By Crystal Colwell / August 6th, 2013
|Title: Undead Bowling
Release Date: July 18, 2013
Genre: Action, Arcade
Platforms: Nintendo 3DS
Rating: ESRB: M
When zombies and bowling come crashing together, you never really know what to expect. You must admit that this is not a normal pairing. Zombies are cool when they aren’t overly used and put into every game and movie being made. Bowling games can be a fun pastime in which you become obsessed with beating your high score or trying to achieve that dreaded and almost unattainable 300! Together, they can be either very odd and miss matched… or the greatest thing ever, if done right. Let’s explore the inner workings of Undead Bowling and find out if it is a strike or a gutter ball, with zombies chewing on your flesh like a steak kabob at a picnic.
Zombies have overrun the Earth! NO!! What should we do? Go bowling, of course! Bobby is the owner of a local bowling alley who is trying to keep his business running. This is probably hard to do given that the people of Earth are being turned into mindless meat bags. Bobby, in his upset state, has decided to use the zombies as bowling pins since they had taken over the place anyway. After trapping some of them, Bobby waits for his first victim, err, customer, greeting them with a “Welcome!” and a “Come on in!” Once you see the sign for “Undead Bowling” you can’t very well back out, right? This is a bowling game of life and death. Will you survive?
The story featured in the game is fairly non-existent. A few cursory things as explained above are about all you get. I was not put off by this since the gameplay is what interests me in a game of this type. The zombies that Bobby has captured are quite cool and there are several different variations to bowl down using what I have come to call the “bowling ball of death”. Without further ado, let’s meet the zombies. Citizen Crowd zombies are your average run of the mill undead. They are lingering around looking for some flesh to sustain them, but not much else. They can be sent back to the depths of hell where they belong quite easily with just a single toss. Fat Mob zombies have eaten their share ( and their friends’ share ) of flesh and take a bit more to knock down. Sometimes they will pop back up and refuse to join their friends in the fiery pits of doom. The Carcass Heaven zombies must have eaten some bad flesh. Is there a human form of mad cow disease? Anyhow, something has happened to them that causes them to fall to bits. What am I talking about? Well, play the game and see what I mean for yourself if you are so interested!
The gameplay in this title is quite simple, yet brilliant. Use bowling ball. Kill zombies before they reach the end of the alley and chomp on your body parts. Easy enough, right? To achieve this goal, you use the A button and the D-pad for the majority of the game. The A button throws the ball at the undead. Once thrown you can maneuver the ball around the alley with the D-pad to bowl over the zombies that were unfortunate enough to get in your path. What happens if a zombie is hiding far from the others and for some reason you have a hatred for him that makes you intent on killing it? Maybe it ate your friend as you walked into the bowling alley, I don’t know. Well, for those instances that you need to make a sharp turn, you hold down the A button and then use the D-pad. Zombie dead! You will notice a fairly huge difference in how the ball controls with and without the A button. Play around with it and find your stride, much as you need to find your mark while bowling. There is a very handy tutorial accessed from the main menu just in case the zombies nom nom out the part of your brain that retains simple information and you need a refresher on any of these things.
Do we bowl down zombies with only a boring bowling ball that does nothing special? No! One special attack that you can trigger is the flame ball known as Hell Fire. This is available when you hit a certain number of zombies in a single roll and can be activated endlessly throughout the game. For the next 3 rolls your ball will be flaming. Yep, zombies and flaming balls. What more could you need? How about a flaming bowling alley full of the undead? The alley will light on fire wherever your ball has rolled and will cause more damage to the next round of zombies that are unlucky enough to be in the line of fire. Take that you arrogant zombie jerks!
The stylus is used to hit your special attacks known as the Mince Grinder and the Zombie Crusher. These sound fun, right? They are! Mince Grinder, once activated, will set loose a huge metallic ball with horrifying spikes that bowl down everything in its path. Both of these attacks can be triggered on certain stages. For instance, you can not use them when you are doing the Combo portion of each stage. The Zombie Crusher will bring down frightening metal contraptions that are covered in spikes and smash the zombies from above. This particular attack requires a bit of skill. A glowing circle of light will appear on the alley and you must direct your ball towards them. Each circle that you hit will unleash this metal contraption and kill the zombies that are in the targeted zone. Both of these can only be used once per stage, so use them only when needed, or like I did, when you just wanted to crush some zombies and laugh at them because you are just evil. If you do not use them, you will get a bonus added to your score at the end of the round.
Instead of bowling a boring 10 frame game, you are given different stages to get through. These are Survival, Hunt, and Combo. Each stage offers different zombies and will require different things to be done in order to progress. You must complete each stage with each set of zombies including The Zombies stage which blends all three zombie types together.
The Survival Stage has the player, well, surviving. Try and keep the zombies away from your delicious looking body for 15 turns on easy mode. In order to survive, all you must do is bowl down the zombies before they reach you. You can clearly see the zombies on the screen and as long as you place your bowling ball directly in their line, or move the ball around to hit any that are not lined up perfectly, you will be OK. If you get overwhelmed and the zombies do get close enough to you, they will do what all zombies do and make a meal out of your delicious fleshy bits! Since you need most of your internal organs to survive, I would suggest not letting this happen.
Hunt Stages force you to bowl down a certain number of zombies without letting any zombies make it all the way to you. You are given as many rolls as you need, so long as you don’t die and become a snack for the zombies, you can keep rolling to reach your needed kill total. Keep track of which zombie you are needing to rack up a body count on. On the first few levels, the only zombies that are seen in the alley will be the ones that you need. Other stages like The Zombies stage will have pesky zombies that you don’t need to kill butting in and taking up your time and space. Damn zombies! Only those that are the correct zombies will be counted towards your total goal. You can still bowl over the intruders, but this will be purely for your pleasure and will not help you get further in the stage.
