Genre : Simulation/Sports
Developer : Lab Rats Games
Publisher : Crave
Release Date : May 10, 2004
Developing a bowling game and trying to make it worthy of a purchase must be a difficult task. Why, you ask? Well, bowling is a sport completely dependent on the minute motions of the human body, along with the broad strokes that are easily imitated by a videogame. A game developer has no problem programming an on-screen character to walk forward, walk backwards, to pull out a gun and shoot it, to hop slightly or to jump twenty feet in the air. But the finesse required for a sport like bowling is not such an easy task to emulate. Game developers are forced to come up with electronic equivalents to these motions, ones that employ the same amount of skill, yet are easy enough to use that the player doesn’t feel completely overwhelmed with micromanagement when trying to pull off a simple action.
The other problem that is sure to come up for the developer is whether or not these mechanics are any fun to use. Bowling games have existed in some form or another for well over a couple decades now, and as with most game genres, the control mechanics for each new game will almost always have some link to a previous game that, if it had handled these mechanics differently, would affect this new game in the same manner. Strike Force Bowling takes these old mechanics and simply does nothing with them. For a game based completely on physics, one would think the developer would work extra hard to make these work nicely, realistically, and smoothly. Not so here. Maybe realism shouldn’t be expected from a game that lets you bowl with a mud-and-magma ball on a goddamned pirate ship, but realism would be all this game has to put it above some inane minigame. But that’s exactly what Strike Force Bowling feels like, a minigame. You want to pay $20 for something that would have been better included as a small portion of a mundane 60-hour Japanese epic? Then Strike Force is your bag.
Strike Force Bowling is a trailer-dwelling primate’s dream, I’m sure. It’s filled with those fantastic Outlaw Golf-esque characters, except somehow with even less charm than the freaks that made up the cast of that game. You get to take this “colorful” cast of badly designed, horribly rendered morons to a multitude of equally “wacky” and completely asinine – I mean, totally rad – environments. Bowling in Egypt? On a space station? Really? You’re serious! Wow! How exciting! How completely appropriate for bowling! Come on, the Monkey Bowling mode in Super Monkey Ball was more appropriate to the sport than the inane settings Strike Force Bowling throws at you.
It would be totally rad if the developers tried to work in some of the nice features from other bowling games into Strike Force Bowling, but The Strike, as I like to call it, under delivers like a fat kid with a cake… or something (I’m not sure where I was going with that one. I was too busy staring at the back of The Strike’s box, as the screenshot of a freakish robot bowling outdoors in Egypt has me captivated like no other work of art before it ever has).
The thing is, I’ve played bowling games in the arcade, on the PSOne, even on a PC from two decades ago (upon a friends request to show me that a good bowling game outside of Monkey Bowling, proper bowling videogames can indeed take The Strike to school), that had more features that worked so much better than anything The Strike has to offer. Our friends at Lab Rats, the craftsmen behind Strike Force Bowling, could have at least taken twenty minutes to walk over to their local Laundromat and given the bowling game there a spin. It would have cost them fifty cents, tops, and they could have produced a better bowling game than this on pure osmosis alone.
What does Strike Force Bowling have? I’ve pretty much listed all of its “features”. It would be more telling to list what it doesn’t have: There’s no create-a-player function. No cut scenes whatsoever to make things slightly more exciting when you, you know, bowl a perfect game or something. No background activities besides some “dude” a few lanes down dicking around. Music that isn’t mind-meltingly boring? Announcers? A good training mode? Hell, there was an online bowling game announced for the Dreamcast ages ago – why can’t we play Strike Force Bowling online now, three years later?
The back of the box has a wonderfully misleading sentence, sitting there, waiting to trap potential buyers into wasting their hard-earned dollars on this trash: “With Strike Force Bowling, you don’t have to rent a pair of bowling shoes to have a great game!”
Wrong. I will take the liberty of rewriting this sentence for the good people at Crave Entertainment – don’t worry, I don’t need royalties, guys.:
“With Strike Force Bowling, you don’t have to snort a freshly cut onion or find the corpse of your best friend lying on your bathroom floor to have a good cry!”
Lame, I know, but so is this game.