Bowling is one of those games that can often make for a quick filler - generally speaking the titles lack the depth of true sports simulation titles like NBA 2k or the Madden series. Big John Games has shown however, that these non-core titles can still provide some decent depth and mechanics with their Big Bass Arcade game for the 3DS, which I was quite fond of when I reviewed it.
Bowling titles do not seem to be terribly uncommon for the 3DS eShop these days. If you look about, there are at least three or four you notice immediately. Of them, I will say that I think this is the best. That being said, there is room for improvement on the formula used in Smash Bowling 3D.
Thankfully, the game itself has good controls. These core mechanics make the actual bowling a good deal of fun. There are two different control schemes - a button-press timing mechanic, and one using the bottom touch screen. Of the two, I enjoyed the button press more. These are timing-based meter/mini games that affect things like throwing power, spin and trajectory. Even though there is a degree of apples and oranges to the comparison, the two different schemes reminded me of the Wii version of Punch-Out!! - where I enjoyed the button press method of control over the Wii motion controls because of the additional precision I felt it gave me.
The second control scheme has you first manipulating a bunch of sliders to set up your shot. It then puts a trajectory line on the bottom screen for you to try and trace with your stylus. There are a couple of things being monitored during this swipe process - accuracy as well as speed. It is a fairly interesting method - just not my preferred one.
There is a lot of profile tracking that goes on here, as achievements and unlocked items are based on things you do - like best single game high scores, getting a strike - or a trio of strikes in a row - things like that. You can get different skins for your bowling balls and for the lanes, but these are all just cosmetic coats of paint. Essentially this turns Smash Bowling 3D into a good game to play on the fly for a few minutes, but there is a lack of depth that kept me from coming back for more. I do not claim to have the answers for this - maybe some sort of progressive career mode that plays on your ability to do certain things (like shoot with power or accuracy, or have control of your spin), or maybe some mode with zany computer opponents who have different styles of play.
I reviewed Bonanza Bowling 3D a couple of days ago here, and if you are considering the two titles, I would give my nod to Smash Bowling.
All in all, not a bad bowling game at all - in fact the best on the eShop currently. I just wish there was a bit more substance to it all so that I had a reason to come back to it more often. I would score this a 6 out of 10.