The last and most addictive pain in the brain mode is known as Combo. This mode is similar to the previous mode in that you need to kill a certain number of zombies. That and the way you control things are the only similarity. In this mode, you have to kill a certain number of zombies per roll. Another difference is that simply surviving is not enough. You will notice a new icon on the screen that keeps up with how many times you have failed to hit the right number of zombies. Once you mess this up 5 times, you will fail and have to start back from the beginning. This is the mode that made me want to chomp on my own brains. Is it fun? Duh. Yes. It can also leave you with that feeling of impossible irritation like you are trying to hit a 7-10 split. The number of kills you need will vary based on the level you are playing. It will be something like this: 10 zombies then 15 zombies then 20 and finally 25 zombies needed per roll to progress. Once you beat the boss and move onto the Hard Mode, the number of zombies you have to kill per roll in this mode will be raised. Seems legit since that makes things harder.
At the top of your screen on each stage, you will see a slot game that is activated while you are bowling. This will activate automatically and you do not need to do anything with it. Once you roll the ball the slots start spinning and will stop when your ball gets to the end of the lane. When 3 of the same icons appear together you get a Bingo!! This will trigger a new screen with a minigame called Zombie Parade. The controls here work the same as they do in the main gameplay. You must maneuver the bowling ball around the alley to take down all of the zombies, ohh the zombies! In this minigame the zombies look a little different. They are shiny and gold. They are also quite unusual. My favorite is the manly ballerina looking one. There is also one that looks a bit like Mr. Clean that had me looking at my cleaning supplies a bit differently. In this minigame the zombies will be grouped together in a few sections instead of randomly strewn about the alley. If you hit every one you will continue on a few times before reaching the end of the Zombie Parade and getting a bonus. You will need to use the A button to make sharp turns in this minigame. Remember that this only lasts for a few seconds so you will need to hit the A button again to activate that. If you miss any of the zombies your Zombie Parade is over. If you do lose before your Zombie Parade is over, all is OK, since this will not affect whichever stage you were working on. However many points you have earned will be added to your score and your game will resume as normal.
Once you complete each stage in its entirety you open up a boss battle. The game works in the same way for this battle; throw the ball and mow down the zombies. Well, there is also a huge boss in the alley that needs to be taken out and I believe he’se quite deranged. He enters the bowling alley and hulks up, all the while turning blue. Maybe he chomped on too many sick zombies or has just finally went psycho with all that is going on around him! Either way, you have to survive his minions slowly edging their way up the alley towards you while you are trying to kill him. After you whirl your ball towards him a small cut scene will happen. The first time or two, the dude gets a radio and a mic, and he garbles some words at you to summon more zombies. Keep attacking him and after a few rolls, you will have to avoid obstacles, which i can only describe as Tombstones, that have been placed in your way. Maneuver the ball around these and you can continue on to hit the boss some more. When you defeat the hulked out blue boss you unlock hard mode. Rinse and repeat on hard mode to unlock the last difficulty.
Do you want to know how many zombies you have killed? Access the Survival Records from the main menu to keep track of things like that. If you are wondering how many stages you have completed without using the Zombie Crusher or the Mince Grinder, this is the place to check.
The graphics in the game are done quite nicely. Each zombie has his own look that suits his personality. When you bowl down a zombie you get to see a burst of blood with each death you cause, which made me overly happy to see. The alley itself looks pretty good. It is a wooden alley and by itself nothing spectacular. The lights that line either side of the alley add to the effect and look quite good.
I was able to turn the 3D effect on for quite a while in this game without getting a headache. For me, that is saying a lot. The 3D actually helped me hit a few zombies that I had constantly been missing before I tried it out. It seemed to help me to get the correct angle I needed to hit some of the zombies. It also makes the lane look a smidgen larger so you feel like you have enough room to roll the ball around and take out more zombies. I did delight in the overlay wording when you start a new round and the lights shine in pretty colors, which looks even prettier in 3D.
The music in Undead Bowling certainly sets a fire under your butt to kill some zombies. Even the music on the menu screen will get your blood pumping. I suggest listening to the music on this screen for a little while as the sound effects that come up once the music stops are pretty top notch. The sometimes sinister and sometimes upbeat funky music fits this game perfectly and I found myself head bobbing along to it more than I care to admit. In addition to the background music on all of the menus and stages, you also hear a clanking noise whenever you hit one of the menu buttons. Some of them sound like chains rattling, others are probably noises you would hear at a bowling alley. Those of you who bowl for real should let me know. The zombies have their own noise when you bowl them over, kind of like a “tink tink” that is pretty satisfying to hear. When Hell Fire is activated, the bowling ball makes a slight sizzling sound as it heads down the alley.
Undead Bowling is one of the 3DS games that I will be returning to. While the gameplay may be short, it took me an hour to beat the normal difficulty, the gameplay is alluring, simple and addictive. With such simple controls, you can truly focus on hitting as many zombies as possible without having to fight with overly complicated mechanisms. The replay value on this game will be minimized for some since it has a lack of online leaderboards. I was not bothered by this, but I expect most people will see it as a feature that the game is lacking. Still, it is something you can pick up and play for any amount of time and set it aside when something in life demands your attention. Next time life irritates you, might I suggest bowling over some zombies? It is simple, fun and safe. You won’t get into trouble taking your aggression out on the undead in Undead Bowling, and with a price tag of $6.99, it is cheaper than anger management.
Undead Bowling was played on a 3DS XL system and was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
G-StyleNintendo 3DSUndead Bowling