Thursday, 5 November 2015

Bowling (Microvision review)

Developer: Milton Bradley
Publisher: Milton Bradley
Released: 1979

Bowling is a sports game and one of four launch titles for the system (alongside Block Buster, Connect Four and Pinball).

It supports 1-2 players (turn based) and the objective is to gain the highest possible score within ten frames which consist of two attempts each. One point is awarded for each pin you knock down; however, if you achieve a Spare you'll gain ten extra points plus the number of pins knocked down by the next ball. By scoring a Strike ten bonus points are added plus the number of pins knocked down with the next two balls. Before each shot the bowling ball moves continuously from side-to-side (Slow and Fast options are available) and once you think it's in the optimal position the BOWL button releases it down the alley. It's a simple mechanic that works well and relies purely on timing. If you happen to get a 7-10 split it's actually possible to clear the back corner pins by hitting one of them on its far edge; I was impressed by this and the developers did a good job of ensuring that you can still get Spares in these situations despite the limitations of the system's 16 x 16 resolution. However, the game does have one glaring flaw in that getting a Strike is ridiculously easy; all you have to do is aim just to the left or right of the lead pin and you're guaranteed to clear everything, every time. Executing this is effortless as the default speed setting (Slow) lives up to its name and it's simple to repeat the same action for a maximum score. Increasing the speed to Fast improves things but while it's certainly more challenging it still doesn't test your skills to any great extent, especially once you've gotten used to the timing. The two player mode is slightly more interesting as the competition element kicks in and the main satisfaction comes from trying to upset your opponents timing by any means necessary!

Bowling is okay but it's not the sort of game you can play for long stretches as each frame takes under a minute to complete and as soon as you're comfortable with the timing mechanics you can repeatedly abuse the system for Strikes. Still, if you can rope a friend into playing you might get 5-10 minutes of enjoyment out of it.

Random trivia: The only other sports game released on the Microvision was Baseball (1980).

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