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A Fun and Challenging Bowling Game for the Virtual Boy
Author: Benjamin Stevens | Date: 2011/05/19 | Rating: 8/10

Nester's Funky Bowling for the Virtual Boy is a very fun game with a great level of challenge. There are 3 different modes to play: Bowl, Practice, and Challenge.

In Bowl mode, one plays a standard game of bowling by oneself, where there are 10 frames consisting of 10 pins each and where there are 2 chances in each frame to knock down all 10 pins (with the possible exception of the 10th frame, where a 3rd chance is awarded if one marks during the first two throws) and where a perfect game consisting of all strikes results in a score of 300. In Practice mode, one can select from a list of just about any pin setup that one might come across in the other modes and can practice knocking down all of the pins in each particular setup. This is a good mode to use to practice picking up those tough splits. In Challenge mode, the player is faced with 10 frames of various pin setups, and in each frame, the player only gets a single chance to knock down all of the pins, in order to get any score at all. So it's all or nothing for each frame. The scoring in this mode is pretty unique. The following are the points that are awarded for knocking down all of the pins in each particular frame: 1st frame: 10 points, 2nd frame: 10 points, 3rd frame: 20 points, 4th frame: 20 points, 5th frame: 20 points, 6th frame: 30 points, 7th frame: 30 points, 8th frame: 50 points, 9th frame: 50 points, 10th frame: 60 points. The pin setups get harder as the game progresses, and they are different each time that this mode is played, which makes for a different experience each time, but one can always count on the 10th frame being the 7-10 split, so one should practice picking this up in the Practice mode if one wants to get a high score in the Challenge mode.

For each of the modes, two bowlers can be chosen: Nester or his twin sister Hester. The player can also choose the weight of the bowling ball, ranging from 8 to 16 pounds, which does have an effect on how the ball will react with the pins, and he or she can choose whether the bowler will be right- or left-handed.

As far as controlling the game goes, like with most bowling games, the player begins by sliding his or her character to the left or to the right, to the particular spot where he or she wants to begin his or her approach. Some bowling games next allow the player to choose the angle at which the ball will be thrown towards the pins, before selecting the spin that will be placed on the ball. Nester's Funky Bowling does not have the angle option, so if one wants the ball to approach the pins at an angle, which is often necessary for picking up many pin setups, it all must be done through the amount of spin that is placed on the ball. Also like with most bowling games, after one decides where he or she wants to begin his or her approach and pushes the A or B button, a spin meter appears with a line moving back and forth across it, and the A or B button must be pressed again, in order to stop the moving line on the desired location on the spin meter. If it is timed so that the line is stopped right in the middle of the spin meter, no spin will be placed on the ball, and the ball will go straight down the lane from the point where one chose to begin the approach. If the line is stopped to the left of the middle of the meter, left spin will be placed on the ball, and if the line is stopped to the right of the middle, right spin will be placed on the ball. The further the line is stopped to the left of the middle of the meter, the more the ball will go to the left after it is released and vice versa. After the line on the spin meter is stopped, one then has a limited time to press the button again, in order to stop the power meter that is quickly filling and emptying. If the power meter is stopped when it is completely filled, maximum power will be put on the ball, and it will go down the lane as fast as possible; thus, stopping the meter when it is completely empty makes the ball go down the lane as slow as possible. The percentage that the meter is filled determines the percentage of speed between the minimum and maximum that the ball will be thrown. During this brief time, the player does still have a chance to move his or her character to the left or to the right, in order to adjust for any missed timings on either the spin or power meter, but this amount of time is, indeed, very little.

The physics in the game are pretty good. While the pins do not act exactly as they would in real life, they nevertheless act in a logical, consistent, and predictable manner. So if one knows an approach position, level of spin, and level of power that will pick up a particular pin setup and one can time it so that the level of spin and power are stopped where one wants them to be stopped, one will always knock down the pins. The only thing is that the speed of the moving line on the spin meter and the speed at which the power meter fills and empties are both fairly fast, so always timing the stopping points in this game is pretty tough to do, which offers a good level of challenge that I think gives this game good replayability. I had a bowling game for the Super Nintendo where the speeds of the meters were slower than they are in this game, and once I found the particular approach spot, angle, level of spin, and level of power that would give me a strike, I could always time it very easily, so every time I played a normal game of bowling, I almost always got a perfect score of 300, which made the normal bowling mode pretty boring. So far, I have yet to get a perfect score of 300 in Bowl mode of Nester's Funky Bowling, and I've been trying for quite a while. Even if I get it, it will be hard to get it again, so there will always be a good reason to go back and play Bowl mode. Challenge mode is also so much fun to play again and again because, as I mentioned before, the pin setups for the first 9 frames are different each time one plays, so there's always a unique game to be had. I also haven't gotten a perfect score of 300 in this mode yet. The last 3 frames are usually tough splits. Picking up 3 tough splits in a row is, of course, hard to do even with easy timings of meters. The fact that the timing of meters in this game is hard makes it all the more difficult, which I think is good, since bowling should be tough, as it is in real life.

The reason why I gave this game a rating of 8 out of 10 is because I do think that it would be a lot better if there were a couple more game modes. One of the most fun things about bowling is going head-to-head with another. It would have been nice if one could go head-to-head with a computer player in this game, which other bowling games do offer. It would have especially been nice if there was a tournament mode, where one could go against many different computer players and try to rise up to the top. As it stands, though, one feels that one is simply playing bowling by oneself in an empty bowling alley, with no motivation to play other than to get personal best scores. There is, however, a high score list in Bowl Mode, consisting of preprogrammed high scores, which one can try to beat. The top score to beat is always 263; the second highest score is always 250, and the third highest score is always 231, and it continues to decline after that. Thus, one can pretend that these are the scores of computer players, against which one is playing, and one can decide which of the players one wants to try to beat. Getting a score of over 263 is, indeed, very hard to do in this game, so being on the top of the list does provide a sense of accomplishment.

Despite the fact that Nester's Funky Bowling is missing some good modes that could have made it even better, what it does have is still very enjoyable. Those who like bowling in general should love this game and should love the level of challenge that it provides. The 3-D effects, which other bowling games on other systems do not provide, are also nice and help to immerse the player into the game, as most Virtual Boy owners already know. I think that of the few games that have been released for the Virtual Boy, this is up there among the better ones. I know that I will be finding myself returning to this game frequently in the future because it is just so much fun. A Virtual Boy owner desiring to add a fun game, which will actually be played again and again, to his or her library, should not regret buying this one!