Bowling Central adds twists, surprises to classic bowling

Bowling Central screenshot

Bowling Central is a new bowling app for iOS that includes both swipe controls and motion gestures reminiscent of the Nintendo Wii. Plus, the gestures pair with Apple TV mirroring so it's easy to play with friends using the big screen. The game has a standard classic bowling mode as well as a unique challenge mode with various obstacles appearing on the lanes as you make your motions through the levels. Bowling Central is free for iPhone and iPad with in-app purchases and requires iOS 7.0 or later.

If you're a frequent bowler or just have a decent amount of bowling experience, you might be surprised when you push the "Play" button in Bowling Central. The standard game doesn't use the typical scoring system. The main objective is to just move up the levels and reach the target score for each one. A few levels in, obstacles begin to appear on the lanes. These vary from simple wooden blocks prevent the ball from moving forward in certain areas to a giant levitating bar that moves up and down to allow or disallow passing through. They vary as you make progress in the game.

How you bowl in Bowling Central is up to you. If you want the Wii-like experience, an Apple TV is necessary. Using AirPlay, the game broadcasts on the telephone leaving your iPhone to act as a remote. (The AirPlay functionality doesn't work with iPad.) Swing the iPhone forward to throw the ball on-screen.

Bowling Central screenshot

If you don't have an Apple TV or just prefer to play entirely on your iOS device, your fingers do the trick. Swiping up sends the ball straight forward toward the pins or making a hook with your finger curves it.

I found that the game isn't as responsive as I would have liked. It's far from terrible, but the ball doesn't always seem to follow the guidance I provide with my finger. It's also hard to difficult just how much the ball is going to curve based on the way I turn my finger or even where it's headed just swiping straight up. The graphics and animations are a tad subpar as well. A decade ago they would have been stellar, but with the power the iPhone 6 holds, I expect better.

I love that the ball changes with every shot though. It alleviates the hassle of having to pick out a ball (albeit some people do prefer that) and the 24 ball designs are all to my liking.

If you fall into a trap of consistently not reaching the target scores for the levels you play, eventually you're presented the option of buying extra turns. This is Bowling Central's only in-app purchase and it's US$0.99.

Bowling Central screenshot

I've played a few bowling games in the App Store. Bowling Central isn't my favorite, but it's decent and offers a unique gameplay experience. I hope to see improvements in the control and design departments here, but other than that there isn't much to complain about. The game is available for iOS for $2.99.