Developer: Concrete Software, Inc
Price: FREE
Version Reviewed: 1.0
App Reviewed on: iPad 2

Graphics / Sound Rating: ★★★★☆
Gameplay Rating: ★★★★☆
Playtime Rating: ★★★☆☆
Replay Value Rating: ★★★★☆

Overall Rating: ★★★½☆

Bowling. Some call it a hobby. Some call it a sport. Some call it slow weekend fillers for ESPN. Regardless of what one thinks of the activity, most would be hard pressed to not understand how simple it is to throw a heavily-greased baby boulder down a hardwood hallway while trying to knock down as many pins as possible. Sounds easy enough, right? PBA Bowling Challenge for iOS attempts to translate these simple ideals to iOS. Is it an easy strike, or does it end up yielding a gutterball?

image_9There are two camps when it comes to the sport of bowling: folks looking for a good time, and hardcore competitors. PBA Bowling Challenge is a free-to-play experience that manages to successfully straddle the line between both worlds with a moderate level of success. The goal of the core campaign is to guide a newcomer from the lowly lanes of local competitions all the way up to alley-swapping with some of the biggest names in the PBA. Fortunately, there are plenty of absurd shenanigans to encounter along the way.

Controlling the game using a combination of either screen swipes or tilts, which the user can actually configure in the options menu, players try to rack up the biggest scores with the help of specialized balls. Though completely unnecessary, these balls are purchasable using in-game ticket currency and have a bevy of special properties. Also, alleys, balls, and even pins constantly differ, adding to the variety of the experience. Sure each location plays essentially the same, but when a game’s mechanics are this repetitive, at least something is providing an interesting change of pace.

image_3The free-to-play aspects of PBA Bowling Challenge provide an interesting set of experiences. Early on it is fairly easy to earn back enough energy to play countless consecutive rounds. Unfortunately, the more successful the player becomes, the more expensive it is to take part in a match. The end result is having to wait 10-20 minutes between rounds just to afford the privilege of hitting the lanes again. Of course there is always the option to pony-up and either raise the energy cap permanently, or pay for energy refreshes. It certainly isn’t an egregious offense, especially for a free game, but it stagnates the flow enough to discourage return visits.

It is impossible to deny that PBA Bowling Challenge is an entertaining and challenging title, however in order to get the most out of the game, it is hard to resist the siren’s call to drop a dollar or ten on consumables. Those that are opposed to spending money on free games should steer clear, because this could become a serious cash sink to the player on a roll.

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