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Bowling (Atari 2600)


Company: Atari
Year: 1979
Platform: Atari 2600
Controller: Standard Joystick with one button


Let’s start the match.

Bowling ussually is a funny sport, with really simple rules easy to learn, but hard to master. The goal is very simple, trying to tackle formation of 10 pins, in 2 tries (if you made it in one, it’s known as a strike), repeating 10 times. Ah, but controlling the ball to achieve such goal is more often than not, hard in real life.

Being a relatively easy sport to learn, its jump to videogames during the beginnings of the videogame era, was logical and expected. This version for the console Atari 2600 was one of the first I had to play, and without being a very sophisticated game, it achieves its goal to entertain.


Well, at least I’m not a “lighting”, meaning I can strike twice

As mentioned, playing bowling is easy to learn and hard to master, so it’s not difficult to explain what you have to do in order to play. The gamer can move the virtual bowler up or down, to carefully measure where to drop the ball, action realized pressing the button of the joystick. Until now, you can say “what the hell, the only thing I have to do is position the bowler always in the same spot and voilá”, well, the programmers decided to add a quasi-random element that made the pins go in different directions every time, so the same shot won’t have the same effect, and you have to experiment along the game.

Here the game has its own features, because it’s possible to play in three different variations:

  1. The default is a curve ball, meaning, when you drop the ball it’s possible to indicate in which direction the ball will curve with the joystick up or down. Once selected a direction, you can not change it again. It’s possibly the most realistic mode.
  2. The second variation is the one I recommend playing, because it’s hilarious. Once the ball is moving you can change up or down many times. But if you think it’s easier to get more strikes or spares, prepare yourself to be disappointed, because it’s not so easy as you think, remember the quasi-random element of the pin direction once striked?.
  3. The final feature are straight shots, you can’t change directions once the ball is rolling. Can be a bit boring.

The game allows competition against an other human videogamer, where each one is alternating at throwing the balls. If you don’t know much about bowling, as the score can be confusing at first if you get either a strike (hitting the 10 pins with one shot) or a spare (achieving the same with two shots) or nothing, but you can find it in internet, it’s not hard to understand once read.


Funny game in its time, it was one of the first available in the “arcade” stores in my hometown. The time of a play was enough to not let another player to wait for its turn.


Sport Icon designed by Smashicons of FlatIcon licensed by CC 3.0 BY.

Console Icon taken from Retroarch.

Title image taken from AtariAge.

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