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DS  header logo

AMF Bowling Pinbusters!

For: DS

Strike out!

Product: AMF Bowling Pinbusters | Developer: 4J Studios | Publisher: Vir2L Studios | Format: DS | Genre: Arcade, Sports | Players: 1-2 | Version: Europe
AMF Bowling Pinbusters DS, thumbnail 1
Back in the American 1950s bowling alleys - along with bubblegum and convertibles with fins - were the gleaming future. Almost 60 years on, they evoke little more than the greasy whiff of the nearby burger bar, and that's before you press your feet into a pair of moist rental shoes and slide your digits in to the germ-ridden finger holes of a heavy ball. It's expensive, uncomfortable and, for those lacking in the metronomic-talent required to be a star, not a huge amount of fun after the first twenty minutes.

Welcome to the exotic locales and glorious selection of global stereotypes of AMF Bowling Pinbusters!. It promises to bring some glamour back into bowling. But delve deeper and you'll be met with a generally sub-standard game that's framed by simplistic controls and slow-paced gameplay - although, at least you can choose to play it outside the olfactory radius of a burger bar.

Starting with the positives, AMF Bowling Pinbusters! features a selection of gorgeously-designed anime-esque characters: from a 1970s disco-chic darling and magical boy-wizard, to a candy-floss pink J-babe and a musclebound highland gent, who seems to have traded haggis for bowling balls.

Each character totes a special ability too. For example, Solid Jackson is a funky Tibetan monk whose psychaedelic zen powers blast the ball to an instant strike. So far, so kooky, until the realisation that all of the zany dozen, bar two, remain locked until defeated. Furthermore, the two starting characters are the blandest of the bunch.

Perhaps more surprising is that the DS's touchscreen isn't used in-game. It's back to the old-skool with some traditional D-pad action. Whilst there's nothing wrong with D-pad play (even in this era of touch, it's not considered passe just yet), there's a niggling feeling that it would be so much more fun to break out the stylus and get tapping, swiping, flicking and dragging the ball around. Combined with the inherent lack of finesse required to score big points, the result is something that isn't much fun.

And despite the impressive selection of quirky characters, there are few special features to be found either, aside from the poorly implemented psych meter. This is charged up by bowling the ball at full power - the resulting psych energy can then be spent on dropping an obstacle in the path of your opponent's ball - an easily dodged phantom pin - or an instant strike (accompanied by an admittedly impressive cut-scene) for instance.

The modes on offer are underwhelming too. Quick Play mode is a painfully slow trawl through five frames; taking place in an empty alley, devoid of opponents and - as you'll discover by the end of the fifth frame - also devoid of enjoyment. World Cup mode is essentially Quick Play, dragged out over ten frames, versus an incredibly weak selection of opponents, repeated a dozen or so times.

Still, a problem shared is a problem halved so if you end up playing with a friend, you'll be pleased to know that there is a bevy of multiplayer bowling options. Notably, AMF Bowling Pinbusters! includes two player pass-and-play and, if it wasn't for the lack of finesse required to score countless strikes and spares, this would - perhaps - have been a passable and briefly pleasurable experience.

Frankly though, there are a few core elements required for any bowling game: the control method, the skill curve and the strike out presentation and audio. The controls need to be intuitive and yet still allow the player to develop their own winning technique over time, while the balls need to glide down the alley before smashing in to the pins with a satisfying clatter. Without these, no bevy of beautifully illustrated characters or panoply of psych powers can compensate.

The local bowling alley may be grim, but burger bar, rental shoes and the dirty balls aside, it's an experience AMF Bowling Pinbusters! doesn't match.
AMF Bowling Pinbusters!
Reviewer photo
Olly Farshi | 10 September 2008
Too easy and too slow, aside from the wonderful visual design, there's very little in AMF Bowling Pinbusters! to sustain your interest. Lack of touchscreen play only serves to add to the disappointment
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