The sport of bowling can be enjoyed by any age group, regardless of skill, thanks to its simple concept and rules. It has served as a popular choice among minigame collections for this very reason. While many games in the past have had success featuring the sport, few games have managed to achieve similar success by focusing solely on tenpin. This is true for Brunswick Pro Bowling for the Nintendo 3DS. It serves the sport well, but its limited modes make it enjoyable only in short bursts.
The modes available in Brunswick Pro Bowling are fairly standard and don't offer anything not seen in similar games. Quick Play lets you and up to three friends play either together or against computer players on a half-dozen different bowling lanes. Spares Challenge has you and your friends try to complete a series of frames by removing the last pins in order to score the required spare. These start off relatively easy but get more challenging as the match progresses. The person with the highest score at the end is declared the winner.
You are likely to spend the majority of your time in the game's Career mode. Here, you create your future bowling superstar and play through different match types to achieve greatness. There are three different competitions your bowler can compete in. In league matches, you and your teammates face off against other teams in head-to-head competitions. The team with the highest point total wins the match, and the team with the best record after the series of matches wins the league. A plus here is that if you feel that your AI teammates are not playing at your level, it's possible to take control of them.
If you're more inclined to keep all the glory to yourself, then Career mode's various tournaments are where your career will take shape. Here, you have an assortment of match formats, all involving your attempt to be victorious. These include tournament brackets, high-score challenges, and ladder matches where you try to improve your rank among the bowling elite. Career mode also includes rivals matches. These place you against various computer players in one-vs.-one matches; winning a match unlocks the next rival on your list, and your goal is to defeat all your adversaries.
The match types are pretty standard. You're always trying to outscore your opposition, and there aren't any cool match variations to mix things up. You go from one match to the next with the same objective every time: get the highest score. The only match types that change things are those that involve a partner or a team, but even in these matches, your goal is still to earn the highest score. It would have been nice if spare challenges or something similar had been added into the career mode to change the pace a little.
When you win matches, you earn cash prizes, which are used to pay for entry into other competitions or to buy items from the pro shop. Because there is no player progression, if you want to improve your character, your only option is to spend money on different pants, balls, gloves and other accessories. Unfortunately though, even with these supposedly stat-boosting additions to your bowler, the improvements to his or her game are difficult to notice.
There are two control options. If you want a more simplistic and reliable control setting, then playing with the stylus controls is the way to go. Using the touch screen, you aim your shot, and then by sliding on the screen, you give your roll the curve, spin, and power it needs to knock down those pins. When playing with the stylus, it's easy to pull off strikes or spares in only a matter of moments.
On the other hand, the arcade controls take a bit more time to adjust to. Here, the game incorporates a series of gauges to determine your shot. You can adjust freely where you wish to roll the ball from, but the angle of your shot, the amount of power, and the degree of spin are all dependent on your timing when pressing the A button. While it's difficult to mess up with the stylus controls, it can be extremely easy to make a mistake when using the arcade controls. Unfortunately, there is no visual tutorial explaining how to capitalize on either control scheme, so mastering the arcade controls comes down to trial and error.
Brunswick Pro Bowling doesn't have anything that makes it stand out in terms of its presentation. The different courses do have varying aesthetics, but none of them are particularly memorable. There are some character customization options, but most of the time you're looking at your character's backside and only for that brief moment before they release the ball. One plus, though, is that those cheesy-looking full-motion videos from the late '80s and early '90s that appeared in real bowling alleys when you pulled off a strike or spare are featured here. They were really campy then, and they still come off the same way now. There are only a handful of videos available, so if you're really good, expect to see the same ones over and over again, even after only a short time with the game.
Brunswick Pro Bowling is a serviceable game that can be enjoyed in short bursts when you're in the mood for a quick distraction. Even at $30, with the lack of additional game types, it may be better to hold off until its available at a better price.