For those of you playing along at home this is Videocart #21-Bowling, for the Zircon Channel F.
I wonder if they actually changed its name to the "Zircon Channel-F"? All of the carts released during what is known among Channel F fans as "The Zircon Era" have the Zircon Empire's name and address on the back of the cart. I'll scan a picture of it one of these days.
Bowling (Channel F, 1979)
The Title (system, year) format was one of the ways of presenting the cart title that Flack suggested, and I like it. Thanks Flack!
We've seen a few interpretations of Bowling over the years. RCA Studio II, APF and the Odyssey^2 all had their own takes on the sport. It was one of the few games that didn't suck completely on the RCA Studio II and the other two systems didn't exactly get it wrong either. It felt like I wasn't able to do splits on those systems, though, that could mean I'm just not very good at splits. I could never do seven-ten splits in real life, either.
Channel-F Bowling gets all the technical aspects of the sport correct. The scoring is accurate, no "15-for-a-spare-30-for-a-strike" fudging here. The game keeps track of the pins you earn after a spare or a strike and adds them appropriately. It also handles splits. I was surprised when I was able to spare a seven-ten-six split. They don't show the six (or is the four?) pin sliding over from the right to knock the seven, but the seven pin did go down. Also, like every other Bowling game, it is possible to curve the ball. At any point after you roll it, you initiate a hook or a slice by pushing the joystick the way you want the ball to go. You can't un-do the curve either, so you have to be careful not to curve the ball when you initially roll it, or it will go straight into the gutter. Hmm, gutter. That reminds me, I'd better talk about the graphics.
The graphics are Channel-F level graphics. (I'll post screenshots later, so check back often!) The pins look like air hockey paddles, which is better than just a square.
In fact, I bring up the pins because they were Good Thing.
The rest of it was very sparse, like PONG sparse. The designers did go the extra mile by providing a frame record at the top right of the screen, displaying the strikes, spares and opens for each frame played. So overall, points away for graphics, but points added for screen layout.
The thing about Channel-F Bowling that didn't work the most, was the speed of the ball and the fact it can't be adjusted. It's fast, especially for my four year old. It was hard for her to get a bead on it when she was preparing to roll it and it was hard for her to curve it when she wanted to, once it went sailing up the alley. I'm not saying that this makes the game bad, per se, but it makes it harder to play with my kids, which is bad.
EDIT: Actually what's bad is trying to play these games without having directions for game settings. The speed of the ball CAN be changed! We were playing 2 player and I must've been hitting speed 2 in response to the "S?" question, thinking it had no effect (the directions on the cart say nothing about it). But G=2 and S=1 was fine for my little girl, provided she didn't twist the joystick around the wrong way and throw everything into the gutter. /EDIT
Also on this cartridge is a Bowling variation called Splits. In Splits the program sets up random configurations of shots that can be hard to make. It's a neat idea and makes for good practice. I gotta give them credit for including it on a Bowling cart first. Despite this addition, this isn't the title I'd pop in if I wanted to play a Bowling game.
In the Bowling system wars, I'm going to have to consider the Odyssey^2 to currently hold the title of "Best Bowling Game, So Far". Odyssey^2 Bowling is pretty, has a four player option and is the most fun.
Next entry it's back to the MESS emulator for Slot Machine.