As the world still grapples with the ongoing pandemic, I sometimes wonder when I will feel comfortable returning to certain activities again. Thankfully though bowling doesn’t have to be one of those thoughts anymore. There was a point in time where the Wii donned the crown for bowling video games, but since I’ve had the chance to dump a dozen or so hours into ForeVR Bowl on the Oculus Quest 2, I think it’s safe to say there’s a new king of the alley.
ForeVR Bowl is a simple and straightforward virtual reality bowling game by design that is as satisfying as it is intuitive. With an extremely low skill barrier to entry and an almost endless ceiling for growth and challenge, ForeVR Bowl can be fun for all players for both casual and competitive pin knocking. With most virtual reality games the more real space you have to move around in the better, and even though ForeVR Bowl can still be enjoyed with a limited amount of space to engage with this was the first time in a while that I made enough space for me to fully extend as if I was at a real lane chucking a bowling ball. Once I felt comfortable in my given space doing that, ForeVR Bowl leapt over my expectations of how fun a VR bowling game could be.
ForeVR Bowl comes equipped with the option to play solo, with groups of friends online, or a local pass and play multiplayer with settings for casual and ranked matches. There’s also an area to practice with the ability to set up pins in whatever configurations you need to in order to fine tune your skills. Although the selection of game modes may be barebones and the lack of a single player campaign could be disappointing to some, the core gameplay is addictive and fluid that simply enjoying the lanes in virtual reality is worthwhile and warrants your time whether for solo sessions or grouping up with friends.
Even though there’s no campaign, there is still an in-game leveling and progression system that has you gaining experience points to unlock new bowling destinations and one hundred different bowling ball options that you can purchase with in-game coins you are rewarded with for playing the game. Aside from the gameplay mirroring real bowling so well, the replayability factor is driven by the leaderboards and unlockable bowling balls. All of the balls come with different stats for weight, spin, speed, and a special ability like increased spin or help avoiding gutters. Certain balls even have special sound effects and visual effects so the desire to unlock more was driven by those aspects as well. Aside from just stunting on my friends when my set of bowling balls rolled out, that added layer of not knowing what other visual and audio effects would accompany new balls was exciting to me.
Visually, ForeVR Bowl does a great job of immersing you into the lanes. With other NPCs littered around the locales, the alleys being fortified with the accoutrements you’d expect given the arena you’re in, and a user interface that isn’t cluttered ForeVR Bowl creates a welcoming atmosphere to enjoy while shooting for strikes. Seeing the trajectory of your shots as you roll your ball towards the pins, your score being present but not intrusive, and the sound and sight of your just tossed bowling ball shooting back through the ball return for you to hurl again transported me to my local alley as soon as my Oculus headset was on.
One of the issues I had with controls in this space was during multiplayer play. In between players turns you’d have to move yourself back over into the lane and with teleport movement I always felt like I was having trouble lining up my shots as perfectly as I could in solo play. I think if there was an option to turn your movement into a free moving manner with the the control sticks it would allow for more ease in this regard. It would’ve also been nice to be able to utilize more than one lane so that each player could be bowling simultaneously or at least not have to worry about finding that perfect place to stand again.
Aside from these minor grievances, ForeVR Bowl has quickly positioned itself for me as the must play bowling game available not only on Oculus Quest but just in general. Maybe a professional bowler would have different critiques on the mechanics and input of slinging balls in virtual reality compared to the real thing, but for someone who’s hit the alley plenty of times in my life ForeVR Bowl felt as close to the real thing as a game could. The simple joy of knocking down ten and seeing the word “strike” pop up felt almost as good as seeing a little animation show up on a crappy screen for everyone nearby to see at atomic bowling night. ForeVR Bowl is a welcome addition to my multiplayer Oculus arsenal and an essential bowling experience for those looking to drop some pins. Now if you’ll excuse me while I dim the lights, install neon carpets, and pretend like I have smelly shoes on that aren’t mine and go play another set.
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