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By: Jason Compton
The first nice thing you can say about Kingpin is "Thank God, a sport that
ISN'T soccer on the Amiga!"
We still may never see a decent baseball game on the Amiga, but the fate of
bowling is sealed by this new budget offering from Team17.
[Just so we're all in the same frame of reference, this is 10-pin bowling,
not lawn bowling, which is so often referred to as bocce that I don't know
what the problem is.]
The history of computer bowling can prety much be expressed (for me) in
Atari 2600's Bowling, a fairly crude yet compelling bowling simulation,
with a blocky ball that travelled across the screen at square dot pins-you
had your choice of straight, curve, or "steering" control. With steering,
all you had to do was wiggle the joystick upon contact and you were pretty
much going to get a strike.
Tenth Frame on the 64 was done by Access, the people who brought you
Leader Board golf and the well-intentioned Echelon. Their big thing was
"rotoscoped animation" which gave you a rather nice looking bowler and pin
action, but the control system left something to be desired...
Now, Kingpin brings rendered pins, ball weight selection, and a nice mix
between arcade challenge and control ease.
The action centers on lane 17 (cute), with male/female selectable bowlers,
team play, and a PA announcer who comes up with something to say every now
and then for atmosphere. You get team/league play, practice rounds, and
"Arcade Spares Challenge" to test your skill.
You'll want to know how to throw the ball, of course, once you pick your
game. That control system I referred to is pretty straightforward. You
pick your power level, position your bowler, and hit the button, at which
point an arrow starts bouncing back and forth (more rapidly the harder
you're throwing the ball) to select the direction you'll be throwing in.
Hit the button again to stop the arrow at what you think is going to be
the right place, watch the ball roll...then, as the ball gets close, your
view will switch to a closeup. Around now, or perhaps before (it depends
on lane conditions and how bad your throw was) you'll want to push the
joystick to put curve on the ball. Then the contact, the pins fly, get
picked up, the sweeper comes, etc.
Did I say lane conditions? Yep. Each time you play, you get a different
set of lane conditions...it can play faster than usual, have a particular
tendency to curve one way or another...much like real life. (You'll
quickly discover which set of lane conditions fit your play style best,
and probably keep quitting and restarting until you get it.)
A rather nice feature is that you get a nice view of what pins are left
and a little arrow indicating how you should hit it to get a spare (if
applicable). If you get a spare, a strike, or pick up a difficult split,
you get cheered by your fellow bowlers-a difficult split will even get you
an instant replay.
Sounds pretty good, all things considered, right? You're right. If you
can get into the game, you'll be happy. But to get in, you must pass the
most nefarious and evil of all copy protection schemes-the "type in a
number" scheme. Actually, that's not too bad in itself, but Team17 has
decided that the combination of black ink on black paper would be a
necessary precaution for a $20 game. Black ink on black paper is quite
easily the hardest thing to read in the world, and you'll want a bright
I also have a slight problem with the close up mode...the frame and the
pins just don't look to be on the same angle and camera view, so it can be
a bit disorienting if you look at it the wrong way.
AGA support exists, although I was unsuccessful in running the program on a
4000/040. (It worked fine on the CD32/SX-1.) The only real improvement is
in the title screen, though. Hard drive installation is supported, but you
still need the original disk.
The gameplay, though, is rock-solid and quite a bit of fun...and I know
I'll never get scores like this in real life. So if you're tired of
Sensible World Soccer Manager Manchester United Champions Manager of the
World Cup, and have a few bucks to blow, and are an awful bowler in real
life, grab Kingpin.