Review: ForeVR Bowl
Almost every sport imaginable has been reproduced in some videogame form over the years, either going for pure simulation or arcade fun. Bowling really didn’t come into its own until the arrival of the Nintendo Wii and those lovely motion controllers but even then it was fairly basic. So you would’ve thought with virtual reality’s (VR) focus on immersive controls there would be an array of bowling titles available. That’s not the case, so to help fill the void on Oculus Quest is ForeVR Bowl, striking that bowling desire head-on.
Oculus Quest isn’t devoid of bowling titles it just lacks any variety, with only Sports Scramble and Premium Bowling coming to mind. So what does ForeVR Bowl offer that the others don’t? Well, quite a lot actually, from its ultra-realistic physics to its customizable options and its well-coming aesthetic, there’s plenty to like.
First impressions instantly lean towards a very casual bowling experience, with bright, bold design and color choices giving ForeVR Bowl that family-friendly feel. That feeling doubles down when you realize the title is one of the few to implement Facebook’s new avatar system, allowing for more expressive and detailed looking characters. If you’ve not set one up yet the main foyer provides a link taking you out of the videogame and into the avatar creation software, a handy little feature.
But don’t let that charming demeanor lull you into thinking ForeVR Bowl is soft around the edges because underneath is a very serious simulator that’ll test those bowling skills to the max. Not only do you have to be accurate with your throw but there are the oil patterns to consider, altering the behavior of the ball. You’re also given plenty of stats after each throw including speed and the ball’s route.
Its four gameplay modes are set up for solo and multiplayer gaming, both local and online so there’s no shortage of choice. As a lone bowler you can practice in free play – where you’re given do-overs – compete in the ranked leader boards or head on over to the Spare Practice mode. Here you can set up those pins exactly how you want them which is especially handy if you want to practice the deadly 7/10 spilt like a nutter. When it comes to playing with mates the online multiplayer supports up to four players, while Pass and Play is entirely local, so you can swap the headset between eight players if you so wish.
The options continue as there are 6 alleys to choose from – 1990’s hall, the Moon, a Stadium, a Disco Club, Palm Springs and Tiki Island – each with their own genre of licensed music would you believe. Over the airwaves, the likes of Eye of the Tiger and Le Freak were piped in to give that classic bowling centre feel. Palm Springs and Tiki Island offer a slightly tweaked experience so they don’t feature in ranked games. Palm Springs is designed as your own fancy, single-lane bowling alley with an enormous 99 do-overs (normally it’s three) whilst Tiki Island has permanent bumpers for newbies to learn the ropes. Plus, if you’re playing solo or with friends, you can pick from 20 oil patterns to mix up the gameplay.
While you might think that the bumpers are for kids, don’t be so sure. As mentioned, ForeVR Bowl has real-world physics at its roots, it quickly becomes noticeable after a few gutter balls that there’s no hand-holding with some arcade leniency. In Premium Bowling, for example, being able to bowl strike after strike wasn’t that difficult. ForeVR Bowl, on the other hand, was a wake-up call. You can fling the ball down the centre or try to add some spin if you’ve got the skills. At first, there’s that thought something must be wrong “I’m not that bad at bowling” yet the gutter says otherwise. In fact, it’s more adjusting to not having a weighty ball in one hand, because the spares and then the strikes did begin to appear, creating a much greater feeling of achievement in the process.
Like any pro-bowler knows the type of ball is just as important as your throwing arm. ForeVR Bowl has a massive selection of bowling balls to unlock (100 in total), locked behind an experience level first followed by having the cash to buy them. Luckily, the coins don’t trickle in so after a few games it was easy to start upgrading from the initial three balls you’re given. And there’s plenty to consider when choosing the right one, each featuring weight, spin, speed & profile (fastball, no spin, no bounce) stats. Thankfully, you’re not restricted to one ball in the alleys, you can take a selection of five into a match which was really useful when one technique wasn’t working another could be employed.
The ball designs keep with ForeVR Bowl’s fun ethos offering aquariums with swimming fish, alien heads with blinking eyes and black holes. At the really far end of the level unlocks you’ll find special balls like the fireball which have no spin whatsoever, it just launches at high speed down the alley, setting the pins on fire in the process.
ForeVR Bowl isn’t faultless though, with some design choices that didn’t quite gel. To ensure a comfortable experience for all developer ForeVR has solely employed teleportation (albeit with some cute bowling shoes) so there’s no smooth locomotion. In the foyer this isn’t too much of a bother but in the alley it does make fine tuning your position harder. Sure you can physically step left or right but that doesn’t help if space is at a premium, or you’re playing seated. Trying to teleport a few inches over is just a bit too finicky.
Bizarrely, the other annoyance was the selection indicator. There are two selection modes, a finger pointer for menus and a palm pointer for the balls. It just seemed unnecessary and a little confusing switching between the two, especially noticeable in the bowling ball selection area.
At its core, a bowling videogame should be fun for all levels whilst providing enough depth for serious players to compete and feel challenged. ForeVR Bowl easily achieves all of this, with some great bowling mechanics combined with gorgeous visuals. As long as you like bowling there’s plenty of content to keep you going for hours on end, with the social implementation further enhancing the experience. As this is ForeVR’s first VR title it’s an impressive debut and one that is certainly welcome amongst all the shooters and rhythm action games out there.