Developed by:4J Studios Ltd. Published by:Vir2L Studios LLC. Genre(s):
  • Sports
  • Platform:
  • Handhelds
  • Nintendo
  • Cost:$19.99 ESRB Rating:EVERYONE Players:1-2 Release date:June 10, 2008 Reviewed on:DS

    AMF Bowling Pinbusters!

    For those of you who can agree that, like myself, your real life bowling skills leave something to be desired, here is your alternative; AMF Bowling Pinbusters! Originally a title for the Nintendo Wii, this game has been developed for your Nintendo DS via 4J Studios. It’s brought to us by Vir2L Studios, the very same publishers that provide your cell phones with wireless versions of popular next-gen titles like Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. This casual sports game is definitely fun for anyone, but perhaps not for everyone. Let’s explore this title further

    The scheme of this game, as the title suggest, is good old bowling excitement. You are still aiming to knock down ten pins with your trusty bowling ball in two rolls (one “frame”), but now you can do this with 12 different characters and up to 13 different environments (with some very decked out lanes, I might add). But, we’ll come back to that a little later. For now I’ll explain to you the mechanisms of the game, which are relatively simple. You control your player’s position with respect to the bowling lane, how much power they put into each roll and the spin of the ball as it cruises down the lane. Go ahead and put those styluses back in their slots, because sadly, you won’t need them. (It always bugs me when the technology of a gaming system is not used to its fullest!) Instead, you use the D-pad to move the character to the right or left of the lane and then pres the ‘A’ button to continue selecting the power level. The ‘A’ button is also used to swing and release the ball. Once you begin the swing a meter is shown with your character’s arm matching up with a power meter, which is similar to a semi-circle or trajectory path. At the end of the meter there is a full circle indicating the maximum power level. If you time it right, you can press ‘A’ again to release the ball as the character’s arm reaches the maximum power level. This will result in your player releasing the ball at maximum speed. However, if you release the ball after the max-power marker the player will default and you loose your roll for that frame. Lastly, you return to the d-pad to control the spin of the ball, moving it left or right before it hits the pins. The extent to which the ball moves will depend on the character’s abilities. Each character has different power and control abilities. I found that the characters who had the least control were actually easer to play with and I often overshot a spin with the character’s that had the greater control ability.

    To spice up the game a bit there are signature moves and Psyche Attacks. The more you knock down all ten pins in one roll (strike) or in one turn (spare), the more points you get and the faster you will fill your Psyche Meter. You can also fill it by releasing the ball at max-power. Once it is half full, the option for a Psyche Attack is displayed on your screen. If you choose to deplete your meter and execute a Psyche Attack, a large red pin appears randomly in your opponent’s lane. If the ball is rolled too close to the obstacle, the roll will be an automatic gutter ball, and no points are gained. I will say that I stopped using the psyche attack around the time I realized that the computer would purposely hit the obstacle only to mysteriously roll a perfect strike in the very same frame (blasted computerized accuracy)! If you allow your Psyche Meter to fill completely, however, your character will throw an automatic strike and do their signature move. These signature moves are unique to each character and somewhat representative of their personal style, which brings me to the character designs.

    You start off with a choice of two characters and must unlock the remaining ten characters by defeating them as they appear in each round of the World Cup mode. When I finally unlocked all the characters and their respective secret “gifts” I was happy to see that each player had a rather unique personality evident in their overall style, comments (as few as they were), and even in their respective bowling alley stages. My favorite has to be Solid Jackson, a mix between a monk and someone you would readily see on Soul Train! He was so cool that he didn’t even get upset when he lost to you, claiming that even when loosing he was “still Solid”. Across the board, the character designs conveyed distinctly different ethnicities and personalities, but the wardrobes among the female players still defaulted to either super-short shorts/skirts or butt-tight pants. I would have liked to seen more variety in the female wardrobe, something that mirrored the diversity of the characters themselves.

    As far as gameplay was concerned, the players only differ in their power level and control, and not by much. A few of them had the exact same attributes, making the preference of the character rely more heavily on their physical appearance or their signature move. Now I, wanting to see these signature moves and fill in the shadowy outlines of those unseen characters, relentlessly entered one World Cup after the next. I must say, however, that I was quite disappointed with the outcomes. While each signature move was exclusive to the character, the creativity of these moves was lacking.  With a game as straight forward as this, you have to have characters that stand apart from each other. There has to be something desirable about them that make you want to work to unlock the characters or any special tid-bits that come along with them. And since these players didn’t differ too much in their power and control attributes, I had little left to motivate me to choose one character over the next.

    Moving on to the rest of the gaming experience, there are five modes to the single player (including practice), and three multiplayer options; pass-and-play, local, and world-wide wireless. In addition to the aforementioned ten-frame World Cup mode, the single player modes include Practice, Duckpins, a short 5-frame Quick Play mode, or for the challenge-driven players, the Precision mode. The Practice and Quick Play modes are best for when you are testing out a character. As I mentioned before, some characters have very similar or the same power and control attributes, but for those who differ greatly, you should try them out first.  The precision mode can become quite challenging, as it forces you to eliminate one pin per frame over the course of ten frames. I was not personally entertained by this, but I can see how others might be. The Duckpins were, however, quite enjoyable. This mode consisted of a miniature ball and pins, but there are three rolls per frame instead of the standard two. This mode was also a bit challenging, but more my speed than the Precision mode. These modes together with the multiplayer ability can definitely be a source of prolonged entertainment, especially when the games are really close, but it does not necessarily provide endless entertainment. The multiplayer options come to a screeching halt when waiting to connect to someone via the world-wide wireless mode. This basically limits you to pass-and-play if you actually want to challenge a human opponent (or you could buy a copy for a friend!)

    Last but not least, I’ll comment on the graphics and soundtrack. I must say, these aspects contribute to the gameplay reasonably well.  The music was pretty exciting and generally kept with the themes of each bowling stage, and ultimately the character designs. Also moderately delightful were the sound effects for the ball hitting the pins of the crowd’s reaction to a strike/spare, fault, or Psyche Attack. Then there were these very attractive camera angles as the ball rolls down the lane. Now this should be expected because, well this is a bowling game and what else will you look at? Somehow I don’t think watching the character look at their bowling balls rolling away is as exciting as watching the ball itself! This effect was enhanced by the highly decorated, yet not too distracting, bowling lanes.

    While AMF Bowling Pinbusters is a very enjoyable game that just about anyone could pick up and enjoy, I can see why the more involved gamer may move onto another sports game wanting more of a challenge. While the Precision and Practice modes allow you to try your virtual bowling skills with specific aims, the replay value of this game is severely limited to the availability of a human opponent or your desire to perfect your game. It would be awesome if you could stay motivated to play this game by making a name for yourself world-wide on the Nintendo’s WiFi connection but that would require more people, or rather anyone other than myself to actually log on! Instead you are resolved to make the best of pass-and-play (great salvaging point) or the willingness of your friends to buy their own copy and be close enough to connect wirelessly.



    Simple and to the point, but maybe a bit on the dry side with the anticlimactic signature moves and Phsyche “Attacks”.



    Pretty decent stages with themes that attempt to match the personal style of each character.



    Pretty entertaining, not that I would go out and get the soundtrack or anything, but it’s lively and amusing none the less.

    What's New:


    Sorry folks, nothing to report here.



    With the barren online playing field, replay value is truly in the hand of the gamer. If the Precision and Practice modes aren’t enough for you, you can still challenge a friend to a series of pass-and-play matches.

    Final Score:


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