|Fred has to work
late at the quarry, so his space buddy Gazoo has turned Bedrock into one big bowling lane
to let everyone practice for the upcoming weekend tournament. Fred, Barney, Pebbles, Bam
Bam, and Dino maneuver giant bowling balls in the half-shell through raceway-like
"lanes," hoping to hit gems, pins, and dodo birds to collect points and longer
playing time. Although Im an old fan of Flintstones (and I admit I was an addict
this Christmas when Elf Bowling came along), I wasnt bowled over by the execution of
This game gets the WB and Cartoon Network stamp of approval, and it really is a great concept with some exceptionally cute moments. Bowling over the backs of dinosaurs, through lava pools, and dodging cars and Rockzilla at the drive-in makes for great fun. I would also say that this game would work well for the very beginning player (more on that later). But there are some problems along the way that interfere with my whole-hearted enjoyment of the game.
First and foremost is the terrible draw-in problem this game has. Almost all the lanes have some great concepts in the graphics department, but when youre waiting for them to appear two feet in front of your bowling shell, its much harder to appreciate their cleverness. When things did materialize, they were competently done, but the wait was bad enough that I couldnt help being distracted by it. The opening cinema screen was fairly graphically solid, but I would have traded it in two seconds for better lane quality.
The second bummer about this game is the fact that the characters dont have much variation in what they say during the game. After the second or third "strike," you get tired of Gazoo saying "Well arent you the bowling wizard!" With such great characters, youd think that each one could have a lot to say. But not in this game. So then I turn to the music and sound effects to distract me from the lack of dialogue. The music during the lanes was varied and interesting, but the musical backdrop between lanes was torture. It sounded like someone took their string bass into the garage and recorded the same three notes over and over. Arrghhh! The one saving grace was the great sound effects on each lane. Between powder kegs, dodo birds and Pebbles laugh, I almost forgot everything else.
The movement is a blessing or a curse, depending on who you are. Even on the hardest difficulty setting, its tough to run off the track and the game doesnt let you go backward. Theres no getting lost or going the wrong direction with this one. The only exceptions to this are the bonus lanes of Rubbles Backyard Pool and the Water Buffalo Lodge. These are one-screen venues that allow 360 degree movement in an enclosed space. Youre given a limited amount of time to collect gems and pins, and the pool is especially fun as it gives a skateboard-like feel to the play and your shell can actually move fairly quickly. The speed during regular lanes is pretty slow, even when you use the inappropriately named "turbo" button, so most of the time all you have to do is some minor steering. This is fabulous for beginning players, as the frustration factor is extremely low. But as an old-hat at Mario-Kart, I think I was looking for more action and peril.
The way in which a player gets extra time on a lane is also a mixed bag. If you hit all three dodo birds in the first leg of your lane, youre allowed to finish. If not, your play for that lane is over. But instead of having to go back and try again to master it, youre shuttled off onto the next lane. While this is great for those with shorter attention spans and those with lower skill levels who might take awhile to be able to visit the later lanes, it doesnt really encourage younger players to work toward mastery. It also makes for a very short game to work through. With eight regular lanes, it doesnt take long to beat. The upside to all this is that you can gain bonus lanes if you do well, and if youre playing on the medium or hard difficulty setting, you get two very cool bonus levels of the planet Zetox and Gazoos Asteroid.
Bedrock Bowling also allows four players to compete, but the gaming doesnt switch to a more head-to-head approach. Instead, players take turns "bowling" each lane and try to outdo each other by scoring higher points. While this keeps competition from getting too wild and bloodthirsty it can also have a tendency to get (yawn) tedious. The winner gets a trophy from Gazoo and a verbal pat on the back that takes about two seconds, which isnt really all that thrilling for the older, more jaded audience members.
I like to see the PlayStation publishers putting out more games for younger children (got to give N64 a run for their money!), and I think that the idea for this game was a really great one. Taking a pop-culture icon like the Flintstones and building a stone-age fantasy land to play in was really a fabulous move. But I dont think enough time and attention was taken with this one to make it a game that could grow with players, challenge them, and get them ready and eager to face the next wave in their gaming lives. Maybe Im being overly harsh to a game which is meant to have a more limited and specific audience, but I think games should be layered to give players of all skill levels and predilections something to groove on. And either way, the draw-in problem should have been cleaned up as a matter of principle.
In the final analysis, I think very young and beginning gamers would Flintstones Bedrock Bowling and would find it fairly user friendly. But more demanding players would find this a quick play, and not something that could keep their attention over time. Is this game a renter? Definitely. But unless you have a little "Yabba-dabba-do" at home, I wouldnt suggest making this part of a permanent collection.