining elements of two genres into something new. Unfortunately for Bedrock Bowling, new doesn't necessarily equal good, and this game simply fails to impress in any aspect.
Though Bedrock Bowling masquerades as a bowling game, it's really as much akin to racing as it is to that classic sport of lounge lizards. The story goes that Fred wants to leave work early to practice his bowling game with Barney. Mr. Slate is having none of that, however, so Fred seems stuck. Enter his spacey friend Gazoo, who turns all of Bedrock into an enormous bowling lane so Fred can bowl while he works. The catch is that Fred, Barney, Pebbles, Bamm Bamm, or Dino will actually ride in the ball, which has been hollowed out and slides down the lengthy, twisty lanes. Bowling pins, collectible items, and obstacles are scattered throughout the track to help or hinder your rider.
This might sound like healthy, if simplistic, fun, but Bedrock Bowling only succeeds at bland and boring gameplay. Controls are limited to a scanty three buttons: two for steering left and right and one for an ineffectual "turbo" acceleration. If this seems a little oversimplified, it gets worse. This reviewer determined through empirical study that it's actually possible to complete all but two of Bedrock Bowling's lanes without even touching the controller. Thanks to the automatic momentum of your bowling ball and the invisible guard walls on the sides of most tracks, simply beginning a game and putting down the controller will generally see you through to the finish. Of course, it's somewhat more interesting to actually steer your way through the courses, but not much.
There's really nothing that can save Bedrock Bowling from such tedium. The few power-ups found in the game's lanes enhance little more than your score, although certain items do unlock a couple of bonus courses. Obstacles seem to have very little, if any, effect on your bowler; at one point during play, Barney sailed directly through a gout of flame and emerged with nary a singe. The visuals do nothing to enhance the game, either, since Bedrock Bowling looks like any PlayStation game might have four years ago. Perhaps a raucous multiplayer mode would have redeemed Bedrock Bowling slightly, but the only option is for multiple players to take turns racing the same tracks.
There's not much else that can be said about Bedrock Bowling, really. In the grand tradition of licensed games, this one also falls far short of being interesting or fun to play. Perhaps the license itself doomed the game to mediocrity from the beginning, or maybe it would have remained entirely insipid in the absence of any familiar characters or surroundings. In the end, though, we're probably better off not knowing.