IGN Review of AMF Xtreme Bowling
Examining a copy of AMF Xtreme Bowling 2006 at your local game store would likely prompt the question, what makes this extreme? Furthermore, what makes this extreme enough to warrant omitting vowels? Despite what you may assume, this game does not contain rocket ships, rabid gorillas, or ketchup covered ice cream. About the only thing extreme in this one is the stunningly boring, simplistic gameplay. Despite its substantial shortcomings, AMF Xtreme Bowling does offer players a large number of options for play and customization, but they're all rendered pointless due to the nanometer-thin bowling mechanics.
Let's start with the options. Practice, Quick Match, Tournament, League, Pin Challenge, and Match Challenge. Before diving into any of those, the game allows for a custom character to be created. Despite the large number of sliders available, each character you create will look relatively the same. This applies even across gender lines, with practically everyone having the same huge nose and facial structure. Some variety is infused with differing hairstyles, but ultimately everyone looks disturbingly similar. Some of the female models already created in the game will certainly make you raise an eyebrow. Not only because they look hideous, but because AMF Xtreme Bowling inexplicably incorporates a moderate degree of, um, chest physics. Once created, a character can be saved and statistics can be modified by adding stars to Power, Accuracy, and Spin to augment their play.
Stars are earned by getting strikes, certain point totals, and earning trophies in the game modes. The Pin Challenges give players three tries to knock down specific pin setups. Match Challenges are similar, only they toss players into matches in progress and require them to turn the situation around in their favor. Tournament and League allow for up to 16 bowlers to engage in competition, with up to eight human participants. As each human turn comes up, the same controller can be passed off, so it's not like you'll need a special setup to play it. Of course, you shouldn't really be playing this game at all, and here's why.
Though there are numerous ways to tweak your shots, several different styles of lane oil that affect ball spin, and plenty of opportunity to adjust shot angles, power, and accuracy, none of that matters. The game functions on a triple click shot system. One to start, one to set power, and one to set accuracy. Spin is set with an analog stick before the click sequence begins. The major problem is, none of the shot extras are necessary to knock the pins down. All you need to do is aim down the near center of the lane, click medium power, and stop the accuracy meter somewhere near the center, and you'll get a strike nearly every time. As an example, someone in our office scored a 300, that's a perfect game, in a little over an hour after we started playing. That's a problem.
To make it even worse, accumulating stars is incredibly easy. Before long, the accuracy bar on your created character will be entirely filled with stars. When this happens, the game becomes practically pointless to play, since it's impossible to miss where you're aiming. Even if you completely screw up your accuracy click, the shot is still heading straight where you want it to. Stopping the cursor on the power and accuracy slider, three brackets away from the center produced no discernable difference in the shot's accuracy. This drains away whatever challenge existed before, and turns AMF into a game where you barely even need to look at the screen to produce an accurate shot.
Tossing the ball down the same path every time will occasionally leave one or two pins standing. However, in many cases this shouldn't have happened, since it's obvious the standing pins got clobbered by their fallen brethren. How then can the pins remain standing? Rampant clipping issues are to blame. Pins move through each other as if they were holograms, which make the player wonder whether any pin physics exist at all in this game. Though at some points it seems like the pins are definitely contacting, others it's more like they're collapsing based on a pre-generated animation. Even worse, we witnessed a few occasions where the ball went straight through the center pin. This didn't happen often, but it's pretty bad if one of the most crucial features of the game isn't working properly.
To add even more to AMF's complex of frustration and confusion, pins tend to reject bowling balls. Even if you're using a customized ball of the 16 pound variety, hitting a pin at anywhere less than a third of its width will cause it to veer off at a nearly 45 degree angle. When trying to pick up a spare with split pins, it's actually just as effective to ricochet the ball across the split space as it is to knock pins into each other. Unless Xtreme means titanium pins and sponge candy balls, this aspect doesn't make any sense.
Adding to the inconsistencies when it's your turn to toss the ball, the computer A.I. suffers from some extreme cases of repetition. No less than five times in a single match did we witness the computer knock down the same nine pins, leaving the seven pin standing. After each throw, the pins would collapse with exactly the same animation. Next, the computer would toss the ball straight into the gutter, missing the opportunity for a spare. Again, this happened five times in one match. Either each difficulty setting has ready made animation sequences for the computer, or the A.I. throws the ball into exact same spot on certain turns and has pre-arranged follow up reactions. Either way, it makes playing the game even less interesting. Another annoying factor is the total inability to skip a computer's turn, nor speed it up. If you happen to set up a sixteen person tournament or league, be prepared to spend the majority of your time watching freakish computer players knock over pins that clip all over the place.
Rushing to try and put out AMF's gameplay fire are the graphics, which are sufficiently bizarre to divert your attention for at least a little while. After making a strike, gutter ball, double strike, turkey, or spare, players are treated to a flashing multicolored screen for several seconds. Aside from the text indicating what happened, you'll also get to check out a dancing female figure who may or may not have ingested 18 extra strength Tylenol. Bowling alleys are sparse and generally boring to look at. The alleys have "Xtreme" variations as well, which basically means someone installed neon lights all over the place. The player models are frightening, pin animations clip so frequently you'd think it's a special feature, and animations are hilariously unnatural. Worst of all is the other people in the bowling alley looking on, who have no faces, generally don't move, and seem to be missing vital textures to ensure they look human.
Sound fares no better. Each bowling alley has a techno clip or guitar riff that loops about every thirty seconds. None of them are particularly good, and they don't get any better after you've heard them seven hundred times. Other than the music, the game offers little more for your ears than a crappy pinfall effect. Oh, and a few of the menus make noise when you select something.
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