As you might imagine, Rambo wasn’t the only thing I played on my trip to Basingstoke’s Bowlplex last week. Having spent something like £20 on the return train ticket, there was no way I was ever going to do that. In fact, it wasn’t just the train journey – as I found out, the Bowlplex is located in a busy leisure district, and walking there from the train station was ever so slightly ambitious. Bang goes another £5 on a taxi. Being in a leisure district, the Bowlplex is surrounded by a variety of other things, including a swimming pool, an ice rink, a bingo hall, an Odeon cinema (which contained a Time Crisis 3 cabinet) and two food outlets, a McDonalds and a KFC (which is where myself and Overlord chose to eat).
Upon arriving in the Bowlplex, you’ll immediately see all the arcade machines contained within. At the time of visitng, this one contained Time Crisis 4, Mario Kart Arcade GP, an OutRun 2 cabinet which appeared to have been upgraded to OutRun 2 SP, Rambo (which was on test and will soon be gone), The Fast and the Furious Superbikes, House of the Dead 4, two Dancing Stage machines of forgotten version, and a Grand Prix pinball table from Stern (which was a pleasant surprise). Additionally, there was a pool table and an air hockey table. It’s a good variety of games, as you’ll see that the games cater for all ages and levels of interest in gaming. The machines were clean and seemed to be maintained well, which is always crucial. The one unexpected twist was the use of tokens rather than regular coins for payment, which is something that I’ve never seen in the UK. Each token is worth 50p (unused tokens are non-refundable) and every machine took two tokens per game, with the exception of Rambo which took two tokens to start and one to continue. There is only one token dispenser and this results in the occasional small queue. However, at one point the machine seemed to run out of tokens and though the problem was quickly rectified, this does call the use of tokens into question – the credits follow standard pricing and using regular currency would have required no extra outlay as the token machine already gives change.
In terms of other activities available on site, the name of the site makes it obvious that 10-pin bowling is the primary activity taking place in the building, and there’s a large number of lanes available. The site also offers a bar and grill, and while we didn’t sample the food due to the KFC consumption earlier, the bar was nice (if somewhat expensive – £1.50 for a large coke). The seating area for the bar has a large projector system for showing sporting events, and the League One playoff between Doncaster Rovers and Leeds United was on at the time we visited. The diverse range of activities on offer attracts a wide selection of people, ranging from families on the arcade machines to men who were there for the football, and the atmosphere was pleasant at all times.
The Bowlplex in Basingstoke is open seven days a week and has long opening hours. It’s a great place to visit when you’re on a family day out, and the leisure park location makes it very easy to slot in some time after seeing a film or going swimming. However, with the location being relatively out of the way, it may not be somewhere that you’ll visit regularly.