Ever go out bowling and see those players that insist on having the gutter guards up, so they won’t lose their ball with each throw? Yeah, I’m one of those. I don’t know what it is, I just CAN’T seem to throw a straight ball (and when I do you can guarantee it will leave an impossible split for me to try and hit). Thankfully, I’ve had a bit more luck in ForeVR Bowl, the multiplayer-orientated bowling sim that has recently hit the Oculus Quest.
Sure, strikes are still uncommon for me, but at least I don’t have to embarrass myself by being the only player with gutter guards up…
Check out a gallery of screenshots for the game down below:
I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for bowling in video games, whether that’s when playing it with Roman in Grand Theft Auto IV or with the Nintendo Wii’s motion controls in Wii Sports. ForeVR Bowl takes the experience to the next level though, with its take on the sport not only offering authenticity from a gameplay perspective but with the presentation too. In a COVID-19 affected world, it’s been difficult to head to the bowling alley, but this is the most realistic take on the atmosphere that I’ve experienced.
First though, how does the bowling feel? Well… exactly like you’d expect it to. Using motion controls, players can pick up the bowling ball of their choice, then give their arm a swing and their wrist a flick to send it down the lane. You’ll basically be doing all of the exact same motions you’d do when normally playing bowling, albeit without the sensation of feeling a ball in your hand.
Admittedly, it can take some getting used to. One of the key things with bowling in real-life is that you can feel the weight of the ball, but there’s nothing like that here. Sure, you can check the stats of the ball you’re using (and even use a rookie ball that’ll intentionally sway away from the gutter), but you’re only going to be holding a lightweight controller. It might sound like a strange point to make, especially since it has been the case in other bowling games, but there’s something about the immersion that virtual reality offers that makes it feel more significant here.
“One of the key things with bowling in real-life is that you can feel the weight of the ball, but there’s nothing like that here.”
Fortunately, it doesn’t stop the bowling from being a lot of fun. Whilst it can take some time to figure out the best angles and speed to throw when you’re not actually holding a ball, the realistic physics in-game and adjustments players can make with curve ensures that ForeVR Bowl remains strategic and fun to play. As mentioned, there are bowling balls available that cater to rookie players too, so even those who are inexperienced with virtual reality can dive right in and have a good time (and don’t worry, you can put up virtual gutter guards too).
That accessibility ensures that games always remain competitive, with my showdowns with friends proving to be a LOT of fun. ForeVR Bowl’s gameplay is consistent too, with random freak throws that don’t seem to follow the physics of the game properly a rarity. Heck, it can be easy for just about anyone to dive into the game and even pull off a few strikes without playing much too. I’ve played for a few hours now and am starting to hit those strikes more consistently, but games with friends are still fairly even. Just bear in mind that you’re going to need a fair bit of space to pull off the bowling manoeuvres with finesse, so clear any awkward objects out of your way before playing.
“There are bowling balls available that cater to rookie players too, so even those who are inexperienced with virtual reality can dive right in and have a good time (and don’t worry, you can put up virtual gutter guards too).”
It’s with the social side of ForeVR Bowl that it shines the most. Yes, it has bowling mechanics that get a good balance of realism and accessibility, but being able to play with others in a bowling alley that looks authentic and that’s oozing in atmosphere is a real treat. Much like a real bowling alley, players will take it in turn to step up to the lane to take their shots, whilst everyone else can mingle by the seats chatting in the meantime. I know it’s something that’s been done in other social virtual reality titles in the past (I’ve spent plenty of time bowling in Rec Room) but it just felt more special here.
One cool feature I have to point out is the jukebox, which allows players to choose music to play based upon a YouTube player. It’s a small detail, but it helps strengthen the fun party atmosphere that ForeVR Bowl is striving for – just expect a few arguments when deciding what genre to play! There are multiple different environments to play across too, with typical bowling alleys joined by those in space, dance clubs, or even the comfort of your own private lane. My personal favourite had to be the standard bowling alley, if only because it offered the sort of experience that I’ve missed having with my friends as of late.
“It has bowling mechanics that get a good balance of realism and accessibility, but being able to play with others in a bowling alley that looks authentic and that’s oozing in atmosphere is a real treat.”
Whilst it is at its best as a multiplayer experience, there’s a sense of progression in ForeVR Bowl that will keep solo players happy. When you level up, you can also unlock plenty of new balls to purchase in-game, with some featuring brilliant designs that are befitting of the game’s whimsical vibe. Some balls bring with them more unique features too, adding more spark to the party atmosphere that the game is going for – they’ll take a while to be able to afford, but it’s worth it.
It all comes together to make for a jolly and fun experience that I’ve found myself enjoying a lot. Best of all, the developers have worked to add extras to the game since launch, with things like the introduction of smooth locomotion and additional multiplayer features offering a more intuitive experience.
There are a few imperfections here and there though. For one, some actions such as picking up the ball could feel a little fiddly – you have to actually grab it, with no means to pull it to you from a distance. I came across a few connectivity issues when playing online too, with my opponent’s avatars appearing in peculiar ways or not showing up properly in-game. It wasn’t game-breaking, but it did break the immersion a little.
ForeVR Bowl is a blast to play, with the neat bowling mechanics and jolly social aspects coming together to make for a really good time. It’s clear that a lot of love and effort has been poured into making the game fun to play with friends, whilst the unlockables on offer will keep players coming back for more for a long time.
It’s accessible, intuitive, and a lot of fun. The art of bowling will never be perfectly recreated in gaming thanks to the lack of a weighty ball, but ForeVR Bowl is the best rendition I’ve played of it yet.
Developer: ForeVR Games
Publisher: ForeVR Games
Platform(s): Oculus Quest 2 (Reviewed), Oculus Quest