Release Date: June 2007
High Velocity Bowling was conspicuously missing from Sony's Gamers Day presentations, so when I came across the game on a series of "PlayStation Network" demo units, I presumed it was the bowling mini-game to be included in PlayStation Home. It's not; and in fact, the Home bowling game could be found elsewhere at Gamers Day, and it proved to be a rather simplistic diversion.
Instead, High Velocity Bowling is Sony's answer to the bowling game in Wii Sports — a low-frills, downloadable game with motion controls. Of course, the key hurdle here is that the SixAxis controller is supposed to be held with two hands. The solution — hold it sideways! This seems like a reasonable proposition in theory, but the execution brings decidedly mixed results, as the sideways SixAxis lacks both the comfortable feel and precautionary wrist strap of the Wiimote.
Setting up a shot is a multi-step process, starting with the arrangement of the SixAxis in the player's hand. For right-handed players, the controller must sit sideways, with the grips turned inwards and the X button positioned near the thumb. No word yet on how this would work out for left-handed gamers, though it certainly seems like a tricky proposition. Once comfortable, the player can set the bowler's position and aim by rotating his/her wrist and pressing X at each screen.
When ready to roll, the player can hold X to initiate the process, then pull the controller back, thrust it forward, and release the button to take a straight shot. Those looking to put spin on the ball will have to hold L2 or R2 instead of X. Determining power seemed to be an inexact science, though a producer noted that the team is still smoothing out the controls. While not as comfortable as wielding the Wiimote, the control scheme proved effective, as I was able to string together a 120 in my first full game after a bit of practice.
However, the lack of a strap or some type of physical restraint makes playing High Velocity Bowling an incredibly frightening adventure. Whipping the SixAxis in the general direction of a $3,000 LCD monitor was a nerve-wracking experience, and even though my own television pales in comparison, I doubt I would want to take the chance of busting a hole in my HD. This seems like a non-negotiable issue in the post-Wii gaming world, so it will be interesting to see how Sony addresses this in the coming weeks and months. At the very least, you might want to find a large, thick rubber band and create a homemade remedy.
More distressing than the potential safety hazard is the lack of online play. Based on consumer demand, an online-enabled sequel could come at a later date, but without such support in the original, it's hard to find a whole lot in High Velocity Bowling that truly sets it apart from the bowling game in Wii Sports. Leaderboards are a plus, but online competition seems entirely necessary for a social sport like bowling. Holding such a feature for a potential sequel may ultimately hurt the appeal of the original.
What High Velocity Bowling does have is a number of offline play modes, including "Let's Bowl" and "Challenge," which, between them, allow players to throw a quick game, take on a buddy or computer opponent, participate in tournaments, and attempt a variety of wild trick shots. A colorful cast of characters, including Tiffany ("CuteChick23lol") and Barry ("The 'Stache") fill the ranks, and each comes with its own unique animations, environment, and specific bowling ball. Additional characters may be available for download at a later date, though no specific details were provided.
High Velocity Bowling is currently slated to hit the PlayStation Network Store in late June at a price of $9.99, though the date is tentative. While certainly at a playable state, the build on display at Gamers Day still needed additional attention in regards to the motion sensing and its ability to pick up a throw and determine the power put behind it. If these kinks get worked out before release, High Velocity Bowling looks to be a solid downloadable offering from Sony.
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