Boot Hill was a cowboy themed arcade game released by Midway/Bally in 1977.

This title was the sequel to Gun Fight (which was the first arcade game ever to use the Intel 8080 processor.

The game

This game may be a little more simple than the first person shooters most of you are used to playing, but it isn't quite as simple as Gun Fight was. I suggest grabbing a friend and playing in two player mode for maximum enjoyment.

The graphics are in a style that is unique to the Pre-Galaxian era of arcade games. They are monochrome, featuring white characters on a black background (although a real arcade version will have a detailed green and blue overlay adding a fairly nice background to the game). I say the graphics are unique because only these really old games had large detailed characters rendered in monochrome. What they were lacking in color, they made up for in detail (the wagon wheel alone had as much detail as an entire ship in Galaga, and that was just part of the wagon). Graphics changed a bit with the advent of color arcade games. It was several years before the color ones became as detailed as the old monochrome ones were. The reason being was keeping track of color information required memory, and processor power that the monochrome games were able to use on detail instead.

Each player (up to two people may play at a time, and you will want to play in two player mode), controls a gunfighter. You use a small joystick to move up and down. While you used a second (much larger) joystick to aim your pistol and shoot (the stick also has a trigger button). Your only goal is to shoot the other player, who is right across the screen from you (who will then fall down and say "Zap, Shot Me", and turn into a tombstone. It isn't usually a straight shot, because there is a wagon on the screen that gets in the way.

Just shoot the other player for points. The game is time based, and not life based. The factory setting is for a 90 second game, but this is operator adjustable. The computer opponent is quite easy to beat into the ground with a little practice, but a human opponent is much more challenging.

The game cabinet

This game was released in an upright dedicated cabinet. There may have been a cocktail unit as well, but I was unable to find any information about one.

The upright version was mostly yellow, but it was covered with stencil style painted cowboy sideart that showed two different cowboys on each side. The front of the machine had a few more cowboys painted on it (one with a black hat and one with a white hat). There was no marquee at all, the game had its title printed on the monitor bezel, which also showed a detailed cartoon scene of a few cowboys shooting it out in a graveyard on top of a hill.

The game used a 23" monochrome open frame monitor that was buried deep within the machine. They used a combination of mirrors, overlays, and blacklights to put the game on a detailed background of actuall hilly terrain. The control panel had one 2-Way trigger switch joystick, and one smaller 8-Way for each player. Proper replacement parts are no longer made for any of the controls in this game. But standard replacement parts can be modified to work with it fairly easily.

Most other black and white games with an 8080 processor will plug right into this cabinet, but very few of them use the same controls, severely limiting quick conversion and multigame options.

Where to play

Well your first choice should be to track down an original machine. They aren't everywhere, but I estimate there are still hundreds of them still around. Actually, you might as well buy one of these if you can find it. The average market price for these machines is less than $250 for a nice one in working order (price is USD, current as of 2002). The good thing about these old black and white machines is that they were not converted very often, as new titles required color monitors, and more generic controls. By the time you bought a new monitor, new controls, and a conversion kit, you might as well have bought a new game in the first place. So they were often simply put away in a warehouse sometime in the early 80s, often still functioning.

If you can't find a real one (or think I am an idiot for suggesting you find one of these), then you can play it on MAME. But you won't have the whacked out overlay, the blacklight, or the correct controls. Even if you have a MAME cabinet, you still won't have the correct controls (unless you happened to have mounted a 2-Way trigger joystick on your cabinet).