The Game: Your own digital ten-pin alley awaits by way of the Intellivision. Line up your shots on two axes, and then let it fly; you still havepportunity to exert a certain amount of control on the ball as it rolls down the alley, presumably by Intellivision psychokinesis, and a split-screen view allows you to see the result of your play. You even get to see the ball return bring you ball back to you for the next play. (Mattel Electronics, 1980)
Memories: Before the Intellivision Bowling cartridge came along, video bowling games all seemed to be cut from the same cloth: an overhead view of the alley, and very minimal control of your bowling ball. The thing is, even with a horizontally-oriented display, this resulted in a lot of wasted screen space, and nothing that was in any danger of being a satisfying gaming experience. Mattel‘s in-house team took their cues not from those earlier games, but from television bowling coverage.
In a way, Bowling is almost exactly like previous bowling games: the same overhead view is in play, more or less, though an intermediate aiming stage allows you to set up your shot ontthan just the horizontal axis before letting fly. Wisely, though, the game at least appears to have more going on, simply by splitting the screen into two horizontal displays. The top half of the screen was devoted to an unprecedented 3-D “split screen” view looking straight down the alley from the player’s perspective.
While it might still look laughable in the 21st century, this was quite an advancement for video bowling at the time, and it made a huge difference. You could watch your ball approach the pins, and this even had the effect of – like real-life bowling – dreary anticipation as a badly-lined-up shot headed for an inevitable date with the gutter. The collector even swings down to grab and reposition the pins for the next round.
This is where bowling on a video game console really started to get fun. Two of the biggest considerations in a decent sports game – the look and the feel of it (and in this case, the feel includes a better-than-decent approximation of the physics involved in bowling) – were more than met. Approximations of Atari‘s VCS Bowling cartridge would no longer do: Intellivision had permanently raised the bar on yet another sports game.