Romping onto the lanes with ten pins staring you in the face, it’s time to grab your bowling ball and knock those pins down in a fashion that’s absolutely “crazy”, as the game’s title so boldly proclaims.
Ten pin bowling is a funny sport. It’s an absolute blast to play it in person with a bunch of friends, always mocking each other when you fail, and wowing at those that do well. That can’t be said for its digital incarnation however, which quickly descends into boredom and frustration; and sadly, that’s very much the same case with Crazy Strike Bowling Ex.
For example: pulling off a wide throw and spinning towards the centre pin is glorious when you can pull it off in real-life, but when that is replicated in-game with the dreary timing of the X button for ten frames, it’s a wonder what you need to do to mess up. Sadly, this is exactly what the bread-and-butter gameplay consists of. It doesn’t matter which character you choose, as long as you get that power to maximum and the marker to the centre of the white line; getting a perfect score of 300 is easier than taking candy from a baby. In short, there’s zero strategy to be found here.
There’s a selection of game modes on offer, although they don’t particularly excite either. The ‘crazy’ portion of the game is as simple as having a power-up to block one’s path or to control your ball left and right at a rapid pace. Getting the power metre up so that you can grab a booster isn’t difficult either, especially if you know how to quickly get a strike at the start. Once you get the wind ball power-up then it renders the obstacles on the lane useless.
Getting strikes so easily affects every mode available in the game and that’s not a good thing. When it comes to battles it’s a matter of being the first on the trigger to get all of the opponent pins down before they get all of yours (three frames worth). The only difference in this mode is that you are situated on a platform slightly above your lane with the opponent on the other side. Your pins are situated below you while the opposition’s is below them. With you being able to throw the ball at the same time it can lead to each other knocking each other off the lane, but even that doesn’t make it challenging enough.
The only challenging portion of the game, appropriately enough, is the challenge mode itself. Initially it’s a matter of getting a set number of pins or strikes in a set time, but once the various types of challenges unlock, then this is where the obstacles finally make a difference. As you have no power-ups and no items to help you increase your character abilities, you are stuck with the stock character. But if you have the timing sorted then it’s a matter of figuring out the most unpredictable and randomised spin mechanic – which you will never get.
No matter how often you hit that spin on the same target, more often than not it spins the ball at different angles every single time. Utter frustration kicks in more when you find that there’s no gradual spin on the ball and instead it hits an invisible like wall and careers off into the opposite direction. This can make challenge mode more of a headache than a pleasure to play.
If you’re bad at timing then you can always get extra costumes for your characters. These all change the statistics of the player to allow them to have better control (larger marker area for power and spin, for example), improved spinning ability, or better power to throw the ball harder down the lane. Of course, going for power is all you want because you will then get strikes every single throw.
You can upgrade your bowling ball to many other varieties, which can either increase its weight, make them more slippery, or even increase their size. It doesn’t matter on the size of the bowling ball if, again, you can time your presses perfectly. You may as well just spend your CP (the points you gain while going through the game) on the largest ball available, and be done with it.
Crazy Strike Bowling also features a progression system, with your skill level set to a class, thus locking off many potential purchasable items from the start. It doesn’t exactly take long to hit the highest tier of 2000 EXP (World Professional) so it’s a wonder why it’s even in place. The CP you earn is also incredibly slow in comparison, meaning that you have to sit and watch paint dry while you press cross on the controller in exhibition mode.
Elsewhere, the characters themselves over-emphasise their stature towards the creepy rather than the fun side. Not only that but they all have a weird look to them, like a Barbie or a Ken doll; the animation is pretty dodgy too, making them all the more behave like cardboard cutouts. The sound effects attributed to these characters are also equally poor, especially the female players, who come off as badly-conceived anime heroines.
Overall, there is so much that could have been done right for this game, which is fundamentally flawed and as a result just downright dull to experience. Indeed, the only fun that can be had from Crazy Strike Bowling is if you were with a bunch of friends that were drunk or with others that have better timing than a hedgehog crossing the road.