Title: Strike! Ten Pin Bowling
Developer: Touch Mechanics
Publisher: Touch Mechanics
Genre: Party, Sports
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Age Rating: PEGI 3
Release Date: 23/01/2020
Price: £9.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
Everyone, avid gamer or not, has fond memories of playing Wii Sports bowling with friends and family. The thrill of using motion controls for the first time, accidentally hitting your mum or your brother in the process and watching the Miis jump spin as you threw the bowling ball backwards. Ah, those were the days!
Upon seeing a bowling game for the Nintendo Switch, it’s hard not to automatically think of Wii Sports and compare the two. So does Strike! scratch that Wii Bowling itch, or does it make the genre its own?
Become the kingpin
I was surprised to see that there are a number of different game modes available to play as I scrolled through the menu, some solely single-player and others both single and up to four players. These included your classic ten pin bowling, splits, spares, candlepins, and duckpins, plus a few more. However, there actually aren’t as many modes as it seems, as a lot are repeated and instead called a ‘taster’, with fewer frames for a quicker game.
Having said that, I did like this variety and the option to play shorter games if you’re on the go. It was great to have the challenge of split pins, for example, considering the other ten pin bowling modes are fairly easy. You can also choose the difficulty on some game modes and try to beat your high score. This acts as an incentive to keep playing the game with its competitive spirit.
The problem was when playing two-player with my brother, we spent more time arguing with the game than with each other.
Oops, too early!
If you’re playing alone, you can play the game in handheld but vertically, using the touch screen to swipe the ball towards the pins. This is the first time I’ve played a game on the Switch with that option, and you could definitely tell Strike! was made for mobile. It works really well in this format because it’s easy to pick up and play in short bursts, just like a mobile game.
The issue I had was using the Joy-Con when playing multiplayer. The Wii Sports bowling controls allowed you to hold down two buttons, and when swinging the remote forward, you let go. Easy! I expected this was also how the Joy-Con would work. Instead, you had to pick up the ball with the top button on the d-pad, swing back, and when swinging forward, squeeze the ZL button at the right time. Easier said than done.
The “right time” was so tricky to get, that a ‘TOO EARLY’ warning would flash on the screen and you’d have to start your bowl again. It was such an awkward way to play, holding down one button while swinging and then having to press another for a split moment. This meant that my brother and I were more focused and frustrated with actually getting to take our shots, prolonging the game, than having a fun, competitive game together.
Someone did question this control choice in the YouTube comments of the trailer at the top of this review, and Touch Mechanics replied saying that hold and release can’t be implemented. This is a fault of Nintendo rather than Touch Mechanics themselves. However, the controls still felt clunky and inconsistent. It was extremely hard to throw without your ball veering right or left, and doing the exact same throw would equal different results.
The thrill of the game?
This was indeed an aspect that took the fun out of the game. One moment you’re knocking down all the pins and in the next using the exact same movements, because you have to tap ZL at the opportune moment, your ball rolls slowly down or spins to the right. However, it was also the lack of charm in the game and little gripes or inconsistencies that just didn’t keep me interested.
I understand there’s only so much you can do with ten pin bowling, but a lot of the game modes were too similar. None of them particularly stood out or excited me, so I couldn’t play more than 15 minutes at a time without getting bored. Though the menu has music, when you’re in the games themselves it’s silent except for the ball and clash of pins. No soundtrack and no announcer saying ‘nice shot!’, just the sounds of a bowling alley. Again, this just made it feel monotonous and like something was missing.
The graphics were lovely, and there were never any performance problems. There are lots of bright primary and secondary colours, and you can personalise your ball in a wide range of choices, from a cute hamster inside it to a replica of the moon. But it seemed so inconsistent to when you could actually use or change your ball. Some modes let you and some didn’t, and it isn’t an option for multiplayer. It almost seemed like a waste of this feature!
I also disliked that after every time you exited a game mode, it would take you right back to the start menu instead of the mode selection menu. This was particularly a problem when playing handheld, as both the menus were horizontal, so you’d have to keep turning your Switch. Having achievements was a nice touch too, but you can’t actually click on them to take a closer look or see what can be done to get them all.
A mobile game at heart
For me, Strike! just doesn’t work as well as a multiplayer game using the Joy-Con. Using the touchscreen is fun, but the lack of charm and excitement meant I could only play in short bursts. Like a mobile game, which it originally is, it’s something to kill a little time when travelling or waiting for an appointment. But then that raises the question if it’s even worth buying on the Switch if you can get it on mobile.
Unfortunately, I don’t think it’s worth the price tag. I can imagine getting four of you together to play it would be fun for a while, but it’s too repetitive to really grip you. Maybe it’s the nostalgia talking, but this is not the Switch’s answer to Wii Sports and nowhere near as exciting if that’s what you’re expecting. It has its own unique features, but it didn’t quite work for me. If you’re looking for a game to take on the go it is ideal, but personally I would wait until it goes down in price. It isn’t that the game is necessarily ‘bad’, I just don’t think it is suited for Switch.
Since writing up this review, an update has been released to patch bugs including the ball getting stuck down the lane. I hadn’t experienced these bugs and upon replaying the game, everything was just as smooth. A new game icon has also been added, which is bright and colourful, more so than the original. Unfortunately, I just personally can’t get over using the Joy-Con and having to try multiple times to throw the ball. Single-player on the touch screen works well, but as a multiplayer game, I know people like my mum would struggle to use the Joy-Con with these controls when I want everyone to be able to enjoy a party game.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can buy Strike! Ten Pin Bowling from the Nintendo eShop at the following link: https://www.nintendo.com/games/detail/strike-ten-pin-bowling-switch/
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