Very few video games provide satisfying yet mindless fun quite like bowling does. This update to 2012's Crazy Strike Bowling for PlayStation 3 offers more addictive action set in a familiar world so let's see if it gets a strike or lands in the gutter.
Playing Crazy Strike Bowling requires almost no instruction. You basically tap a button to time your power and aim meters. Of course, you can optionally move and turn your character, change your ball on the fly, and apply some spin to your throw. However, things get tricky in Crazy mode because you'll have to deal with hazards such as moving blockades and wind. To help you out, you can collect useful power-ups and charge your throws via a simple quick time event whenever your meter is full. As you play, you also gain points that you can spend on clothing which not only changes your character's appearance, it also gives them stat boosts. Anyway, you can play with up to four local players either using traditional controllers or PlayStation Move controllers if you still have some kicking around. Overall, the simple gameplay provides plenty of fun whether you're playing by yourself or with some chums.
Crazy Strike Bowling EX boasts bright graphics filled with delightful characters in a vibrant world. It's cute, silly, and doesn't take itself seriously at all which is perfect if you're looking to have some carefree fun. One of my favourite features is a bowling glove come to life that reacts to your successes and failures. It's unexplainable why he's there but that makes watching his antics even more amusing. The music reminds me of the late '90s PlayStation era when many arcade-like experiences were being released. The charming soundtrack mixes with the satisfying sound effects wonderfully yet the voices could use some work. Many voices don't seem to match the characters and all you get are a handful of repetitive short bursts of emotion. Hearing a character go "Yes! Yes! Yes!" for the hundredth time will surely get on anyone's nerves. My only other complaint with the presentation is that there are frequent visual glitches that took me out of the game world. For example, when some animations loop, there's a noticeable amount of frames missing in between.
There's a wide variety of content to enjoy in Crazy Strike Bowling EX. You can play simple exhibitions either solo or competitively in an assortment of lovely environments such as a flowery meadow, the Amazon, the Grand Canyon, a Japanese garden, an Egyptian city, and a snowy stage filled with Christmas joy. You can play these with either normal or crazy rules. A nifty inclusion is Battle mode where you and a pal stand at opposing ends of a bowling lane and you have to knock as many of your pins down as possible while avoiding the other player's ball. If you want to put your skills to the test, there are dozens of challenges to conquer as well. In the end, if you love bowling then there's enough here to keep you happily occupied for hours.
One issue that I have with the controls is that there is noticeable lag between when you tap the button and when the meters stop. It's not that big of a deal because you get used to when to time your throws after playing for 15 minutes or so, but having to do that is still annoying especially when you play with friends and have to explain that to them before you begin. My only other complaint is that I found crazy mode to be more frustrating than fun. Having to time your throws just by watching the gauges is tricky enough but when you have to synchronize that with the moving hazards, the gameplay falls apart quickly. Thankfully, playing this way is completely optional but they could have made it more intuitive so that you don't have to stare at two completely different things at once.
If you're up for having a good time then Crazy Strike Bowling EX will not disappoint. It may not be the perfect bowling experience but it's one that you'll gladly pick up and play from time to time for years to come.
- + Simple gameplay that's a ton of fun
- + Colourful world filled with cheery characters and delightful ditties
- + Variety of enjoyable modes to play
- - Controller lag takes a while to get used to
- - Graphical glitches and annoying voice clips will take you out of the experience
- - Crazy mode can be a bit too frustrating