A load of balls.
Skee-Ball, developed by Ocean Media, tries to encapsulate a blend of the magic that both Wii Sports managed to so masterfully execute upon the Wii’s launch, and that of a real arcade, sounds and all. Whilst it can provide a glimmer of what made the former a success – Bowling in particular – it falters in all aspects, leaving you with a hollow shell of an arcade staple.
Upon booting the game up you’re greeted with a less-than-stellar overall presentation that immediately harkens back to the early days of Miniclip, which is to say, not that good. The initial impression left was that quality was severely lacking and, I’m afraid to say, this feeling didn’t change throughout my time spent with this digital take on the century-old classic.
It’s embarrassing to say the amount of trouble I had before I managed to get into an actual game. Playing with the Pro Controller just did not work for me, despite support for that controller being clearly advertised on the game’s listing on the eShop. A restart or two didn’t help either, and instead, I opted to use the Joy-Cons. These did allow me to get into an actual game, but my troubles only escalated from there.
Using the Joy-Cons allows you to play this with motion controls. You line up your shot with the right Joy-Con, hold the ZL shoulder button on the left Joy-Con, and swing the right Joy-Con forward with the amount of power that you so desire. The first few balls were sent into the stratosphere, but this could have just been me adjusting, so we’ll let that slide. What I did have trouble with, however, was the way the game appeared to be fighting me throughout. Calibration was wildly different between swings, and whilst a re-calibration is meant to be as simple as a press of a button, this did little to make my time with Skee-Ball any easier.
In the few games I had where the constant issues didn’t leave me feeling too exasperated, I almost found an inkling of enjoyment. The simplicity of the swing, when not mired by controller mechanics, showed potential to be similar to the aforementioned Wii Sports Bowling, but these moments were few and far between.
Various cabinet designs are to be found, and these vary the gameplay somewhat, as do the additional game modes available should you find the need to punish yourself further. The modes range from a time attack-based mode to a more thoughtful “Wipe Out” mode that requires you to hit every target they can place in front of you. Coupled with the previously mentioned control issues, however, you can understand why this may not have been my favourite mode.
The disappointment that such a seemingly-simple title can generate initially astounded me, but realising the missed potential infuriated me far more than it should have. This game was never going to set the world alight, let’s be clear on that, but to be genuinely angered by a title’s astonishing amount of downfalls and missteps is a feeling very few games have managed to achieve. The want to stop playing eventually bested me and the feeling of finishing with the game was the only solace I was able to take.
Skee-Ball seems more than happy to resemble an early-2000’s flash game instead of a unique take on the arcade classic that it represents.