Brunswick Pro Bowling Review

Brunswick Pro Bowling proffers dry simulation fare that only a big fan of professional bowling could love.

With a video game, as with the proverbial book, it's generally not advisable to judge the contents by the cover. Game titles usually proffer precious little information about the nature of the game itself, opting for an attention grabber or brand identifier over a content descriptor. It's a rare game that lays it all out in the title, yet Brunswick Pro Bowling is one of those games. Let's see, "Pro Bowling" indicates a simulation approach to the sport/game of bowling, rather than an arcade interpretation. "Brunswick" is a venerable brand name in the bowling world, covering everything from shoes to balls to pins. This brand backing likely means that Brunswick is hoping to leverage and increase said venerability through this game, so we can expect a polished, by-the-numbers representation of the professional bowling scene. And that's exactly what we get. The only remaining questions are, how well did they do it, and how enjoyable is it? The answers: Fairly well, and fairly dull.

Brunswick Pro Bowling keeps it simple straight from the get-go. Do you want to hit up league night and launch a career, or do you just wanna bowl? For those interested in the latter, there is quick play. One to four players can lace up their bowling shoes, choose one of the premade bowlers, and get to rolling. For those inclined toward the former, it's not quite as speedy as all that. First you must design your character, choosing gender, hairstyle, clothing, and body type from existing palettes. Facial expressions range from focused to irritated to downright glum, and the slow speed with which you will cycle through these, or any, menu options will ensure you get a good look at them in all their unremarkable splendor. Complete this ponderous process and it's off to league night for some head-to-head competition.

The befuddled John desperately tries to remember scenes from The Big Lebowski that might help him in this situation.
The befuddled John desperately tries to remember scenes from The Big Lebowski that might help him in this situation.

League nights pit you against a random computer opponent in a three-game competition. Win two or more games and you'll be declared the winner, earn money, and improve your reputation. Money can be expended at the pro shop on--what else?--Brunswick gear, which can give your bowler's attributes a boost. These attributes, such as stamina, accuracy, and arm strength, actively influence the quality of the shots your bowler can make over the course of the league night, and you'll gradually notice this improvement. Attributes increase over the course of your career, but the bonuses afforded by Brunswick gear are a helpful boost. You'll need to trudge through a fair amount of league play in order to earn the money and reputation needed for tournament. Winning tournaments will earn you access to more advanced leagues, where you rinse and repeat your previous experiences against tougher opponents.

When it comes to actually bowling, the control mechanics are nigh identical to Wii Bowling. You adjust the angle and position of your release by using the D pad and rotating your Remote, respectively. Then, starting with an upright grip, you swing your arm back while holding the trigger button down, then swing forward and release the trigger to roll. The amount of hook on your ball is determined by the speed of your release, so the action of bowling is primarily an exercise in speed control. The angle of your wrist during your release won't have an appreciable effect, and fans of Wii Bowling will likely lament this lack. No matter how slow or fast you swing, you'll never really be in sync with your character onscreen, which is entirely unhelpful.

The enmity between ball and pin plays out yet again, as it has since time immemorial.
The enmity between ball and pin plays out yet again, as it has since time immemorial.

Overall, despite the seemingly well-suited control scheme, the Wii version somehow manages to serve up the least enjoyable action of the three available versions. As a simulation game, Brunswick Pro Bowling aims to incorporate the myriad factors and miniscule variables that make the difference between a good roll and a great roll. Lane oil patterns, bowler arm strength, fatigue, hook, and power are all incorporated into the action. Regrettably, the Wii controls do not allow for the type of precision necessary to take all these factors into account, and this creates a margin of error that will frustrate even the steadiest hands. You can still manage to bowl a reasonably consistent game, but the intermittent inaccuracy is bound to ruin at least a few of your rolls--and if you're aiming for scores above 200, a few ruined rolls is a ruined game.

The overall presentation sticks with the lackluster theme, offering predictably styled colorful clothing to outfit your bland characters while they bowl in a bland alley. The one visual bright spot is the animated roll of the ball down the lane and the crash of the pins, which, being the focal point of bowling, is crafted lovingly. The music loops through a few pastiches of different music genres that, while fairly innocuous, does nothing to enhance the experience. Also, for some reason, the Wii version costs $40, which is $25 more than the PS2 version at retail. Just one more reason not to go with this version.

On the whole, Brunswick Pro Bowling presents a fair facsimile of professional bowling, which itself is pretty unexciting. If you take umbrage at that assertion and actually enjoy watching the PBA on ESPN, then Brunswick Pro Bowling offers the kind of bowling sim you'd likely enjoy. If, on the other hand, the only pro bowlers you can name are The Dude, Walter Sobchak, and a guy who calls himself "The Jesus," you'd best leave this one alone.

The Good

  • Attractive ball and pin visuals
  • Brunswick goods will delight professional bowling fans

The Bad

  • Wii controls don't allow accuracy to the degree the game demands
  • Excitement sacrificed on altar of realism
  • Same thing over and over again

About the Author

Chris enjoys aiming down virtual sights, traipsing through fantastical lands, and striving to be grossly incandescent.