Bowling is an activity that will always average a nice sweet spot in between Jason Belmonte spin-pros demolishing lanes and families eating good-enough greased up snacks for a fun evening out. It’s hard to beat a night out on the town rolling large orbs down an oil-slick hardwood into a bunch of pins and making people believe you meant to do what you did. But bowling as a date night? Pretty underrated if you ask me. Serenity Forge and Way Down Deep hope to capture that serotonin in crashing pins and drinks with a potential significant other with some good ole Date Night Bowling.
You’ll take control of one of ten participants in a game of bowling and camaraderie. As you bowl to knock down as many pins as possible, preferably all at once for a strike, you’ll engage in conversation and activities in mini-game form between frames that will gauge your compatibility with the other. Aiming for a high score is imperative for your competitive side, but aiming for high compatibility is key to really win the night!
Date Night Bowling shows up aesthetically like the remastering of Super Bowling from the SNES you didn’t know you wanted, and it’s dope. The two lanes available give the casual vibes of an old school lane in the mid-afternoon and the Cosmic Bowling that you know and love to set the late night mood. Each of the ten characters comes with an array of outfits to suit your style and an array of personalities that match their spin and power stats accordingly. You want the most power on the team? Look out for a lack of sleeves.
When choosing a lane, Date Night offers up more customization than I was expecting. Different weighted bowling balls and oil amounts make the experience a little more refreshing each game and can cater to each character’s strengths well. Hitting your target is pre-tensed with finding your sweet spot at the start of the lane, pinpointing where your ball will go, and calculating how much spin and power you want with simple button presses before letting gravity and momentum do the rest. Fans of Tekken’s Tekken Bowl will feel right at home with this style of gameplay, though I do wish there was an on-the-fly adjustor when you duff your shot. If you mess up your spin and power you’re forced to watch your score hit the deck on a bad throw, and having the chance to do last-second adjustments would have been nice.
Casual games will give players the chance to hone their craft with a human or AI bowler, but Date Night Bowling is (not only the title but) the main attraction. Playing with another during Date Night will unlock compatibility mini-games in between frames. These range from cleaning your ball with the fervor of The Jesus, making sure you get the right soda, or making sure your teeth are clean without your companion noticing. These WarioWare style mini-games are a nice little break in the action and most are pretty enjoyable. Just be careful when trying the Tough Love difficulty as some of these mini-games are borderline impossible with how fast your reflexes are tested.
Once you’ve done a couple 10-frames, you’ll notice that Date Night Bowling suffers from a lack of content throughout its runtime. Each character will engage in a little conversation gauging interests and hobbies, and seeing each character is enjoyable, but most of the lines are recycled when the chosen pair plays multiple games together. Mini-games do change ever so slightly, but the bones remain the same, and if you’re already split on the bowling, the extra customization isn’t enough to bring you back for more.
Date Night Bowling is a fun little trip to the past with a modernistic dash of Visual Novel/Slice of Life Romance flavor, but Way Down Deep asks the player to fill in too many blanks to make a full product out of its title. There never feels like enough character to fill the frames, but the on-point retro arcade bowling and the cute and quirky mini-games save this night out from being a complete gutter ball.
A copy of this game was independently purchased for review.