Remastered Review: N64 Review #4- Milo’s Astro Lanes
Happy St. Patrick’s Day! I know, it was Tuesday but that is when I’m writing this. As I sip on my whiskey and enjoy the music of my people (I am super Irish, FYI), the time has come continue reuniting my first eight Nintendo 64 reviews with the rest of the class. It has been a fun project for sure, but I am getting antsy to write some new reviews. Still, at only half way there is still much to do. It was about at this point in the review series I realized that I needed to start mixing in games I wasn’t familiar with and that lead to this review from July 14, 2013 of Milo’s Astro Lanes.
Bowling is one of those things in life that you don’t really do alone. It is best if you get a few of your buddies together, grab a pitcher of beer, and insert inappropriate names on the scoreboard. That is how bowling was meant to be enjoyed. That is also something that is difficult to transfer into a video game. You can still do the buddies and the beer, sure, but bowling games tend to always lose something in translation. Milo’s Astro Lanes is a game that attempts to take the core concept of bowling and make it into a fun video game by using abstract ideas.
You get to choose your bowler from a host of space themed characters from aliens, to an odd sci-fi looking woman, to a robot using one wheel for feet (my favorite), to Milo himself. Each one has a couple of standard catchphrases they will spout off situationally and a few unique animations that also are triggered by the situation. After choosing your bowler, you find yourself in a dome shaped room with several doors you can choose from, each one representing a different lane. Each one is apparently its own spaceship as it appears that only the particular lane you have chosen exists anywhere around you. Some intergalactic beings prefer to bowl in solitude. Some of the lanes play more like a standard bowling lane, others have things like hills and jumps, which adds good variety and a little challenge to figure out and overcome. This was a good element to add in to shake up the usual bowling game.
If you play as a single player, you will be paired up with a random computer opponent. The game plays out like a standard bowling game, with each player taking turns through 10 frames. What is not standard, though, is the addition of power-ups. These range in variety and can either help you like the power-up that makes your ball grow like Rita Repulsa bringing a defeated monster back to life, or hinder your opponent like the spring you can conveniently hide on the lane that will propel your opponent’s ball into the heavens, never to be seen again. This adds an element of fun to what is otherwise a dry, tedious experience. The idea was that by giving each character an animation depending on how each particular throw went, it would give the game a personality. The problem with that is two-fold. First, because each character only has two or three animations that get old quickly, the personality it give the game is that of Ben Stein. Second, in between each throw you have a 20 second animation that can not be skipped. It makes each game drag on seemingly forever.
I usually try to give N64 games a little bit of a break on music because not every game can be The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Super Mario 64. This game, however, features music that would better suited for a 1980’s adult film. If the N64 had achievements, the 100G for this game would be “Go 5 minutes without muting your TV.” Add in the same problem with catchphrases that plague the animations and you’ll be far better off listening to your own music than anything this game produces.
There are bonus levels here which are fun and challenging. There are several groups of pins placed somewhere abnormal on the lane and you have three tries to hit them all. The trick is that the pins become much heavier and your ball becomes much lighter. As soon as your ball hits the first set of pins, it immediately loses a lot of speed before hitting the next set. Some of these can be pretty challenging and it is a welcome break in the gameplay from the standard 10 frame game. Additionally, there is a multiplayer mode of up to four players. I can not imagine, though, 4 people wanting to sit through all of the monotonous character animations between each throw for 10 full frames. “Hey guys! I know what we can do. Let’s spend four hours playing a single game of bowling!” It seems to me if four people are going to have an N64 multiplayer experience, this would not be the game they would choose.
In the end, I have to give Milo’s Astro Lanes some credit. It really did try to shake up the same old bowling games that appear on every console. It tried to do unique things and it did accomplish that goal. This is one of the most unique bowling games you will ever play. It is not a bad game, it is just not a game that you will find yourself coming back to again and again. You especially won’t come back to it again and again if you don’t have a Controller Pak because that is the only way you can save the game. If you have an N64 and are craving a game or two of bowling, overall this is not a terrible way to go.