Bowling video games have always had a fundamental flaw: The hardware wasn't powerful enough to handle the near-infinite number of ways pins can break. The huge number of possibilities was therefore simplified to a few dozen potential results. The result was that most average players could learn to bowl a 300 game after a few lines. But that all changed when Tin Pin Alley struck the Playstation.
Ten Pin Alley is anything BUT simplified - the programmers relied on technical assistance from a major university to come up with physics algorithms. And it shows. The pins in this game break with uncanny realism - it couldn't look any better if they'd motion-captured strikes and spares. The power meter is also very well-designed, and requires a surprising amount of timing to get it right. In this regard, Ten Pin Alley the look and feel of a top-of-the-line golf game. Bowling 300 in Ten Pen Alley is as difficult as in real life, which is to say, all but impossible. Strangely enough, this feature is one of the game's most appealing aspects: It requires players to make tiny technique adjustments and constantly work to find the perfect delivery.
Ten Pin Alley's brilliant gameplay is balanced with humorous graphics that capture the lighter side of the sport. The texture mapped, polygon rendered characters (which range from Fred Flintstone clones to adorable kids) react to success and failure in cartoon-like fashion: Strikes are punctuated with celebratory air-punching, while gutter balls cause the characters to groan, scream, and cry like babies.
Ten Pin Alley's one weakness isn't even present in the game; rather it's the too-thin instruction manual. The manual assumes the player has an intermediate knowledge of bowling, which might not always be the case. For example, why would a player want to choose a heavier ball, or one made of urethane instead of resin? The manual doesn't say. Perhaps an in-game tutorial would have been a wise addition.
Plain and simple: Ten Pin Alley is loaded with addictive action that's equally fun played alone or with friends. This game isn't as fun as real bowling - it's more fun than real bowling. The editors at VideoGameSpot cringe when reviewers use hyperbole, but this time it's warranted: Ten Pin Alley is unquestionably the best bowling game yet created.