Up is another re-review, this time for the only full-fledged bowling game for Kinect. If you bypassed this one due to horrible reviews everywhere, even here, here’s a short summary of it:

You know you’ve it made when life is so good you have a bowling alley in your  house. For Xbox 360 owners, that dream comes home with Brunswick Pro Bowling!  The good times roll any time you want with this realistic bowling experience  designed for Xbox Kinect. Customize your bowler with professional-quality Brunswick shoes, balls, and clothes, and bowl in six authentic ten-pin  environments. Choose the competition you want with different ways to play  including Exhibitions, Tournaments, Leagues, mini-games, and more. And, like a real bowling alley, kids can get in the game with beginner-friendly bumper  bowling.

Overview

When I first reviewed this, this game had a ton of problems. There is a patch, although I’m not sure when it was released, that seems to make the game playable now. It’s actually a much more enjoyable game now that it can be played somewhat properly. There is a learning curve especially if you are used to Kinect Sports bowling, but once you get past it, it becomes quite an interesting title. This one is actually more of a simulation than a game, so there isn’t much of a fun factor as there is with Kinect Sports Bowling. I’ll go into details as usual.

The Menu

The menu is controlled via Kinect with a hover and lock method. It works well for the most part, except when you are bowling. You have the option to skip certain parts and there’s a skip option in the lower right and the center when playing against the CPU opponents. The problem with the CPU opponents is if you aren’t perfectly still, and the CPU rolls the ball, you have to watch them play that frame. It becomes a little frustrating especially when you are trying to get through the game quickly and back to your turn. Anyhow, the menu is broken up in several main categories which include Career, Quick Play, Spares Challenge, Xbox Live, Leaderboards, How To Play and Options. As usual, I’ll break each section down.

Career

This is probably the glory mode of the game. I don’t recall playing any bowling title that goes as in-depth as this one does. When you first choose your career, you can choose a new bowler, or load a bowler. There are 10 preset bowlers that you can choose from, however they are mostly editable, except for their skills which I didn’t see any way to change them. You can name them and choose a team name as well, as there is team bowling in this.

Once you choose a bowler, you have more menu options. These consist of your Career Overview which just lists how much you have earned, as well as more detailed stats and any trophies you have won. Next, you have Career Events which is where you will spend most of your time. The events section is quite large so I will break it down in detail.

Career Events
There are 3 main events to choose from. The first is League Listings. These feature all types of different leagues. By default, mostly everything is locked and you have to do very well in order to make progress and unlock more events. The majority of the league events are similar, except for number of players on your league and the difficulty level. They are broken down into the following:

  • 4 Player Local League
  • 2 Player Local League
  • Beginners League 3/4/5/6
  • Amateur League 1/2/3/4/5/6
  • Expert League 1/2/3/4/5/6
  • 4 Player League of Champions
  • 2 Player League of Champions

The league games consist of a 7 week schedule, as far as I know (I didn’t get past beginners league), and I recommend taking control of all of your bowlers, otherwise the CPU puts them around a 100-150 average and you will lose, especially in the more difficult leagues. You could technically play local games with real people and form your own “gaming league” and play it out. There are enough game types to keep you busy for months.

Tournament Listings
The next type of events are the tournaments. There are quite a few of these and they all vary slightly. For example, you start out with the Beginners Tree Tournament. This is a regular tree tourney that starts with 16 players, then down to 8, then to 4 and then 2, except there seems to be 2 finals for some reason. The second tourney, Beginners Ladder Tournament is just a best out of 16 players tourney so it’s fairly quicker. There are a lot of tournaments though, I’ll try to give a brief description of the ones I have played.

