Sometimes it’s the simplest ideas in life that prove to be the most rewarding, and that’s certainly the mindset that Touch Mechanics engendered when they set about towards creating Strike! Ten Pin Bowling (out now, free) for the iOS. Although I normally try to say something clever about a game when I initially introduce it, there’s not all that much that truly can be said when the game you’re setting up is — in fact — simply bowling. However — even though the game itself may seem simple, rolling a ball down a lane into some pins — there certainly have been quite a few other less than stellar attempts at bringing bowling to mobile units, a pitfall that Touch Mechanics has dodged beautifully.
Under the assumption that you already understand how the basics of bowling — as well as the game’s various scoring mechanics — all work, I’m going to instead jump straight towards how the game’s controls work. Before each shot begins you will have two separate sliders — one for managing the ball’s starting position, and the other for selecting the ball’s initial launch angle — each of which can be tweaked to your heart’s desire. Afterwards you can begin the ball’s toss by it with your finger and then physically flicking it towards the many pins placed at the other end, but it’s here where Strike! Ten Pin Bowling’s complexity truly begins to shine.
The straightness of the line you draw, the speed at which you move your finger, how far forward you move your finger before releasing, and even how far back you pull your finger before snapping forward all matter greatly. These various factors — all of which are sensitive to minute changes in user input — will affect whether you roll the ball straight ahead or sharply hook it instead, and even if you roll the ball gently or lob it violently. All of this will be quite vital as the ten pins in Strike! Ten Pin Bowling — all of which are rendered in 3D — are all subject to some impressively accurate physics driven pin action, meaning the precise way you toss your ball will make for massive worlds of difference.
In this regard I would compare the complexity of control you’re given in Strike! Ten Pin Bowling with that of Wii Sports, where Bowling was often considered by many as the compilation’s most-worthy mini game. Additionally, somewhat similar to how Wii Sports was included with everyone’s Wii at no additional charge, the fact that Strike! Ten Pin Bowling can be obtained for free only helps to further push it past any of its competitors. All that the developers ask for you to deal with is a series of constantly updating banner ads displayed at the top of your screen, all of which can optionally be removed via a one time unlocking fee of $2.99.
Furthermore — also similar to Wii Sports — three different mini games are included within, all of which seek to determine just how cleverly you can manipulate your bowling ball toss. Separate game modes — each with multiple difficulties — will challenge players to see if they can pick up legitimate spares, deal with some of the worst splits imaginable, and even if they can knock out one pin without also taking out another pin in the process. Players truly looking to test their mettle may well find themselves spending far more time with these mini-games than they do with Strike! Ten Pin Bowling’s single player traditional ten frame mode.
However — for the more socially minded gamers out there — Strike! Ten Pin Bowling also includes the ability to play against opponents online; either matched up at random, or versus people on your GameCenter’s friends list. Furthermore — and perhaps the most impressive part — is that these matches are not asynchronous based, with you getting to see every move your opponent takes — including throws not quite taken — all in real time. The flip side to all of this — and a crying shame to boot — is that there’s no single unit multiplayer option, which could have been a serious boon for friends together in places where Wi-Fi wasn’t available (or where cell phone receptions aren’t exactly optimal).
Local multiplayer issues aside, Touch Mechanic’s bowling simulator — in a move that will, based on whom you ask, certainly be met with greatly differing results — features an extremely bare bones presentation. While the game’s graphics are certainly nice enough, there’s ultimately very little going on here — an oddity in a game market otherwise known for over the top mascot style presentation – other than the lane, the ball, and the pins. Outside of some novelty bowling balls — such as a see through ball with a power drill set in the middle – all of which must be purchased via IAPs, Strike! Ten Pin Bowling’s visuals simply contain no more than the absolute bare essentials for conveying this genre.
Then again, if you desired a highly accurate bowling simulator with online multiplayer — that was furthermore being offered completely for free — then Strike! Ten Pin Bowling no-frill presentation is probably exactly the precise package you were always searching for.
iFanzine Verdict: Strike! Ten Pin Bowling is an extremely well made game that — although extremely minimalist — accurately captures the many tiny nuances involved in strategically rolling a ball, such that every last pin on the field gets utterly obliterated. The inclusion of real time online multiplayer — although oddly lacking local multiplayer — as well as various skill based mini games, will do much to keep bowling enthusiasts hooked on this game for quite some time to come. Some used to a far zanier presentation — the likes of which traditionally rule the iOS’s roost — might find Touch Mechanic’s visuals to be a bit pedestrian, but purists should have no complaints here.