Version Reviewed: 1.10
App Reviewed on: iPhone 5
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Penguins and polar bears live on opposite sides of the earth. The two species will probably never meet face-to-face in a natural habitat as long as the Earth exists in its current form, but it seems nobody told that to PB and J. PB (a polar bear) and J (his penguin butler). They don't care about the natural rhythm of the Earth. They're simply interested in bowling.
"Bowling" in the arctic is a bit different than the temperate version of the sport, however. In Polar Bowler by WildTangent Studios, PB plays the part of the ball. In each stage, he eases into an inner tube and allows himself to be fired via slingshot across the ice and into pin formations that are scattered around.
Making a strike in Polar Bowler takes some observational skills and a good pinch of luck. PB's greatest enemy is the loss of momentum, since his turn ends when he comes to a halt. Unsurprisingly, maintaining speed can be a difficult business. There are objects galore to crash into, and even sliding off the ice and into snow can be enough to end a run. The trick is to stay on the ice as much as possible while using the on-screen arrow keys to guide PB's path. It often helps to bounce off walls to reach awkwardly-placed pins. Unfortunately, sometimes even ace piloting isn't enough to knock down the number of pins required to proceed.
PB's special inner tubes can be a great help with especially tricky courses. The rocket tube gives him a burst of speed, the tank tube lets him lob snowballs at pins, the magnet tube attracts pins, and the legendary unicorn tube just basically dominates the stage with minimal input from the player.
Polar Bowler is great fun at times. Heck, it's a game about a polar bear that turns himself into a living bowling ball, what's not to love? Even J the penguin is adorable: when PB uses a custom tube, J dresses up in a costume that matches the theme (a cow that complements PB's cowboy tube, for example). Unfortunately, completing stages without the aid of these special tubes soon becomes very difficult. Pins are scattered in tiny groups all around huge playing fields, and in many stages players must knock down nearly all the pins within a limited amount of shots.
If Polar Bowler provided an unlimited supply of custom tubes and challenged players to choose the best tube for each level, the high challenge would be fine. Instead, custom tubes command high prices, and the coins needed to buy them are not doled out at a rapid pace. Players can find crates that contain free tubes, but demand quickly outstrips supply.
Polar Bowler is a paid app, so having to pay more for custom tubes is kind of disappointing. Its core gameplay is still a blast, but players that don't want to deal with microtransactions might be better off downloading the classic PC version of the game.