In a market full of RPGs, first person shooters and strategy games, bowling games do not come round all that often. Fast Lanes Bowling is the first title from developers Lab Rats Games. The game gives players the opportunity to play in a variety of locations from the bog-standard local alley, to pirate ships, medieval castles and space stations.
To play a game of Fast Lanes, you must select a character. You then personalise him or her by giving them a name and adjusting their characteristics to suit you. There are eight different characters to choose from, some human, and a few weird and wacky ones such as a skeleton and a robot. Although the characters are varied, I feel we’d benefit from a bigger selection, especially if the player is trying to find a character to represent them. The player control interface (eg. Saving and loading players in to the game) is more clumsy than it needs to be, and although you get used to it eventually you can get a little lost at first.
Bowling is simple to get used to, with few controls to remember. First of all you adjust the direction of the ball using the arrow keys, and then you bowl using the space bar three times. The first press will release the ball, the second will set its strength, and the third its accuracy. That’s pretty much all there is to it. You can also determine the amount of spin on the ball, which can come in handy for some of the more difficult shots. In addition you can choose a ball to play with from a dozen different designs. Each ball has different attributes. The sheer simplicity of the controls makes Fast Lanes Bowling very easy to pick up, which means it should appeal to gamers of all strengths. My only concern is that big bowling fans may look for more features and more detailed controls. For casual gamers, once you’ve got to grips with the controls, sequences of spares and strikes really aren’t that difficult to get. Fast Lanes does boast some pretty impressive game physics, making each game realistic. When the ball hits the pins, the outcome very much resembles a real-life game of bowling.
The game is visually impressive. Each 3D environment is well detailed. When you are playing in the bowling alley you will see other players playing games in neighbouring lanes, as well as banners and advertisements. In the fantasy locations, dolphins are visible beneath the surface of the water of the desert island, birds can be seen flying in the distance of Egypt, and the pirate ship sways from side to side. These are examples of nice touches which aren’t necessary and don’t affect the gameplay, but provide some extra eye candy for the player. The locations look nice, but can’t be fully appreciated due to the limited viewing controls. There is no way to zoom or rotate in the game, although each shot may be shown at a different angle.
Fast Lanes Bowling sounds nice, with a different musical soundtrack for each location. The sound effects help to set the scene and captivate the player, with realistic pin and ball sounds.
As well as the regular Open Play mode, there are five other modes of play available. This includes a Challenge mode where the player is faced with a sequence of pin set ups, which must be knocked down in turn, each with a maximum of 3 attempts. You can also play a Tournament (with friends or CPU characters), Golf mode, Skins mode (to play for cash prizes) and a Practice mode to polish up your skills. The variety of gameplay modes means that Fast Lanes Bowling has good replayability. The assortment of locations assists this.
In my opinion, this is the kind of game that works well when you have a few friends over and fancy a game for a bit of light-hearted fun. The game can be played with up to four players and at any time you can view the scoreboard to see how you measure up to your mates. It may not be groundbreaking or the type of game you’d spend hours trying to master, but Fast Lanes Bowling is still good fun and offers something a little different in the bowling genre.