Genre: Sports Developer: Visco Publisher: Mentrix Players: 1-4 Released: 1993
Never has the bowling game been the huge money maker in the world of video games. Sure, these days every cell phone in the world has some sort of bowling game, and Elf Bowling is still sitting in a file somewhere in the depths of nearly every PC in America. What makes those different is the simple fact that they were FREE. Not to many people are going to spend the money on a full-fledged bowling game when they can either find it for free online or on their phones, or even pay shoe rental fees and just play real bowling. Unfortunately, when this happens, sometimes a gem can quickly roll in the gutter and be forgotten like Elf Bowling’s2 sequels.
Today we’ve got Championship Bowling, a game which simply hit the bargain bin at Big Lots not soon after its release. With a year full of games like NHL ’94, X-Men, Rocket Knight Adventures, and Bubsy hitting the market around the same time, it’s understandable why. Even though it wasn’t necessarily a bad game, it still wasn’t going to take the world by storm.
You start off with a simple title screen and menu, making the game feel like it came from 1989 and not 1993. Soon after choosing which game you want to play, pick your character. You’ve either got the girl who’s weak in arm strength but is still a smart bowler, you’ve got the blonde, white guy who has even control and power, then the black man who uses power over brains and aiming. If it wasn’t for the fact that Sega had no hand in producing this, I’d say it’s a Streets of Rage spin-off based off the character design alone.
The actual graphics aren’t horrible, but not something that should have come from a 1993 release. They simply don’t age well. The menus almost look like random palettes thrown together, along with the actual characters having pretty much the same animations for anything you do, making it hard to tell at times just how good you did. (And the black guy continuously shooting steam from his nostrils just seems slightly wrong) The actual look of the bowling lanes along with the pins look alright. Just alright.
Your music is what you’d expect also. Little musak tunes as you select your lane type and your characters, even the same type while actually playing the game. The other sounds though actually are pretty good. Balls rolling and pins hitting sound real and really help the overall feel of the game, which needs help after your three characters seem to speak Game & Watch. The sounds are a better element to the game than the graphics, hand down.
What really makes it important of course is the gameplay itself. I liked how the controls worked out, and it really feels like a bowling game, not a “hit the moving target to bowl a strike” engine you usually see. Not that it isn’t played with such a meter, but it makes sure you take more elements into consideration. In the game you have a choice between either a fast or slow lane or the choice to either play them all the same or mix up the lanes throughout the game, forcing you to reconsider your strategy over and over throughout the game.
Of course, it’s easiest just to use the black guy on a fast lane, give it all power, and aim the shot right in the middle and bowl a perfect game your first time around, but you should soon be trying out things with the blonde until you decide to turn everything around and go with the smart bowler (and you can tell it’s her because she’s the least dressed for bowling and wears glasses and has her hair in a bun).
Even with such a simple idea, Championship Bowling has created replay value, which is something that wasn’t really duplicated in a bowling game until years later with Animaniacs bowling (seriously) and again with Wii Sports bowling, which has created a resurgence of interest in the virtual sport. Well, there’s not many bowling games to choose from, so why not! If you enjoy bowling and are getting tired of pressing the “OK” button on your phone, try it out!
SCORE: 7 out of 10