Bowling has rarely, if ever, been cool. Casual fans have enjoyed the otherworldly Elf Bowling, and Wii Sports Bowling has introduced an electronic version of the game to Nintendo Wii fans. Pogo has decided to give it their own spin with Way To Go! Bowling, and while it is a very cool-looking game, a number of factors make this game a “turkey” – and not in a good way.
So what about it is cool? The graphics and production values. Way To Go! Bowling is a really slick game. Each venue has a unique feel and character all its own, along with subtle touches, such as the sound of dirt being crumbled at the same time as pins falling in the garden-themed bowling alley. Every graphics option, from lowest resolution to millions of colors, is very polished. The different venues are very well-expressed.
From the initial bowling alley from the 1950s to the Disco – replete with multicoloured lanes that hearken back to big bellbottom dance-offs from 35 years ago – each space has lots of character. The game also features a few power-ups during the game, such as Big Ball, Extra Ball (allowing you an extra throw in a frame to turn a spare into a strike), or the Reset Pins power up (which brings down the gate and resets the pins during an opponent’s throw, giving them a zero score for that throw).
Unfortunately, that’s where the flattery ends.
The name of the game here, of course, is knocking down all the pins. There is very little deviation from a standard bowling title. The two modes in Way To Go! Bowling (Challenge, a story mode, and Practice, a chance to hone your skills in various scenarios) offer length, but not because there is a lot to do. In order to open up new venues or balls with various characteristics (such as faster maximum speed, or greater strength to knock down pins) you have to play the game – a lot. Unlocking something new will eventually require you to beat one of the colourful cast of opponents up to 25 times. This reeks of padding and laziness, not good game design.
The control method in Way To Go! Bowling is unique, but ultimately its biggest liability. You move your mouse left of right to choose your starting spot for the ball, then click and drag towards the pins in the direction you would like to throw. Do it quickly, though, as the color of the drag will change from red to yellow, indicating a weaker throw. Sounds interesting, right? Well, the addition of an “aftertouch” basically makes whatever you did for the setup worthless. Using the left or right mouse buttons, you can spin your ball as it rolls down the lane towards exactly where you wanted it to go. I was having my ball dodge and weave more than a boxer, breaking the laws of physics left, right and center.
Because of this, Way To Go! Bowling proves exceptionally easy. Unless you have an extraordinarily bad run of luck, you can easily get a minimum of a spare each frame. But those pesky laws of physics are wonky at best in the game. Pins seem to float or dance rather than sway and fall. Glitches abound: my ball actually went straight through the pins, a pin got stuck halfway through its falling animation, and wasn’t counted as having fallen, killing my strike. Sometimes the music would stop (a good thing, since the music loops very quickly) but the sound effects would remain.
But the worst offense of Way To Go! Bowling is that it just isn’t fun. Because of how easy it is to knock down the pins, the computer thought I was really good. As such, the third opponent I faced had a perfect game going into the eighth frame. Think about it: the third of many more opponents was an expert bowler. I shudder to think of how many players this will turn off. Not to mention the fact that, unlike something like Wii Sports Bowling, there is absolutely no skill involved in doing well. You’ll only progress if the computer decides you will.
At least there is local multiplayer for Way To Go! Bowling too, so two human players can go head to head. The game is pretty, but shallow, simple, and just plain not fun. I rarely say this about videogame adaptations of real-life activities, but you really should just go out, put on a pair of starched and sprayed clown shoes and toss a real ball down an alley.