Publisher: XS Games
Developer: Other Ocean Interactive
Release Date: October 14, 2008
It's difficult to hold the title of King of Wii Shovelware considering the sheer volume of junk that dominates the landscape, but it would seem publisher XS Games is intent on attaining the crown. The company behind the utterly abysmal Rebel Raiders: Operation Nighthawk is at it again with yet another subpar port of an already worthless game. This time, bowling bears the brunt of the XS wrath, and we are graced with Ten Pin Alley 2, a game that proves how Wii Sports could have gone wrong if Nintendo simply didn't care.
The first sign of trouble in Ten Pin Alley 2 is that there isn't much to do. The single-player portion offers the mundane Free Lane mode, where you can simply grab a ball, pick an alley and go bowl, as well as a subpar tournament offering wherein you can challenge four or eight computer players. Unfortunately, there's absolutely no incentive to play either mode. While most games would encourage you by offering cash or unlockables at the end of an event, Ten Pin Alley 2 will have none of it, instead simply telling you that you won and kicking you back out to the main menu screen. Tell me, how long do you normally play a game where there is absolutely no incentive to keep going? I think we both know the answer to that question, and it's not long at all.
The only single-player mode that offers even a smidgen of real content is Trick Shots. Each lane you step into has a collection of 20 different challenges to tackle, adding up to a total of over 100 different tasks. Unfortunately, though, the events are frustrating, annoying, and not really all that much fun to begin with. This mode, which is by far the best thing offered in the game, can keep you entertained for roughly five minutes, and then it's all downhill from there.
So single-player stinks, but can a strong multiplayer component save it? Well, we'll never know, because the multiplayer in Ten Pin Alley 2 is even weaker than the solo experience. The only available option is to have up to four players take turns bowling and see who comes out with the highest score in the end. That's it. There are no tiered tournaments, no trick shot contests, nothing but the exact same experience you'd get going to a real bowling alley, but without all the fun that comes with an evening out with friends. It's hard to believe that there could be anything more disappointing than the game's single-player offerings, but then along comes multiplayer to remind you of how good you have it with your three different solo game types. This game isn't fun by itself, and it isn't fun with friends; therefore, it utterly fails on all counts.
I'd love to think that I'm being too harsh on the game, and I wish I could say that the graphics and sound really draw you into the experience in spite of the lackluster gameplay, but that's simply not the case. The Wii version of the game is based on the GBA and (canceled) PS2 versions that appeared back in 2004, and it doesn't look like anything has been changed or upgraded since then.
Characters are composed of ugly polygonal abominations, heaped together in ways not seen since the laughably unrealistic characters of Final Fantasy VII. XS has gone the extra step in defining "flat" character models by simply painting on all details rather than doing even the slightest amount of rendering work. My personal favorite is "Tank," the meathead in the muscle shirt. His abs and pecs exist as some shaded black lines, much like what you'd see when you watch an eight-year-old draw. Even worse, there's nothing at all to distinguish one character from another, aside from clothes and some slightly different celebration dances. There are no stats associated with any character, and all of the bowling animations are exactly the same; in effect, all you're doing is choosing which skin you'd like to put on the wire frame model.
Further exacerbating matters is the fact that the alleys are just as bad as the characters, if not worse. Each is completely barren and devoid of any human life whatsoever, aside from whichever character happens to be bowling at the time. There are no crowds, no other bowlers, nothing to distinguish where you are as a lively and vibrant place for people to gather and have fun, rather than some random bowling alley you broke into after hours for some drunken kicks. The one thing each alley does offer are some simple, rudimentary animations that border on the offensive and only serve to highlight how far behind this game is, considering everything else that's been released since the PSOne.
Sound effects and music don't help a bit either, only leading you to wonder why this is a retail game that you are actually expected to buy instead of a free Flash affair you can play when you need a break at work. The soundtrack is composed almost entirely of ear-grating MIDI loops, and the sounds that come out of your speakers barely match what's happening on-screen. Occasionally, you'll take out one remaining pin to net you the spare, but the resulting wall of sound would lead you to believe that you had somehow taken down 30 pins. Maybe that one wooden stick you hit managed to bounce and carom into a few other lanes and cause mass chaos, since that's the only explanation for why such a huge ruckus would follow the felling of one pin.
The simple fact of the matter is that there is no reason to buy, rent or even play Ten Pin Alley 2. Every Wii sold comes with a copy of Wii Sports, and the bowling mini-game in that collection is infinitely better than what this title has to offer. Please be a savvy consumer and stay far, far away from this game. Ten Pin Alley 2 is a complete gutter ball, nothing but a waste of a disc that you should avoid at all costs.