Lace up your bowling shoes, there's zombies afoot!
The team at G-Style, the guys behind Crazy Construction, have done it again. They have successfully created a baffling and somewhat insane game that still somehow manages to deliver an immensely entertaining experience.
Undead Bowling is exactly what it promises: bowling with living corpses. However, don’t go picturing zombies nicely lined up in a pyramid waiting for you, these “pins” trudge closer to you with every turn in a randomized, mob-like formation, with new ones popping up throughout the lane to replace some of the guys you knocked down with your bowling ball of terror.
The game mechanics are fantastically simple, but do take some finessing to really master. You aim with the circle pad and throw the ball with the A button. After throwing, the ball can be steered with the circle pad for sweeping curves, or turned sharply by pressing the A button at the same time. These sharp turns only last for a moment, so careful timing and quick reflexes are key to some of the harder levels.
Each stage features a slot machine display on the top, which sometimes triggers a bonus Bingo stage full of golden zombies standing around in bunches. If you knock down every one of them, a new configuration is set up for more potential bonus points. Most of the time the trick is to treat them like dominoes, hitting the first row and curving the ball in anticipation of the next bunch.
A Hellfire boost can be automatically triggered in the middle of a turn or at the beginning. This turns the bowling ball into a rolling ball of fire that has a larger radius than the normal ball and leaves a trail of flames in its path. I’m not sure what this trail actually does to help me, but it sure is fun to watch the zombies jump in panic when they walk into it between turns.
There are four main stages which feature a different type of undead abomination while the last is a horde of all three types. These can be selected in any order, so if you’re stuck, you can always move on and try again later. There are three different types of play styles for each stage: Survival, Hunt, and Combo. Survival and Hunt are very similar; in Survival you bowl for 15 turns, and in Hunt you try to kill a certain amount, usually between 150 and 200 zombies. Basically, just try to keep the undead from crossing the red line in both modes and you’ll be fine. If the zombies manage to get too close for comfort, you can use one of the two power-ups available to either kill them all with a giant bowling ball, or crush about half of them with spikes.
However, the real challenge shows up in Combo mode where you are given five lives to try and hit all four designated combinations. After you successfully match or surpass one, the zombies are rearranged for the next combination so you can’t use your previous tactic. Power-ups are also disabled here, so use your turns wisely.
If you beat every mode in every stage, you’ll unlock the boss battle. Beat that and you can choose to play in a harder difficulty, which increases both the replay value and the frustration. The game’s sharp difficulty curve can make you want to tear your hair out at times, especially in Combo mode.
The game’s only real weakness is in its inability to compare scores. Bonus points can be picked up in a variety of ways, and a score sheet is shown after every victory, repeatedly reminding you of the current high score. However, there is no way to know who hit that score as it never asks for your name, or even initials, when you set a new one. It would greatly help replay value if I knew I could pass off the game to a friend and easily see who scored the highest. Connecting to others on the internet would also be a fun way to compare scores and up the challenge.
In case it wasn’t obvious, Undead Bowling isn’t for the squeamish. The graphics are delightfully gory, with 3D blood splatters hitting the screen with each kill. Some zombies are even cut in half by the bowling ball, crawling toward the player with just their arms and a bloody stump of a body.
The crazy metal guitar music of the game mixed with the calm jazz of the level select screen is hilarious. I absolutely love how this game just dives right in, unabashedly embracing the ridiculous concept they have created. There is a great satisfaction in slamming a terrifying metal bowling ball into loads of zombies and even though there isn’t much else added in terms of mini-games, it’s a fun little game that I can see myself picking up again and again to add some quick slaughter to my day.