It’s been almost two years since the pandemic started, and it’s safe to say that a lot of people (myself included) have forgotten how it feels to go on an actual, in-person date. It’s at this time that Serenity Forge decided to release Date Night Bowling. The game brings players out on a classic night out bowling, complete with funky music and a fun, distinctly retro vibe. My only problem is that it doesn’t last long enough.
Date Night Bowling plays a lot like other bowling simulator games. There are two game modes that are largely the same. One features dialogue interactions and minigames between characters, while the other is a pure bowling experience. You can choose to either bowl alone or with a partner, either using a computer AI or a second player using local co-op. You also have two bowling alleys to choose from with different music themes. Additionally, there are also various customization settings such as lane oil amount, bowling ball weight, being left or right-handed, and two AI difficulty settings.
While there’s a cast of ten characters in total, you start off with only two unlocked. I initially assumed that you’d unlock new characters naturally by playing the Dating Night mode, but that was not the case. In actuality, you have to play the solo mode (which has all of the characters unlocked) using the character you want. Doing so will unlock the ability to use them in two-player mode, after which you can go on as many dates as you desire.
The Dating Night mode features the bulk of the game’s content. Interspersed between each round, the two characters will flirt and make quips about how many pins they knocked down. After each frame, Date Night Bowling then chooses a random minigame to play. Some are WarioWare-style rhythm and timed games, while others will task you with memorizing a pattern of buttons. If you do well, your Connection Meter will go up.
Unfortunately, that’s pretty much the gist of the entire game. Getting a higher Connection Meter score with a character doesn’t do anything aside from increasing the number in the stats tab. To my disappointment, your bowling score doesn’t influence the outcome of the date either. While the characters may talk about going on a second one, there’s nothing to suggest that doing so will progress the story or unlock special content. Playing with a character in two-player mode does unlock a short backstory, but that’s the extent of extra content. There isn’t even an option to play through specific minigames on their own.
All things considered, I would say the Date Night Bowling offers about two hours of content at most. I do wish the characters had more personality and dialogue as they get a bit repetitive after a couple of games. My partner and I had a fair bit of fun playing the game in local two-player, but it is a shame that the game doesn’t support online play. That being said, the game is definitely charming. The music is happy, groovy, and upbeat. The game’s pixel art and CRT television-style display also give it a unique retro aesthetic.
If you’re into casual dating games with low stakes, I’d say give it a shot. Just don’t expect this relationship to be long-term.