Strike Force Bowling Review (PS2)
I jumped at the chance to review "Strike Force Bowling". After all, who doesn't love bowling? And who doesn't love squad-based tactical shooters? "Strike Force Bowling" seemed like it would be a natural blend of these two genres…
Imagine my surprise as I loaded the game to find nary an automatic rifle in sight. Instead, what I had in my PS2 was a bargain-basement attempt at an arcade bowling game. At $14.99, "Strike Force Bowling" costs less that the price of a night at the lanes. Is "Strike Force Bowling" worth the price? Or is it a gutter ball?
The graphics are about par for a bargain game. This means, of course, that they’re dreadful. The textures are flat, the models have a very low polygon count, and everything is as jaggy as can be. The animations are minimal and repeated over and over. Why go to the trouble of having a robot bowler, when it moves just like every other bowler? Not only the bowling animations, but even after the shot animations of celebration or defeat are the same all the way from the inventively named "Pro 1" to the cleverly named "Pro 32”.
The other "strike" against the graphics is the complete and utter lack of imagination. These locations all come directly out of Central Casting, with no personality or creativity exhibited. Imagine the most boring, stereotypical “Wild West” set you can, and you'll get a good idea of the “Wild West” lane in the game.
If this were "Strike Force Elevator" or "Strike Force Doctor's Lobby", I could understand the music choice. Otherwise I'm stumped as to why anyone looking to play an over-the-top bowling game would be interested in the worst of Muzak. Though each "world" has unique music, it's all soulless, lifeless and boring. The only variety is in the flavor: you get to hear regular Muzak, Medieval Muzak, Pirate Muzak, Space Muzak, and so on. The best thing I can say about the soundtrack is that if you go into the options menu, it can easily be turned off.
The environmental sounds such as the ball on the lane or the sound of the pins are passable, but still disappointing. While the sound accurately replicates the sound of a standard bowling ball on a standard lane, I'd expect a bowling ball made of a hollowed pumpkin or mud and magma to sound different. The sound of a pumpkin smashing into pins or a ball made of mud rolling down the lane at least would have added some variety and fun to the proceedings.
"Strike Force Bowling" has a decent complement of game modes: Open Play, Tournament, Skins, Golf, Challenge, and Practice. Challenge presents different sets of pin configurations, and you have three chances to pick up the frame, while the Golf mode presents different pin setups in an 18-hole course. Each "hole" has a different "par", and you score like golf. These two modes present some gameplay variation, but when the underlying physics and gameplay is lacking, all the different pin setups in the world doesn't help.
There are a limited number of different player modes (some of which need unlocking), and their skills are modifiable. This forms the basis of a limited “create-a-player” feature, but surely won't be enough to please anyone who is interested in building a bowler.
The mechanics of the actual bowling itself are pretty simple, and use the three-click system familiar to most sports gamers. You will line up your shot, then hit the X button to start a meter going from left to right. You click X again to stop this meter in a certain area to set your power, and the meter starts from right to left, where you click again to set accuracy.
On top of this, you can also change your ball and rotation. The manual goes into great detail explaining how different ball components will affect friction, how spin will affect the ball's path, and how oil dispersion affects all these. Unfortunately, none of this seems to really matter. It's all about the throwing meter, and even that isn't rewarding. I got similar results from poorly thrown balls and well thrown ones.
There are a number of different settings with different lane and ball components, but these don't alter the basic gameplay. On the “Pirate Ship”, for example, it initially seems like a fun challenge as the boat rocks back and forth. The challenge of trying to anticipate and react to the ships' movement could add a lot to the game, bit it's just for show: though the boat continues to rock and sway back and forth, it has no effect on the ball. The physics remain the same, no matter the graphics. A wooden ball rolling down dirt behaves the same as a marble ball on a marble lane that behaves the same as a steel ball down a swaying ship's deck.
It's hard to judge a budget game. It doesn't seem fair to hold a $14.99 game to the same standards as a full-price release, but with more quality budget titles being released (such as “Colin McRae 04”, “ESPN NFL 2K5”, and “TOCA Race Driver 2”) it just isn't acceptable anymore to sell a horrible game at any price. "Strike Force Bowling" won't take much out of your wallet, but it will waste time that could be better spent doing just about anything else. Poor graphics, weak audio, and mind-numbing gameplay add up to a game that would be a bad buy if they were giving it away.