  • Beginners Tree Tournament
  • Beginners Ladder Tournament
  • Beginners High Score Tournament (Highest score, I don’t recall the number of rounds)
  • Bowling Madness (This is the best of 70 bowlers, it is madness, think there are 10 rounds or so)
  • 2 Team State Championship (Like the league, except it’s for the state championship and it’s 15 rounds if I recall)
  • 4 Team State Championship
  • State Championship
  • Couples Ladder For Cash
  • Couples High Score For Cash
  • Couples Cash Tree
  • Pro Tour Qualifying (This is a 12 round that accumulates your total points and average, the objective is to get to #1, but it’s rather challenging)
  • Brunswick Pro Tour Vegas
  • Brunswick Pro Tour Ohio
  • Brunswick Pro Tour California
  • Brunswick Pro Tour Michigan
  • Brunswick Pro Tour Kansas
  • Brunswick Pro Tour Championship
  • Brunswick World Team Open
  • Brunswick Doubles Championship
  • Brunswick World Championship

I attempted to qualify for the pro tour, it turned out to be ridiculously hard, but maybe because it takes hours and you start to fatigue and not bowl as good when you first began. Realistically, the only way I see unlocking everything is if you practice and play everyday, probably for months, which is when I realized this is more of a simulation than a game as you have to be pretty devoted to it in order to complete a career. There is a lot to do, and if for some reason, that isn’t enough, the last area, Rival Challenges, allows you to attempt to beat 20 of the games best bowlers. Beating them does earn you money and unlocks special items in the pro shop.

Speaking of money, the majority of the tournaments require a buy-in of some sort. If you happen to quit a tournament or get eliminated, you do forfeit your entry cost. If you run out of money, you have to play one of the free events and win again to build up your bank. You also need to be careful not to blow all of your money in the pro shop as some things are quite expensive. With the whole “bank” system in place, you may understand why this game will take you months to play, let alone, taking a couple of hours to play a tourney to get to the final round and end up blowing it, causing you to start it all over again. One nice feature though, is you can save your tournament at any time, in between rounds – so if you bowl a couple of games one day, you can take a break, save it and resume later on.

Practice
If you need to, you can practice as much as you like. You can either practice just regular bowling, 10 frames, or if you need to master some certain types of setups, you can actually choose a pin select mode and pick specific pin layouts to try to knock down. I thought it was actually a good idea since this game can become quite challenging.

Pro Shop
The pro shop is where you can purchase all kinds of things, except you need to unlock mostly everything that has some meaning and cost first. The pro shop is categorized as well into the following areas:

  • Shirts
  • Pants
  • Shoes
  • Hats
  • Glasses
  • Bowling Balls
  • Wrist Guards

The shirts and pants are just cosmetic upgrades. However, the rest of the items actually enhance your bowler. For example, unlocking better shoes gives you strength bonuses so you can throw the ball harder with less effort. Glasses increase your accuracy, new balls will give you more spin and wrist guards allow you to throw hooks easier. It’s actually a neat system, but as it is with the rest of the game, there is a lot to unlock and it will probably take you months as well in order to purchase everything. When choosing the balls, you can have up to 4 balls as well as you can change them in-game for special recoveries and what not.

That’s basically the career mode in a nutshell. There is a lot to it, and it will take you a considerable amount of time to actually accomplish everything. As I mentioned earlier, this is the most in-depth bowling game I have ever experienced.

Quickplay

This mode lets you jump right into the game for the most part. You can choose from 1-4 players and then choose one of six venues, that from what I have read, are authentic and based on real bowling alleys. I can’t confirm or deny since I’ve never been to any of them, so we’ll just go with it. I did check out quickplay to get into more details and I did notice that when you do the universal Kinect pause gesture, you can turn bumpers on or off as well as display the lane oil.

Spares Challenge

I suppose this is the only “fun” mode of the game, although its more practice to me than a mini-game. There are a certain number of rounds of random spare shots to test your skill. You have 3 tries per round. Getting the spare on the first try earns you 1000 points, if I recall, while the second try is 700 and the 3rd is 500. After failing the 3rd try, you automatically move onto the next challenge. It’s more of a competitive game to see who can score the most points, but that’s all there really is to it. Here’s a video of it below, I’m not sure why I started my losing my 3 attempts and I never went that many rounds either, might be a bug:

Xbox Live

This is one of the few Kinect titles that actually has online play. You can choose a quick match just to find whatever is available (which isn’t much), start an Xbox Live Party, Create A Session, Join A Session and view your online stats. I thought it was neat that if you create a session, you can set a minimum and maximum average, so you can decide what skill level you want to play with. I was unable to find any online games though.

