I have many fond memories of going to the local bowling alley growing up and bowling a few strings with friends. I found myself there at least several times a year. After moving out of my hometown, I never got back into bowling. At first, I was hesitant to play ForeVR Bowl, by developer ForeVR Games Inc., thinking there was no way to recapture the fun of being in an alley. While the game didn’t succeed completely, I don’t know how it could have gotten much closer to recreating the experience. The game hits me in the feels and is a lot of fun to play. This is our ForeVR Bowl review.
When you start in game development, one of the early practice projects many aspiring developers is to create a bowling simulator. The developers of ForeVR Bowl have taken that simulator and cranked up the dial on features, environments, sound effects, and music. I had the chance to chat with Marcus Segal, Co-Founder/CEO, and Mike Pagano Doom, Co-Founder/CCO, about all the bells and whistles.
Marcus got me started by explaining that they wanted to try and recapture that feel from bowling growing up. We chatted for a short while about the game and then jumped into VR to try it out. He was able to get me set up and ready to bowl our first string. Due to technical issues, Mike took over from there and walked me through setting up the initial loadout. He explained how each of the 100 different bowling balls had its individual properties. These included weight, spin, speed, and the profile used. I loved the profile that helps avoid the gutter when I first started.
As I looked for which loadout to try for my first outing, I noticed that placing my hand over a given ball brought up the specs. After making a few quick selections, I was ready for my first VR bowling experience. We started in the ForeVR 90s Hall. The first thing I noticed was the music. They nailed it for all the various bowling halls in the game. Each one has tracks that match up with the environment, creating a great atmosphere. Though I think live streamers will have to, unfortunately, mute the default music. Thankfully, with update 2.0, you can now use an in-game jukebox, powered by YouTube, to pick your music tracks.
The sound effects of the ball hitting the boards and then hitting the pins are spot on. Mike told me that they went back to one of their old bowling halls to record the sounds of the pins getting hit. It made sure they had that accuracy and perfect sound effect. It all comes together to create a satisfying experience.
Each environment wraps it up in a nice bow, with the ForeVR 90s Hall, for example, being a more standard bowling experience. But if I preferred something different, I could always move to bowl on the moon, in Studio 300 (dance club hall), in my Private Lane, or at Bumper Paradise (a tiki bar). Mike and I also bowled a string in the Champion’s Hall where there is so much visually going on that it can be a bit overwhelming. He told me that their graphics artist went all out on that hall.
After my initial experience with Mike, I did go back and play each hall/lane alone and with fellow reviewers. They were all enjoyable, and if I had to pick one as my favorite, I would say that the Private Lane was it. When playing solo, it is a great way to unwind at the end of the day with the more pleasant music playing in the background.
I also enjoyed being able to explore each environment, though your movement is limited in some areas. It was a nice touch, and Mike explained that they included a few easter eggs in each of the different halls. With the latest 2.0 update, you can now also use smooth locomotion to get around. It was interesting to learn that Mike did most of the animations for the various characters you see in each hall. So the next time you are at the bar in Bumper Paradise, know that Mike is mixing the drinks.
As you level up and acquire currency, there are currently over 100 bowling balls to unlock. I was given a boost to my account to try out some of the different options, and I must say it was a bit crazy to try and pick only a few at a time. My typical arsenal right now includes Pink Lighting, Dark Magic, Pamela the Unicorn (don’t judge, it’s pretty awesome), the Dragon (the new 2.0 animation is amazing), and Fireball.
The game has single-player, ranked matches, friends matches, and online multiplayer. When playing online, you can have two to four players. If playing with friends, by handing the headset around, you can play with up to eight. Each game will award experience and coins. As a player levels up, they can spend coins to unlock new bowling balls. Each bowling hall can also have different oil patterns on the lane, leading to the ball behaving differently.
Mechanically the game plays great. It is fun, and you can get into a rhythm quickly. In single-player, I ran into very few issues. After the recent physics update, I did notice that my ball sometimes flew high a bit more often, halfway down the lane at times, if it had a high speed. Also, I had the rare instance where the headset would lose camera tracking on the backswing. The ball would then drop with little to no forward momentum. Luckily there is a redo button for those rare instances.
There are also a few issues with multiplayer. Some players may notice avatars have low framerates and that other player bowling balls will not appear right away on your screen when their turn starts. Some players have also reported connection issues, but I didn’t have any. Mechanically the game still works fine.
Some players have also noted issues with the accuracy of the hand rotation when releasing a ball. I did have a bit of a problem at first. But I could press the right trigger to see the laser pointer, which helped align my shot and adjust my hand.
A couple of other notes. You will be making the full motions to bowl, minus taking those couple of steps to get up momentum like you would at an actual hall. Make sure you have a decent space to play in as one of our reviewers hit his wall and chair a few times. Also, if you are like me and are out of shape, bowling six or more strings in one go is not such a good idea. Work your way up to it, or you will be sore the next day. You can also play by just tossing the ball or lobbing it into the lane. But for me, it felt odd playing that way.
While you don’t have an actual bowling ball in your hand, and there are still few things missing compared to the live experience. ForeVR Bowl does an excellent job of making bowling in VR fun. For $19.99 USD it is hard to pass up, and the game is even more fun to play with friends. I can’t wait to see the next round of improvements.
A copy of the game was provided for review.
COMPARE TO: Premium Bowling