Not all games are aiming to be high art; they don't all need to be deeply affecting or cinematic experiences to be enjoyable. Sometimes all you need is a single game mechanicto keep yourself occupied for hours. Brunswick Pro Bowling can have that single game mechanic if you're into bowling games, but if you're not a fan then you're likely to be bored to tears, and even the most passionate bowling game aficionados are likely to find that it's too easy.
Brunswick Pro Bowling has been released many times over the years, including motion-controlled versions on the Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3; this time around we get a touch screen to bowl with. If you're not comfortable using the touch screen you are given an option to bowl using the 3DS's analog nub instead. Either way the bowling is really well controlled for the most part. You can alter the speed, spin, and angle of the shot, which helps to accentuate the impressive physics in the game, which in turn makes it a fairly realistic bowling simulation. That said, I did notice a few hiccups from time to time. First of all, I found that sometimes I'd press the touch screen and drag like I was supposed to, but nothing would happen. I'm not sure if perhaps the game didn't read it, I was being to gentle, or if I was doing it wrong somehow, but it was an issue that sometimes required a few attempts to overcome. I also noticed that sometimes the ball would go really slowly, regardless of how fast or hard I dragged the stylus.
Aside from those minor issues, the main problem with the gameplay was that I found it stunningly easy. Once you find a method that works, it isn't hard to storm the game and beat even the toughest opponents. During my very first game I bowled a 230, my highest was almost 260, and I never went below 200, so it's very easy to cheat your way to victory. Sadly this meant the game had practically no replay value in spite of the apparently neverending career mode. In fact, it got really tedious because I almost never got less than a spare, and every strike, turkey (3 strikes in a row, for those not familiar with the sport), and spare was 'rewarded' with a cutesy animation on the bottom screen proclaiming your awesomeness. This made me feel pretty good about myself at first, but the 100th time I saw that little girl get out the cannon to announce a spare, I was sick of its tackiness.
As you progress in the career mode, you attend local leagues, participate in tournaments, and win money so you can upgrade your bowler and attend higher-ranked tournaments. It sounds really deep, but it's all pretty simple stuff and it all got really monotonous after the second or third tournament. Basically, every game I entered amounted to the following loop: “bowl once, bowl twice to get any remaining pins, press the skip button six times to ignore the opponents, then rinse, lather, and repeat.”
I don't want to chastise the game for it's monotony too much because it'd be unfair to play a bowling game and not expect to be bowling over and over again, but that's sadly how I felt in the end. I thoroughly enjoyed my first few games, but it quickly became clear that the physics didn't matter if the game had no depth due to a complete lack of difficulty. If you are looking for a challenge, avoid the career mode and try multiplayer or the 'spare challenge'. This mode set up a series of cleverly arranged pins and gave you one turn to see if you could get them all. While it started off easy, this quickly got harder and ended up with a 7-10 split that I could not get no matter how often I tried. Sadly, this mode only had one set of spares to complete, and once you did them it was over. Not very much, but it's definitely challenging and a nice change of pace from the career mode.
I do admit, the game looked pretty good. The character models were about as good as you could hope for a handheld game, and the animations were decent. Moreover, the 3D actually looked really good. It's not anything revolutionary, but it worked for what it needed to do, and it looked pretty realistic. The audio, like every other aspect of the game, was merely passable with nothing standing out. Well, actually that's a lie; the spare, strike, and turkey animations stood out as being particularly gaudy and annoying after a while, but that's not a good thing.
Truth be told, Brunswick Pro Bowling on the 3DS is by no means a bad game; it's just not a good game either. While it has pretty much what you could expect out of a bowling game, it aims to be nothing more than that. It has career, practice, challenge, and multiplayer modes, but the career is simply too easy, so the only way to enjoy it was to try the challenge mode or get 3 of your friends of equal skill to play with you. No matter how many leagues and tournaments you were expected to attend in the career, I couldn't get past the fact that it was basically a test of patience and tolerance for repetition more than skill. This would have been great as a 10 dollar budget title to pass the time, but it's certainly not going to have any value beyond that of a simple time waster in between classes to most.