The latest in the string of tenpin- bowling simulations (Strike, Tenth Frame, Indoor Games) is Ten Pin Challenge from the budget house Atlantis.
The rules, as if you didn't already know them, are thirty simple: a game can have as many as four players and consists of ten frames. Each player has two balls to knock down the ten skittles that make up a frame.
If all ten are toppled by the first ball the player is given a 'strike', which is ten points (one for each pin) plus the scores from the next two balls (one point for each pin again) - so the maximum score for a frame is 30 points, ten for each of the three balls counted.
If it takes two balls to tumble all ten pins the player gets a 'spare', worth ten points plus the score from the next ball bowled. The maximum for a spare is therefore 20 points.
But if there are still pins standing after two balls have been bowled, the player earns just one point for each pin felled and nothing from the next frame.
Strikes and spares are valuable because they enable you to count the following frames more than once - as part of the score for the strike or spare frame, and as frames by themselves.
After choosing the number of players and skill level, the new bowler can select the weight of ball he's to bowl with. He can aim with the direction cursor, helpful for getting those last few pins. And the amount of 'hook' - the spin of the ball, which makes it curve - can be set with the Hookometer. Getting the right amount of hook is a tricky business, though, so lightning reflexes are needed.
The final stage is power-selection. There's no gauge for this, so timing is essential as you hold down the power key. Too little power with a heavy ball will just get it ball trickling down the alley at a snail's pace, hardly touching the standing pins, while too much strength will send the ball flying down the alley into the gutter at the side.
Sound: limited spot FX
Options: one to four players, four skill levels, five ball weights
'Yawn! This is soooo boring. I've always thought bowling sims are potentially sleep-inducing, and Ten Pin Challenge proves my point quite nicely. The game is limited to aiming, adjusting spin and firing, so there's nothing to keep the player absorbed. The implementation leaves a lot to be desired, the game runs slowly and it looks shoddy. I wouldn't waste money on this piece of rubbish'
'Yawn. This is just so slow. The press release says 'there are a lot of armchair sports enthusiasts out there', and I keep getting this vision of an old man with a beer belly wearing a string vest getting all excited because he's bought Ten Pin Challenge! The sprites are badly-defined, and it takes ages to get through three or four frames of animation. When the ball does finally move out of your hands it lumbers down the hall toward the ten skittles, and just as you think you aimed it right it swerves to the side and falls into the gutter. Ten Pin Challenge is definitely a no-no, even if you are an armchair enthusiast!'
NICK ... 40%
'Everybody wants to get in on the bowling act, but only Tenth Frame has really made any impression. There've been many different ways of presenting the alley on the screen, and the programmer of Ten Pin Challenge has chosen a completely wrong approach. There 's no atmosphere, no creative graphics and little playability. In fact, there's very little here to merit a look.'
PAUL ... 17%
The world of strikes, spares and frames comes to the Spectrum. Scoring in ten-pin bowling seems unnecessarily complex - but perhaps that's to make up for the simplicity of rolling the ball and knocking over the pins. Sophisticated stuff, huh?
This game, which can be played by up to four people, takes care of the arcane scoring, so that you can concentrate on toppling those skittles. Problem is that it returns sports simulations to the bad old days of positioning a cursor then trying to stop a spinning pointer just where you want it.
You have to take aim, set the spin then press the trigger for the required amount of time to launch the ball. Shots are interspersed with a tedious pin-replacing routine. Admittedly it's quite tricky, but what does it have to do with the physical act of hurling bowling balls around?
If you're an addict of the sport it might hold some little appeal, providing you've got friends to play against, but there are enough rough edges to make anyone else strike their Spectrum in frustration!
Joystick: Keyboard only
Reviewer: Jerry Muir
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