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Brunswick Pro Bowling
Score: 60%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Crave
Developer: FarSight Studios
Media: Blu-ray/1
Players: 1 - 4; 2 - 4 (Online)
Genre: Sports (Bowling)

Graphics & Sound:
It should come as no surprise to anyone that one of the first games out of the gate for PlayStation Move is a bowling game. Bowling was easily the most popular part of Wii Sports and an easy way to introduce players to motion-based gaming. However, while Wii Sports saw entire leagues develop around its bowling entry, Brunswick Pro Bowling will have a hard time just getting a few casual Friday night players.

Brunswick Pro Bowling rolls in with a utilitarian presentation. It does everything it needs to, but not much else. There are six different lanes to choose from, though there isn't much to look at. The game is aiming for realism over anything else, so don't expect themed lanes with tombstones as pins or anything like that. At best, you'll see a few neon-laden lanes and a few flashing lights, evoking an "after hours" bowling alley look.

Character models are locked into particular appearances, though you can purchase new clothes and bowling balls through the Pro Shop option. Though it doesn't offer the same level of depth found in other bowling games, it's something. Still, there's little here to get overly excited about.

If finding new shirts and pants isn't appealing, it's worth it to look at the various bowling balls. Each has a different rating, one of the few stats that matters during gameplay.

Music is about as scarce as the customization options. Sticking with the realism, there are a handful of ambient bowling alley noises as well as a looping background track.

Brunswick Pro Bowling offers a healthy number of play modes. You're likely to spend most of your time in Career, where you take the aforementioned pre-made characters through their pro bowling career. Each character has a unique set of stats, which is odd considering the actual bowling is supposed to be based on your real world skill, not your character's point ratings. There's no clear explanation about what stats mean, or even how they affect anything in-game, adding unnecessary confusion to what should be a simple, fun game.

Career consists of a number of tournaments and other challenges. These are also available outside Career Mode and revolve around knocking down certain pin configurations. Scoring is similar to golf; the fewer rolls it takes to clear the pins, the more points you're awarded. It's not a bad mode except for the poor underlying mechanics that cripple nearly everything good the game has going for it.

Up to four players can take part in online play. Were it not for the control issues, it would be a killer reason to pick the game up. However, this just isn't the case.

It all comes down to controls.

Brunswick Pro Bowling is interesting in that it allows motion-based play using both the Move and regular PS3 controller (Dual Shock 3 or SIXAXIS). Each functions in the same way; one button picks up the ball, while swinging your arm adds the needed speed and spin. Of the two, the PS3 controller is the more comfortable option, though not by much. Although holding the Move is easier than Vulcan Death Grip required with the normal controller, there's no way to easily calibrate the controller before your first set. It's awkward and makes Move support seem like a bit of an afterthought.

These issues lead to sets going all over the place. It's hard to get into a consistant rhythm, which in turn makes everything else hard.

Game Mechanics:
Issues between the two control methods are noticeable once you hit the lanes. Aiming feels like it was calibrated with the normal controller in mind rather than Move. My bowler would consistently toss to either the left or right of the area indicated by the reticule. There's also a discrepancy with speed and timing. Everything feels way off when trying to use the Move. While I was able to get a number of fairly consistent bowls with the standard controller, playing with the Move was inconsistent and frustrating. Despite Move's ability to detect subtle motions, you're required to use overly-exaggerated moves.

Even worse than each controller offering a different game, your motions are completely dictated by your on-screen player's movements. Once you pick up the ball, your player will begin his/ her animation cycle. Your job is to match your movements. In theory, this doesn't sound like that big of a deal, but it doesn't work at all - at least while using the Move. Regardless of how much velocity you put into a roll, the slightest mismatch with the on-screen player will result in a slow, inaccurate roll.

For the price, Brunswick Pro Bowling would be an okay pick up were it not for the massive control issues. It also doesn't help that a cheaper option, High Velocity Bowling is also sitting in the PSN Marketplace. Though not without its own problems, HVB's controls scheme gives it a slight edge.

If motion-controlled bowling is something you can't live without, the best recommendation is to check your other options before settling on Brunswick Pro Bowling. There's a good game here, it's just saddled with a poor control scheme.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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