|Min OS X: Any Version|
The evolution of bowling has a long storied history that is rivaled by almost no other sport. Its origins extend back to 3200 B.C. Egypt. English King Edward III banned his troops from playing so as not to distract them from archery practice in 1366. Modern bowling was standardized in 1895 as the game we know it today. Now it has gone virtual in the latest incarnation, RocketBowl.
A standard bowling game that replicated the real thing would be pretty stale, so the people at Large Animal Games have infused the ten pin pastime with roller coaster attitude. The basics remain the same. You have a ball, a rack of pins set up in the traditional triangle formation, and ten frames to knock them down for a maximum score of 300; but RocketBowl has altered the rules and lanes. Instead of two bowls to knock down each set of ten pins, you get three. Even if you don’t knock down all the pins, you can try a wild shot later in the game to knock down those remaining pins you missed. The flat, straight bowling lane has been replaced with an obstacle course of water pools, ramps, and bridges. If a bowling alley and a putt-putt course had a baby it might look something like RocketBowl.
There are a lot of facets to the game that ramp up the skill and keep things interesting. First, you get to pick your profile from six caricatures. Then you are given the first RocketBowl course to traverse through. There are two modes, Freeplay and Tournament. In Freeplay you can play the course to gain course knowledge for the tournament mode or go up against another AI bowler by betting some of your cash. Bowling for dollars anyone? RocketBowl is full of opportunities to fatten your wallet, or deplete it, depending on your skill. You can also earn cash by knocking down the green money pins or the floating coins on the course. After scoring a minimum score in the Freeplay mode you can play the same course in Tournament modes against a stack of others. You have to pay the entry fee; but the tournament is by far the quickest way to make a lot of cash by scoring a first, second, or third place finish.
Cash is not just for paying tournament entry fees. It also allows you to buy new bowling balls with special attributes. This is one of the most fun aspects of the entire game. There are twenty different bowling balls to choose from, ranging in price, color and special abilities. The more expensive bowling balls give you the ability to curve your ball around obstacles or rocket boost right, left or straight up to avoid barriers like water pools. As you move through the ten course lineup, you’ll need to purchase better balls to be able to navigate the obstacles and keep up with your computer opponents in the tourneys.
GraphicsWhile most real bowling alleys are stuck in the eighties, RocketBowl has gone fifties retro complete with Donna Reed and “Leave it to Beaver” style. Everything fits well into the retro bowling theme, especially in the menu screens. I just wish there was more of it. The courses are fairly sparse in decoration and textures, although they do get more complex in later stages. While you can up the resolution to 1024 x 768, better textures would really help you see the course contours to aim your bowling ball better. There are two stationary camera modes to view your shot from to help plan your shot a little better; but the switched view rarely gives you much help. The best graphics are probably on the balls themselves. Marble swirls, strawberry coatings, and melon striped paintjobs spice things up. You also have various graphic options including being able to play in windowed mode, a must for casual games.