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Tapper Review

Developer: Bally Midway Publisher: Sega
Release Date: 1984 Also On:
Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari 8-bit, BBC Micro, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, PC Booter, ZX Spectrum

Bally Midway is usually a company synonymous with pinball. It seems that today, few people seem to remember the impact these guys had in the arcades, and it’s not really clear why. For those who don’t know, Bally Midway was responsible for games like Rampage and Xenophobe, as well as a sleeper title with a cult following known as Tapper. Tapper was one of the most popular games at the time, in spite of its position of obscurity today, and it was ported to a number of systems. Personally, I have to say the 2600 version is probably the best.

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Graphically, Tapper looks beautiful. This is a full usage of the 2600’s capabilities. The characters are very clear, though the customers can be a bit abstract, and there is a wide variety of color used throughout. The bonus levels in particular are impressive, displaying graphics that could easily pass for later Intellivision or Colecovision releases. The animation is also quite impressive. So, overall, good marks in the graphics department.

Tapper also creates a good atmosphere through its sound. There are some familiar tracks that fit the look, as well as some I don’t recognize, which vary depending on the level you’re playing. The sound effects are spot on, with glass clinks for the glasses and shattering if you miss, to name a few. Really, the 2600 was always pretty impressive in this category, but Tapper shows you pretty much the extent of what it could do.

So what’s it about? Tapper is an interesting puzzle/strategy type action game. It requires precision, fast hands, and fast eyes. You’re a bartender at four different types of bars (each stage switches to the next after a certain number of levels). In each level, you need to chuck bottles of brew at the customers in each row (there are always four) so they leave the bar. This is a lot more difficult than it sounds, because in advanced stages the customers move fast and you need to compensate with speed and incredible accuracy. In between each stage you’re treated to a bonus round where a bandit shakes up cans of Mountain Dew, and you have to watch the one he didn’t shake to pick it after they’ve all been quickly shuffled several times. This nabs you a keen 3000 if you can do it, and it takes good eyes. Check out some of it here:

Tapper is an incredibly creative game. The idea was reused by several companies, and it stands as one of the best achievements in the history of video games, in spite of the fact that it’s not very well-known today. The theme, challenge, graphics, Tapper just throws it all together in a perfectly constructed package.

I’ve personally played Tapper a number of times. It’s easy to just sit down with now and then because of how 2600 games normally are, but it also provides a huge amount of challenge for even the most seasoned of gamers. My only complaint is that customers occasionally chuck back empty glasses at you, which you have to catch and then toss them another drink. There doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason behind this, it’s just a random programming trick to increase difficulty. Problem is, at times the code seems to all fall in place and you’re dealing with a million of them, whereas other times nothing happens and you fly through an upper-level round without much work. Couldn’t really figure out if there was a pattern to this, and sometimes it was a little frustrating.

Tapper is easily one of the top ten Atari 2600 games ever created. It’s a real shame too, because it was released during the video game crash, so it tends to be quite rare today and fetches fairly high prices. However, I strongly recommend you check it out and put in the investment because it’s well worth it. This is easily one of the most inventive, fun, and challenging 2600 games out there, and it’s one that every 2600 fan needs to own.

Graphics: 8.5
Sound: 9
Gameplay: 9
Creativity: 10
Replay Value/Game Length: 8.5
Final: 9
Written by Stan Review Guide