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Root Beer Tapper

Bally Midway 1983

Atari 2600


Back in the early days of videogames it really wasn't about graphics and realism. You were limited to a simplistic graphics and controls and maybe a few screens at most. Things like vast expansive quests with many characters and multiple items that each do different things was undreamt of. Thus when you found an addictive play mechanic you had a hit. But for every hit game a ton of copycats would come out for the various home systems at the time. How many different takes on Pac-Man, Space Invaders, and Centipede are out there? The challenge then in those days was in coming up with something fun and unique that hadn't already been done to death.

Enter Tapper, or as per this version Root Beer Tapper. This game certainly stood out in an arcade filled with space shooters and maze games. You play a bartender that has to quickly satisfy a thirsty crowd. The people slowly progress down the four separate bars, and you've got to go inbetween them and serve them drinks. This is done by moving to the bar and hitting the fire button, whereupon your little bartender slides the mug of tasty brew down the bar to the patron who slides away, satisfied. occasionally they'll slide the glass back towards you which will shatter on the floor if you're not there to catch it. Miss a glass or let a customer get to the end of the bar and you lose a life. You can pick up tips on the bar for extra points. Inbetween rounds there's a little guessing game where you have to find the ball under some moving glasses, do so and you win an extra life.

The 2600 translation has all of the essential elements from the arcade intact. Graphics are simplified of course, however for a 2600 game they're actually pretty good. Your bartender is made up of multiple colors and has a bit of detail going on in his face. The customers are single colored but look decent I suppose. Everything is animated fairly decently. The game suffers from the fact that you're only allowed to throw two mugs of beer (er... Root Beer that is) down a bar at any given time, which actually heightens the tension a bit. I can't remember if this limitation was in the arcade game or not but I doubt it. Things can get pretty hairy, as you can only throw two mugs but they'll be more than two people on any given row, so you have to time it right, throw some on one, switch to another, then go back to get the third guy, etc. Then They start throwing the glasses back.. it's like the video game version of an I Love Lucy episode.

A fair translation of a goofy arcade game that doesn't try to be the next summer blockbuster but fills a niche nonetheless.

Graphics: Probably the best you're gonna see for a 2600 game, the attempt was made to make the characters as detailed as possible, and the bartender doesn't look half bad. I disagree on choice of color palette though, lots of hot pink and puke green backgrounds (however it appears the green was chosen to fit a product tie-in with Mountain Dew.)

Sound: Bleeps and bloops, and a long sliding tone as you throw a drink down the bar. There is music in the game, which is always a plus in a 2600 game.

Gameplay: The game does an excellent job of capturing the maddening gameplay from the arcade, purists will not be disappointed.

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