I went bowling twice this weekend, once at Lane and Games in Cambridge, and then again at Merrimack Ten Pin here in New Hampshire. And yes, it was the full-sized experience, not that candlepin or duckpin stuff. Here are my notes on the quality of the facilities.
I’d driven by Lane and Games for years, but never actually went inside until recently. It has two floors of lanes, all candlepin on the bottom, and split candlepin / tenpin on the top. It’s also got a few pool tables, a bar, and a video game room. It’s a little run down at the edge, but it bustles with activity…good place to spend a Friday night with a bunch of friends, which is exactly what I did. It’s conveniently located right off Route 2 going into Alewife, about a 45 minute drive door-to-door from Nashua.
The equipment is on the older side, maybe mid- to late 80s, but it works fine. The video game selection is OK but not in great shape… I tried to play a bit of Street Fighter II, but the controls were completely and utterly messed up. Very irking. On the other hand, they had a good Sniper game (needed some lube on the gun mount), and of course air hockey. Tokens only.
Merrimack Ten Pin is located off D.W. Highway next to Newick’s Seafood. My sister and I have been talking about going bowling for a year, and we finally decided to check out this place after hearing about it from another friend. It turned out to be a very nice modern facility with an active league schedule.
The color scheme was a bit hard on the eyes at first, but everything looked clean and well maintained. They have “glow bowl” there, so that explains the paint (it’s all black-light fluorescent). There was a nice snack bar with frozen cokes (which I love) and all the usual snackage: burgers, chicken strips, nachos, etc. The snack bar lacks the seedy charm of Lane and Games, but they have beer on tap right next to the lanes! Another cool thing is you can charge all your food to the lane tab, and pay for everything at the end of the session. Lane and Game’s, by comparison, is all “cash up front” for lane time and food.
The equipment at Merrimack Ten Pin is also a little more modern, with these cool molded scoring stations. You could control the TV and program the gutter bumpers on a per-bowler basis. I’d date the system around mid-1990s, judging from the quality of the text character generator and the 3D animations played between each frame. The lanes and furniture were also in great shape.
The video games: quite a few gun games, including a large-size Time Crisis III and an older House of the Dead. I tried Police Trainer, but the gun calibration was waaaay off. I got taken. They’ve got a couple pins–The Simpsons was one–and of course air hockey. No tokens necessary.