The title of this product, Pac-Man Bowling, sounds like new and strange ground for everyone’s arcade favorite icon. But one has to look no further than the ubiquitous Mario, who seemingly has done and endorsed every game type under the sun to see how Pac-Man Bowling would work. Luckily, behind the Pac-Man name here there’s an engaging bowling game underneath.
When people think of sports titles, you think of the traditional baseball, football, racing, heck, people might even think of cricket before they get down to bowling. When people think of casual titles, solitaire, hearts, tetris and other traditional games come to mind. The pace of bowling and its natural division into ten frames, however, makes it an uncanny match with wireless gaming. There’s some skill involved but not so much button mashing or sitting around that the game might be too frenetic or boring.
Pac-Man Bowling lets you strike down all ten pins by aiming and manipulating a power meter to control the direction of the bowling ball. There’s also a spin meter that lets you perform hooks and curves to close off with those hard to get spares.
Pac-Man Bowling exercises some creative liberty with its license though. On top of all the bowling there are sometimes fruits (like the arcade game) down the lane. Bowling into the fruit will get you a bonus, although they may not necessarily guide you to a strike. A strawberry will unlock an RC car that you can use to drive down and knock the remaining pins over. Sometimes there is a ghost blocking you in the lane and bowling into the ghost will knock your ball straight into the gutter. So in addition to bowling, you will have to time your shots to get/miss the bonuses in addition to the traditional bowling play.
There are also four playable characters in the game: Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Baby Pac-Man and the ghost Inky. Each playable character comes with his or her own special ability. For example, Baby Pac-Man gets gutter guards that enables him to bowl down the lane without fear of coming up with nothing. The game is playable by two people so you can choose a character each and pass the phone around.
Interestingly, there is also a regular bowling game that does away with the characters and sound effects of the Pac-Man franchise (well almost, the power meter still has a Pac-Man running around). However, part of the fun of Pac-Man Bowling is seeing and hearing the iconic sounds from the Pac-Man arcade game, which are faithfully represented here. I liked the addition of the animated scoreboard. It gives the game another outlet for Pac-Man animations and reminds me of the extra bonus games you get from pinball titles.
Overall, Pac-Man Bowling is an enjoyable title true to the spirit of wireless gaming. It’s not hard to get into. The pacing of the game is just right. As long as you know a little bit about bowling, it’s simple to grasp and perform trick shots. The use of the Pac-Man franchise is a great addition and doesn’t feel tacky at all. And each ten frame game does not take a long time to finish, making it something that you could easily play while on the subway or waiting in line.