Tapper / U.S. Gold 1984
Screenshots: play/stop

Tapper features the player as a bartender, having to quickly fill up glasses of cold beer and slide them along one of four bars to the waiting customers. The game starts out in a run-of-the-mill all-American bar, with cowboys and cowgirls slowly creeping along the bar and getting more and more impatient for their favorite amber nectar. Through the game, you gradually move onto a Sports Day Gala, with lots of thirsty sports people, and a futuristic bar in space.

The task is to fill a glass with beer, and fling it at the customers so that, when they try to catch the glass, they slide out of the bar. Once you've managed to slide everyone out of all the bars, you move onto the next level.

Of course, it isn't as easy as that! Sometimes a beer won't slide one of the customers out of the bar. They'll slurp up the beer and slide the glass back at you for a refill. You have to catch the empty glass before it slides off the end of the bar. Also, if you don't serve a customer in time, and they get to the end of the bar, they'll slide YOU out of the bar - another life lost!

You can distract some of the customers, however. Sometimes, a generous punter will leave a tip. If you run up the bar and collect the tip, the dancing girls (or aliens in the later stages) are brought on, and some of the customers will stop to watch them. This gives you some time to catch any empty glasses and concentrate on the customers who didn't stop to watch the dancing girls.

After so many levels, it's onto the bonus stage where you have six cans of beer in a row. The Beer Bandit comes along and shakes up five of them, and then flips them around quickly. To get the bonus points, you have to open the can that hasn't been shaken.

The arcade version, also by Bally Midway, had a unique cabinet in that it had a small serving pump, like you'd find in any bar or pub that sold real beer. You had to pull back the pump to fill the glass, and then let go to slide the glass down the bar.

The arcade game also came in two versions: one meant for more adult places like bars and amusement centres, which was sponsored by Budweiser (or Suntory in Japan), and the more family-oriented Root Beer Tapper, where all the characters were more jolly (and not pounding the bar for their beer like in the adult version), and the music was made more bouncy.

The Commodore 64 version is based on the adult version, but removes all trademark references (except in the bonus stage, which has a Mountain Dew sign - although I think this is a coincidental reference rather than concious product placement). It keeps very close to the original gameplay, although the second level (the Sports Gala stages) seems to be a little harder than in the arcades.

The smooth "pour-and-slide" rhythm you could get with the arcade game's pouring handle also seems to be lacking in the C64 conversion: you are often left holding an almost-full glass in your hand, having to press the Pour button again to start the glass sliding, and wasting valuable time.

The graphics are an adequate conversion of the original. Nothing spectaular has been performed on them, but they serve their purpose and they look satisfyingly cartoon-like in their actions. The player's bartending character has the same mannerisms too; but the C64 version lacks the extra animations that the arcade version had at the end of each stage, where the bartender would perform a trick with a beer glass.

The sound lacks the plinky-plonk jolliness, too: on the first level in the original, "Oh Susanna" is played on a piano-like synth instrument, which fits the cowboy levels just fine. The C64 programmers just use a triangle wave and it kind of detracts from the overall atmosphere of the game - not to mention the suspect rhythm and notes on some of the tunes.

There's a bit of a problem with timing in some areas. When there are only one or two customers left, the whole game seems to speed up, music and all. This could be the answer to why you can never get the "pour-and-slide" rhythm going well: because the timing keeps changing. This is an essential part of the later levels and often leads to frustration.

Overall, Tapper on the Commodore 64 is a mediocre conversion of a good arcade game. The timing problems are frustrating, and the flat music and so-so graphics don't add much to the excitement. If you really loved the arcade game and you love your C64, you'd probably like it. Otherwise, install your own bar complete with serving pump - you'll be a lot less frustrated!

Reviewed by Boz.

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