Time to bowl! And... that's it?
With a description like “get ready to smash the boundaries of handheld bowling,” Smash Bowling 3D promises a lot that it, unfortunately, doesn’t deliver. This latest release from Big John Games personifies the phrase “good but not great.” As a bowling game, it plays smoothly, offers a good amount of content to unlock, and has some fun customization features. But that’s about it.
Starting up for the first time, you are prompted to create a new profile. This profile records a player’s career statistics and tracks achievements as they progress through the game. Customization of the profile, however, stops with a name. Even when it comes to editing your profile, you are only given two options: erase and rename. An avatar option, or even the ability to save my favorite bowling ball would have been a definite improvement.
The only option for customization comes from the bowling balls and alleys player choose from before the start of each game. In the beginning, there is a small selection of bowling ball designs and a single alley (or backdrop) available. As you accomplish more and more throughout the game, additional design choices and alleys serve as rewards. They exist only for aesthetic appeal, but it gives the players something besides achievements to work for.
This game has three different modes: Career, Multiplayer and Practice. Career mode takes players straight through a regular game of ten-frame bowling. After the game, the player’s score is saved into their profile and any achievements or unlocked content are awarded. Multiplayer plays exactly the same except between 2-4 players passing around the 3DS, and Practice is fairly self-explanatory, allowing players to customize the setup of the pins to practice various shots. Both Career and Multiplayer modes could have been drastically improved with the addition of features like a full-campaign in Career mode and an online or local versus option in Multiplayer.
Two different control options, buttons and touch, vary the gameplay a bit more. The button system is made of up position, the left or right placement of the ball on the lane, and moving gauges for power, aim and spin that rely on precise timing. Although it’s easy to pick up on, it gives the player just enough challenge to make those strikes and spares worth it.
Touch controls first require the player to use sliders to set the position, power, aim and spin, making this part significantly easier than its button counterpart. But when the screen switches to a top view where players drag the stylus along their aim line to throw, suddenly this option becomes cumbersome at best. Speed of the stylus is key and throws off the whole shot if done incorrectly. More often than not, I ended up too slow or too fast which just left me feeling frustrated and switching back to button controls.
Bare-bones as it is, Smash Bowling is a solid title for anyone looking for nothing more than a straight bowling game. In most aspects it plays well and overall offers up a decent challenge. It is not a bad game, but with little to keep players going for more than a week, it’s still a far cry from being very worthwhile.