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High Velocity Bowling
Score: 78%
ESRB: Not Rated
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Developer: Sony Computer Entertainment America
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Sports (Bowling)

Graphics & Sound:
High Velocity Bowling does an okay job of conveying that "bowlarama" feel during the big tournaments where you are on just one of many lanes and each of the more private two-lane locations has a very unique feel, but the overall presentation as far as graphics are concerned, feels very last generation.

Character models, while diverse (all eight or so), have a few too many points and sharp edges on them to be truly appreciated as a PS3 game. The rest of the world isn't quite realistic and gives an almost cartoony feel, but not so much as to assume the developers were trying to go for a cartoon-like appearance.

Sound, on the other hand, is pretty good. The music playing in the background sounds exactly like what you would expect to hear next to a set of bowling lanes and the other ambient sounds (the chatter of people, the ball hitting the pins, the ball hitting the lane, etc.) all sound appropriate and helps to pull off the feel of the game.


Gameplay:
High Velocity Bowling's a pretty straightforward game. There are two modes of play, Let's Bowl and Challenge Mode. Let's Bowl is essentially the quick play mode. Here you can pick one of your unlocked characters and practice a while before you go into Challenge Mode and try out tournaments or take on individuals head to head.

Challenge Mode is broken up into several levels. Completing all of the challenges in a particular level opens up the next level and more difficult challenges. In each level, you can choose the Head 2 Head challenge and go up against a character with the hopes of unlocking him in a modified version of the standard bowling game. Here, instead of just sticking to your lane for each turn, you go through the motions for what is typically your lane, and then you step up to your opponent's lane and throw the ball at those pins. When it is your opponent's turn, he does the same. Consequently, you end up having twice as many turns, so you should be able to get into the swing of things a lot quicker.

The other two challenges are Tournaments and Trick Shots. Both of these are fairly self-explanatory. Tournaments pit you against several opponents in tournaments of various sizes and difficulties (depending on how difficult the challenge is). Beating a tournament grants you a new ball. The Trick Shot option places pins in particular arrangements and tells you to knock them all down in one throw. You have a set number of attempts to go through a certain number of trick shots before you have passed this challenge.

Each character has a different set of strengths and weaknesses that are graded on accuracy, spin and speed. I found it hard to tell the difference between the two start-up characters, but once you unlock or buy some of the better ones, you can really feel a difference. For instance, when you start the game, you are given Joe. He has an accuracy of D-, a spin of D and a Speed of C+, but Mike "The Strike", on the other hand, is a lot easier to control with his accuracy of B+, spin of B+ and a B- in speed. It's really subtle differences, but it ultimately comes down to how much you have to compensate for the handicaps built into the characters.


Difficulty:
High Velocity Bowling has a mixed bag as far as difficulty is concerned. One of the hardest aspects of the game is getting used to the default control scheme and its reliance on the SIXAXIS motion sensors, but I'll go into more detail about that aspect in the next section.

Since you start off with a pair of really average-to-poor characters, you would expect it to be difficult to beat and unlock the better ones in the Head 2 Head mode, but I found myself rarely having to repeat this challenge, as long as I used the character I just unlocked to attempt the challenge.

What really bothered me was the lack of information given during the Tournament. The only thing you know while playing the tournament, until a game is over that is, is how you personally are doing. I would have liked to be able to look up the running scores of the other characters playing because that would have given me an idea if I was keeping up or falling behind. As it was, if I felt I did poorly in two or three turns, I felt like I was probably losing the game and would be more inclined to just leave the mode... that is, if it wasn't required in order to advance the Challenge Mode.

But as far as the difficulty of actually bowling, besides compensating for the downfalls of your individual characters, once you get a grip on all of the control mechanics (especially the spin), you should have few technical problems progressing in the game.


Game Mechanics:
High Velocity Bowling feels like an attempt to show up Wii-Bowling in that it can use the motion sensor aspect of the SIXAXIS controller in order to determine how fast and when you are throwing the ball. While the positioning of the controller feels much more like holding a ball than the Wii-mote does, it also puts some controls in slightly awkward places that are hard to handle.

You hold the controller vertically and on its side so that your pinky and pointer fingers rest on the (L2) and (R2) buttons, your ring and middle finger wrap around the front of the controller and your thumb is positioned above the (X) or Down button (depending on whether you are left or right handed). Confused yet? You might want to actually pick up a controller and try holding it like this first in order to get the feel for it. Like I said, it does sort of put your fingers in almost the right place for holding a bowling ball, and yes, it feels just as awkward as it sounds.

Before you lob the ball at the pins, you must position yourself in front of the lane. This is done by tilting the controller left or right to move your character across the lane. Tapping (X) or Down (again based on your handedness) lets you then input the angle. Using the same tilting motion, you change the angle of the throw - tap the accept button again and you are ready to throw your ball. Much like normal bowling, you pull your arm and the controller behind you so that it is now upside down. You will see your character pull back the ball. Then swing your arm forward as if your were throwing it (just don't actually let go) and the game registers the amount of speed and power you put into the throw and displays it on a meter to the right of the screen - if you hit the green, then you have achieved optimal speed.

Now the spin; I was quite a bit disappointed in this aspect of the controls, and this was also the hardest part to get used to. I fully expected the controller to register the way I move my hand as I swing my arm and translate that into an appropriate spin, much like Wii-Bowling, but High Velocity Bowling requires you to hold down one of the secondary shoulder buttons in order to put a spin on the ball (which button depends on which direction you want to spin). Mind you, these are the trigger-like buttons on the SIXAXIS and they have a wide analog range. Holding the button down halfway puts less of a spin on the ball than holding it down all the way. What makes this hard is that you have to essentially lock your finger in place while you rear back and throw the ball. If you let go or change your pressure on the button at all before you swing your arm forward, you will get a different spin than you were going for. I found it really hard to spin the ball to the left because that is the direction controlled by my pinky, obviously the weakest of my fingers. I will say though, once you get the hang of this and start to use it, the game becomes a lot easier and much more manageable.

Since High Velocity Bowling isn't an expensive game and it fits very much into the console casual genre, it might very well be worth looking at for anyone who wants a more authentic bowling feel (at least as far as the controller scheme is concerned). If you just want to see a different way to handle motion sensor-based bowling, it might also be worth a trial, but I don't know if it should go beyond the demo download if that is you're only reason.


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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