Robot Bowl was an old black and white arcade bowling game released by Exidy way back in 1977. A lot of manufacturers were pumping out basic bowling implementations back then, and Exidy was quick to jump on the bandwagon. If you have not yet heard about the game of bowling, then I suggest heading over to the bowling node first, don't worry this one will still be here when you get back.

The game

It would be tough to get much more basic than this. You have a top down view of a bowling alley with score cards shown on each side. The only thing in the game that uses an actual animation is the bowler himself (robotself?), the robot has a several frame animation when he walks. Everything is (of course) shown is glorious monochrome black and white.

The game begins with your robot bowler running up to the alley (his feet move faster than he does, which makes it look like he is running on a conveyor belt or something). You then have three seconds to roll the ball, before it will roll of its own accord. The game is controlled with five buttons, they are left, right, shoot, hook left, and hook right. When Exidy was making this game, they had to make a decision about how the hooking worked, and it seems that they decided that "Robots are telepaths, and can effect the balls movement after it is thrown!". You see you can't even hook the ball until after it is thrown. This makes it very easy to pick up the spare. The game makes up for that little trick by making "splits" very common (the 7-10 split and the 4-7-10 split come up all the time). These are pretty annoying, but you can usually learn how to clear them out (except the 7-10 split, I still haven't figured out how to clear that one).

While you play the machine will comment on your playing (using text of course, this machine does not talk). The comments are basically just "Gutter Ball Boo!" and "Strike Yea!", I have yet to encounter any others.

The Machine

Robot Bowl was available in two different dedicated cabinets, and upright and a cocktail, both of them used the same internal hardware.

The Robot Bowl upright was of the common 1970s "short cabinet" design, as the machine had no marquee and was only as tall as the monitor. The cabinet itself was covered in dark woodgrain laminate (very popular back then), and all decorative touchs were on the large monitor bezel, which depicted a cartoon scene of a gray robot bowling. The robot looks a lot like the Tin Woodsman from The Wizard of Oz, except for the top of his head, and the fact that he is plugged in with an extension cord. He is labeled "XXIDY MFG." on his back. Some machines also had a decorative "ball return" on the front at the very bottom of the cabinet.

The Robot Bowl cocktail was a square box with a perfectly round top, the player controls were on either side of the monitor (and you actually had to look at the game sideways to play). This machine had no decoration of any kind.

Where to play

The MAME emulator supports this game fairly well. But the sound is missing. There are plenty of more detailed bowling games in MAME, but this one is easy to play, and runs well on even the oldest computer.

This is a fun game to add to your arcade game collection. Black and white games are usually fairly inexpensive (when you can actually find them), and this title has a lot of replay value. Judging from newsgroup sale values, you should be able to purchase this title in excellent condition for under $200.

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