by Rob "Flack" O'Hara
I normally file bowling games next to fishing games in
that "why are you playing games of activities that you could be doing
in real life?" category. However, a hurt ankle a couple of months ago
left me sitting in my recliner and off my foot for a week or so, and you
know what that means? NO BOWLING FOR YOU. So, I did the next best thing
and tried out several of the most popular bowling games in MAME. Did any
of them get a strike? Will I get my balls taken away for that lame joke?
Read on and find out!
It should be noted that most arcade bowling games are
configured to play using a track ball. The ones I found below were all
ones that you can play with a regular controller, although as you read on
you'll see some worked better than others.
P&P Marketing (1991)
is one of the two vertically-oriented bowling games I tried. Bowl-O-Rama
supports up to five players and includes three different bowling
variants: normal bowling, Flash-O-Matic, and Black Jack
Controls, as I found out, are pretty
universal when it comes to arcade bowling games. In Bowl-O-Rama,
left and right buttons are used to control the amount of spin placed
on the ball. Moving left and right on the controller adjusts the
ball's position within the lane, while moving the controller forward
("up") launches the ball. Like all the other games I
tried, Bowl-O-Rama also contains a countdown timer to keep the game
moving, and has a small window where humorous animations are shown
throughout the game depending on what's happening.
Bowl-O-Rama mode, the game plays and scores like regular bowling. In
Flash-O-Matic mode, random scores are flashed on the screen. The
score that's on screen when you hit the pins is the score you get.
It's a decent but unnecessary addition. Black Jack Bowling is a bit
more interesting. Each player gets three throws to build their
blackjack hand. The number of pins you knock over is the card you
receive -- ten pins is a face card, seven pins would get you a
seven, etc. Hitting only one pin draws an Ace.
had assumed that most of the bowling games I would try with a
joystick would be too hard to control, but in Bowl-O-Rama, the
opposite is true. It's simply too easy. Positioning the ball
anywhere between pins 1 and 2 (the left half of pin 1) will get you
a strike. By the second game I was bowling 300 games (see
screenshot). Likewise, the Black Jack game simply becomes a matter
of knocking down one pin the first time (for the Ace) and all the
pins the second time for a face card and a blackjack. I suppose you
and your friends could half a tournament and the first person not to
throw a perfect game would lose, but it might take a while for that
Bowling is another top-down vertical-oriented bowling game from
roughly the same era. Capcom Bowling supports up to four players.
Bowling's controls and gameplay are essentially identical to Bowl-O-Rama's
normal mode. You still have your spin buttons, the controller still
adjusts and throws the ball. Like all the other games I tried,
Capcom Bowling contains a timer to keep you from taking too long to
line up your shot and a small window which shows funny animations
depending on the action within the game.
And, like Bowl-O-Rama, a well-placed shot on the pins (this time
right down the middle) will get you a strike almost every time. The
ball and pins in Capcom Bowling are slightly smaller than in Bowl-O-Rama,
making it a bit tougher to bowl a perfect game. Still, even a child
should be able to pull of scores of 200+ every round.
Geo's League Bowling introduces a couple of first on this list. Not
only is it the first game on this list to be presented in 3D unlike
the previous top-down 2D games, it's also the only game on this list
that actually shows your bowler! League Bowling also changes up the
controls as well.
Unlike the previous titles, in
League Bowling you control the spin of your ball and power of your
throw by pressing a button on a moving power bar. For spin control,
the bar moves left and right; the closer to the middle you click,
the straighter your throw will be. The power bar for your throw is
similar to other sports titles (think field goal kicking). It
doesn't take much coordination to throw relatively straight and
strong balls, although the slight changes each round keep you from
throwing perfect games over and over.
also serves up three different bowling variations to choose from. In
addition to Regulation play, there's Flash Bowling, which like
Bowl-O-Rama's Flash-O-Matic mode awards points to throws, and Strike
90, a game I never could seem to understand the scoring to.
many other Neo Geo releases, League Bowling contains cute popsy
music and nice sound effects.
World Class Bowling
Incredible Technologies (1997)
Class Bowling is the newest game on the list, and the graphics show
it. Everything from the balls to the pins and lanes themselves have
been rendered beautifully. Unfortunately, the controls are not so
World Class Bowling plays like the first two games on this list,
with spin control, timers, and so on. Like those games World Class
Bowling was designed to work with a track ball, and I suppose
because of this it is impossible to throw the ball hard enough to
knock down all the pins. Even the most hearty PUSH on your
controller or keyboard will only send the ball poking down the lane
at half speed. Throws that would normally be strikes only seem to
cause most of the pins to wobble around before coming to rest
Due to the game's graphics, a fairly high end machine is required to
run this one. Even on my beefy box I noticed quite a bit of sound
crackle and occasional graphic lag. If you've got a MAME cabinet
with a trackball you might give this a go, but joystick bangers will
be disappointed in their ball's performance.