Leaderboards

The leaderboards only show Xbox Live scores, I didn’t see any options for local players, but I’m not sure if you would even keep scores for local players, especially if you customize the built-in roster, it seems stats stick to those bowlers. Anyhow, I noticed only 308 bowlers have played online, and the best bowler has a high of 277, strange no one has bowled a 300 yet, I think its possible in this game, just seems quite difficult.

How To Play

The how to play area has cue cards that you can review on how to play. They are broken up into menu gestures and in-game gestures. I already covered the menu gestures, so I’ll go into the in-game controls. When I mentioned there is a learning curve, there is quite a big one. Once you understand and get the hang of it, it actually works very well, for the most part. To begin, you first choose whether you are right or left-handed. Once selected, you cannot change hands until the match is over.

After selecting your handedness, you first want to aim. You step left or right and line up your shot. If you want to curve it, there’s an extra layer by using your left arm, it zooms in and you move your left arm to either side to curve the angle. You also want to pay attention this radar circle blip that shows your relative location to the game location. What I have experienced is that if you are too close to the top of the radar, the ball sticks to you and won’t release. The game does mention you can take a step, but only one.

I normally bowl in real life using a 3-step process, however, this game allows only one so if you back up, you have to adjust to only take one step. Taking more than one usually results in your radar blip too close to the top and you don’t release the ball. Anyhow, once your aim is set, draw your hand back and hold it, this locks in your aim, otherwise when you move around your aim moves with you. Next, whether you step or not, you want to do a release throw. Now, here’s where it gets a little confusing. I was able to determine how their system works for the most part. When you swing your arm forward to release, it seems to detect whether your arm is straight or angled to the left or right at the point of release. Angling your arm actually creates spin on the ball, depending on your angle, it can be a lot of spin or just a little.

If you just swing your arm straight across your body, it will just automatically hook for you, but just angling it a little bit does allow you to do finesse spin action. Once you get the system down, it’s actually quite accurate. The only thing I was unable to determine is how it measures your momentum as it doesn’t seem to care whether you swing your arm hard or soft, but I do think it has to do with lining up with your radar blip in the center. I noticed each time I was almost dead center with my release, the ball always travelled around 18-20MPH, whereas when I was further back, it was average to 12-15MPH and sometimes slower. I also found once you are in a good position where you are getting strikes, try to stay there and not move, it’s hard but it does help. The only other gesture is if you hold your right arm straight out towards the ball on the screen, you will cycle through the balls you have assigned to your slots. I did make a video of normal gameplay so you can get an idea. I do have a couch to the right of me, which is why I did the curvy shots instead of just lining up straight on, but you can check it below:

Options

Lastly are the options, but there’s not much. You can adjust the volume for the music, sound fx and the little mini-videos that play when you get a spare or strike. You can also turn auto-save on or off, load your game from here and view the credits.

Conclusion

The good thing is, now that years have passed since this came out and it seems to be fixed, it’s actually quite a decent title and especially at a bargain since I think most stores are still overstocked with it. If you find it used, it’s even a better deal. If you like the fun aspect of Kinect Sports Bowling, you won’t find it here and will probably hate this game. If you want more of a simulation/learning experience, this is probably a game you will like, but you must have patience with it, otherwise you will end up hating it. Take my advice on how to play it and you may find that it is enjoyable, but ultimately its up to you and whether or not you are an ultimate bowling fan.


This review is based on a retail copy of the Xbox 360 version of Brunswick Pro Bowling
Scoring policy: What do these game review scores actually mean?