Gaming on the Throne: Review of Ten Pin Championship Bowling for iPhone

feat_300x250_iptenp_saleOf course, nothing can really ever compare to the two bowling extravaganzas forever etched into my memory. These would be Shawnee Lanes and the inconceivably named Mr. Bill’s Bowling Center. Edificial landmarks that stain the Midwestern memory of my youth. I was no bowling champion. I was no bowler at all really. In fact, I don’t even like bowling. So when I was asked to review Skyworks Interactive’s Ten Pin Championship Bowling for iPhone/iPod Touch as part of my Gaming on the Throne series, the only real alley experiences I had to lean on were foot fungus fears from borrowed bowling shoes, dusty hand dryers and a bout of food poisoning. That’s not a happy place to start thinking of descriptors for a review yet “Ten Pin” brought me new light and actually made me want to brave the bowling underground again (from the safe distance of my couch). Such was their little game; the Pip to my Miss Havisham, the Winston Smith to my O’Brien, the Roy Munson to my Ernie McCraken… you get where I’m going with the histrionics? Ten Pin Championship Bowling is a great game! This is no surprise, considering that the braintrust behind Skyworks is David Crane—a gaming industry vet with old-school cred and some decidedly new ideas and leadership.

I’ve examined two other Skyworks games and I have to say, they really make it easy on you when it comes time to write the review. Their work is elegant and this is a testament to their staff and organized approach. OK, enough horn tooting already—let’s get off the can and get on with the review.

Straight from the Skyworks website:

“Ten Pin” combines incredible graphics and ball physics with awesome sound-design and camera work to capture the local-color and action of America’s Bowling Alleys. It features 2 uniquely styled alleys each with Trophy Rooms to track your stats. Accelerometer controls let you curve the ball as it speeds down the lane. Play with up to 4 players with a variety of ball colors and weights.

tp31Um, not to cop-out on this review, but that description pretty much sums up the game accurately. I feel there is mostly no boasting on Skyworks’ part because the game delivers in subtlety, charm and premium features. As far as capturing “the local-color and action of America’s Bowling Alleys”…well, I’m not sure any iPhone app alone is capable of prehending that mystique. Playing a video game about bowling is just not the same as being at Shawnee Lanes or Mr. Bill’s. Perhaps when NTT COM perfects their mobile “smell-o-nator” or whatever it’s called the dream of the authentic proxy bowling experience can come to fruition. I am not sure I want it to though and I won’t be holding my breath—or will I? In any event, this game is a damn good study of the sounds, environments and action going on at your local bowl-o-rama.

The Good
The accelerometer implementation in “Ten Pin” is outstanding. The sensitivity is just right for curving the ball’s path to the pins. This lets you quickly make up for any goofs in your initial hurl of the ball that, incidentally, you initiate by flicking your finger on the touch-pad. Now you REALLY CAN affect the ball trajectory AFTER you throw it (instead of standing there waving your arms like an idiot trying to telekineticly alter the outcome of pitching one down the gutter). Also the pin movements upon impact are realistic and feel right. Clearly, a nice study of motion went into their development.
The graphics are top-notch too and it’s this kind of attention to detail that sets the game above others. While playing, you will eventually notice little things like the reflection of the pins and signage on the wooden lanes, beveling on the scoreboards and flickering neon signs. It adds to the experience. The sound design is superb right down to the alley’s intercom announcing “Tina, your chicken wings are ready” with the slight, intentional microphone feedback you would expect.

tp5There are other advanced features like the Trophy Room for your high scores and a networked global scoreboard for competing against other players out there. This is premium stuff for a ninety-nine cent game my friends! Bravo Skyworks!

The Bad
I did have a few performance problems while playing. It crashed once during the initial loading sequence and there were a few stutters here and there during the action. It really wasn’t enough to be distracting though. I tested “Ten Pin” on an iPhone 3G running OS 3.0 and honestly I have noticed problems with many apps since I upgraded the OS. I am guessing those very few and seemingly temporary hiccups I experienced were related to my phone and not the game.

The Bottom Line
Ten Pin Championship Bowling is premium gaming for less than a dollar. It’s worth all 99 pennies and then some. Go get it!