Beer and video games. They seem like they were made for each other. From the earliest days in Andy Capps Tavern to the modern day bar scene, video games have always had a home in our nations drinking establishments. Oddly, as natural as this relationship would seem, alcohol has always been a taboo subject in video games. No one would dare make a video game involving drinking, It simply wasn't done. That is until Tapper came along...
Instead of shying away from the alcohol taboo, Tapper embraced it. The goal of Tapper is to serve as much beer to thirsty bar patrons as possible without dropping any glasses. This task isn't nearly as easy as it sounds however. For you see the patrons aren't your stuffy white collar after work crowd, instead you have to match wits with rowdy cowboys, punk rockers, and even aliens! So sling that beer like your life depended on it, because it does!
The controls in Tapper are quite simple. Use the joystick to move the bartender to the proper counter, and press the fire button to sling a beer. Every time you toss a tasty brew at a patron they will be pushed further down the counter. Your goal is to push all the patrons off the screen and end the round. If a patron reaches your end of the counter it will cost you a life (I told you they were rowdy!). Now normally just trying to keep the thirsty drunks away would be bad enough, but every time a patron empties their beer they will sling the glass back at you for a refill. You must catch each and every glass before it falls off the end of the counter or you will lose one of your lives. With multiple counters to manage and a seemly endless supply of patrons, things can get out of hand very quickly. Oh did I forget to mention that if you throw too many beers down the counter they fall off the end you lose another life? Make sure you only throw as many beers as there are patrons or you'll regret it.
After successfully completing a level (which consists of three rounds), you will play a short bonus game. The bonus round is really a version of the old shell game in which a strange masked man (who looks suspiciously like the Hamburgler) shakes up some cans. Your goal is to find the one non-shaken can which will net you some bonus points. Since this was a home version of the game aimed at kids, the alcohol had to go. Beer was replaced by Root Beer, and the Budweiser from the bonus round was replaced with Mountain Dew. In the end it really doesn't matter, a beverage is a beverage...
The Atari 2600 version of Tapper contains all 4 levels from the arcade game. This is pretty amazing considering Sega's penchant for cutting levels (Congo Bongo anyone?). All the action and gameplay well implemented with one big exception. In the arcade version patrons would occasionally leave tips on the counter which you could run down and collect for points. However there was a risk involved. When you were running for the money you could not throw beers or catch empty glasses. The player had to decide just how badly they wanted those extra points and if was worth the risk. This greed aspect really added some charm to the game, and is sorely missed. Another limitation of the 2600 version is that you can only throw two glasses down any given counter at one time (in the arcade you could throw as many as you wanted). This tends to make the game much easier as you are less likely to throw too many glasses.
While the graphics may not be the prettiest, the 2600 version of Tapper really keeps with the spirit of the original game. The gameplay is mostly intact, and the dreaded flicker is kept to a minimum. Tapper is proof that the 2600 was capable of handling challenging arcade conversions. I guess it's true what they say, beer and Atari really do go together.