Releasing alongside the launch of the Nintendo Wii in 2006, “Wii Sports” was arguably one of the most well-known and successful titles of its decade. Sure, much of the title’s notoriety can likely be attributed to its status as a pack-in game that came with every Wii system sold, but that would all be irrelevant if the game itself wasn’t compelling in its own right. Thankfully, “Wii Sports” was a game which could provide fun for players of all ages and skill levels thanks to its incredibly accessible yet surprisingly addicting gameplay. Of course, “Wii Sports” was also the title that introduced us all to the absolute explosion of motion-controlled gameplay that players have been seeing ever since the Wii-era (for better or worse). Of all the games included in the “Wii Sports” package, Bowling seemed to be the one that became the go to experience for showing new players what made the Wii Remote’s motion capabilities so compelling. Sure, the game was incredibly simple, basically just providing a local-multiplayer enabled virtual bowling alley for standard matches, but the controls and movements required to play the game were so natural that the game became both instantly understandable and instantly enjoyable to anyone and everyone who played it.
Fast forward to 2020, and developer Touch Mechanics has decided to take this gameplay concept and bring it back on Nintendo Switch for another shot at bringing people together to hurl imaginary balls at virtual pins. “Strike! Ten Pin Bowling” was the result of their efforts, and though the game has been available on mobile platforms for a while now, the title has recently received a full Switch release, complete with revamped game-play that emulates the motion-based systems of “Wii Sports” to an impressively accurate degree. The game trims what little fat there may have been in the “Wii Sports” version of bowling to such a degree that you can have the game loaded up and ready to play a match in as little as 15 seconds, making the game a fantastic option for quick multiplayer sessions or as a single-player time waster. The game’s presentation is also perfectly serviceable, if not exactly mind-blowing. Things are kept relatively simple in terms of backgrounds, textures and overall model geometry, but this isn’t a bad thing in the slightest. This somewhat stripped back, minimalist style helps to ensure that the game’s resolution and frame-rate settings are able to be set to the absolute max, as the game renders everything at crystal clear 1080p in Switch’s docked mode and 720p on the tablet screen, all while holding a rock solid 60 frames per second. The music also consists of relatively pleasant, (if a bit forgettable) background tracks, and this combined with the simple yet inviting graphics make for an overall very quaint yet very appealing presentation.
All that’s left is the game-play, which is just as brilliant as the “Wii Sports” equivalent. Using a single Joy-Con in one hand, players simply press and hold the X button and perform a bowling motion, pressing “ZR” to send their ball hurtling down the lane towards glorious victory (or the gutter). Both the ball and pin physics behave exactly how you would expect them to. The game, much like the original, even allows for finer techniques such as twisting the Joy-Con to add spin to your throw or pressing the release button a little bit late to give the ball some air time and reduce its traction on the lane. It should be mentioned that the motion tracking overall actually feels somewhat more accurate than “Wii Sports,” which I guess is to be expected, but is a welcome discovery nonetheless. With spin specifically, I found the game to be far more capable of picking up subtle tilts of the Joy-Con, allowing for very slightly curved shots that feel much less “all or nothing” than the curve shots of “Wii Sports.” Portable mode also bears mentioning here, as while the ability to simply play with motion controls on the smaller screen is here, the game also includes a separate control scheme specifically made for handheld play. This setup was far more heavily based on the game’s original smartphone builds, and requires turning the Switch on its side and holding it vertically. In this configuration, players simply touch and hold a bowling ball on the screen, dragging their finger to send it down the lane. While this mode wasn’t personally as compelling for me as the motion-based gameplay, it certainly has its own charms and helps to make the game feel like a more rounded package overall.
The final point that bears mentioning here is the fact that “Strike! Ten Pin Bowling” actually includes more content than many may have imagined. Sure, you have standard bowling matches, complete with support for up to four players locally, but included on top of this are a complete collection of side modes and mini-games. These modes include “Spares,” which challenges players to convert as many preset frames into spares as possible, “Mega Lane,” which has players attempting to clear lanes with as many as 200 pins set up at once, and many more. These modes work wonders to help give the game more longevity and replay value, both for single and multiplayer, and their inclusion really helps this feel like a true standalone package. The lack of any online support is perhaps the only real sour point content-wise, as online multiplayer could have been the thing to truly elevate this game above its inspiration. However, the game’s achievement in delivering a fantastic local multiplayer experience simply can’t be overstated here.
With the release of “Strike! Ten Pin Bowling”, developer Touch Mechanics sought to create an indie-powered solution for people who find themselves missing some of that simple yet addicting game-play that made the Wii so popular on its release. Just like the game that it seeks to build upon, this title offers an experience that is incredibly easy to pick up and play, yet has just enough depth to keep enthusiast gamers entertained as well. There are probably quite a few people who have been wishing for some sort of Nintendo-sanctioned reboot of the more casual line of games that resonated with audiences on the Wii. But, in the meantime, “Strike! Ten Pin Bowling” serves as both a fantastic indie project and a prime example of a spiritual successor done right, and it may just scratch that casual multiplayer itch that fans of the early days of the Wii have been experiencing.