I’ve never been a big bowler, but it always was a fun date. That’s why the concept of a dating game mixed with a bowling game seemed perfect too, like peanut butter and chocolate. Unfortunately, Date Night Bowling is an incredibly cute concept that doesn’t quite deliver either a great bowling game, or a particularly good dating sim.
Date Night Bowling is a bowling game first and a dating game second. In it, you play as one of ten bowlers, each with their own bowling proficiency. Then you hit the lanes, either solo or with a date, and that’s when you try to win over your partner as well as play some ten pin. Between each set, you have a chance to woo your partner with various activities which manifest as quick minigames. While the concept and idea are sound, I had a hard time having fun beyond a few frames.
As a bowling game, Date Night Bowling is actually pretty solid. It’s not the best bowling game I’ve played, but it’s very far from the worst. Your goal is to (obviously) knock over the pins with your bowling ball, and to do that you’ll have to balance your position, aim, power of your throw, and the spin on the ball. If that sounds a bit complicated for a dating game, it’s really not: each of these actions shows up as a power meter, you just stop it where you want it. Proficiency is not required, and in fact, being a bit bad at bowling does a good job at recreating that true date night experience.
As a dating game, Date Night Bowling is incredibly surface level. What I mean by that is: it’s barely a dating game. You bowl under the auspice of ‘dating’ but your interactions aren’t based on personality, but rather a series of minigames. Between each frame you have to play a game that requires timing or quick reflexes, and only through successful completion of these minigames can you woo your bowling partner. And you don’t get much for it, either, not even an overarching story or interactions that so much as reference previous bowling trips.
One of my favorite parts of Date Night Bowling is its art and presentation. The most personality the characters have is shown through the art—which is superb. The game does lean into the retro aesthetic a little hard with its filters. You have the option for a filter that recreates a CRT effect, one that displays its pixel art in “pixel perfect” modern glory, or a baffling “smooth” filter that is mostly ineffective. Most “smooth” filters tend to make the art less blocky, but this one just makes everything blurry. It’s baffling as to why it’s even included.
Date Night Bowling isn’t a bad game. It was fun for the few hours I played it—but after that, I don’t see why I’d return to it. It actually has some potential for real life date possibilities with its local co-op and decent bowling, but the in-game dating aspect get caught in the gutter.
A Steam key was provided to us for this review