The Many Faces of . . . Tapper
By Alan Hewston

In Tapper, Root Beer Tapper, or Mountain Dew Tapper, your job as Sam the Soda-bartender, is to serve all thirsty patrons a beverage, and then pick up their empty glass. Customers start at, (or show up later) in one of 4 rows of bars and move towards you until they either get their beverage, or reach the end of the bar - in which case Sam gets dragged across the bar & you lose a life. When served, they either leave after one beverage, or stop, drink it, slide their glass back to you and continue walking towards you, wanting another. Fortunately, you and your bottomless kegs, and an infinite supply of glasses are stationed at the opposite end of each bar. Every press (release) of your button fills up another drink and slides it down the bar to the next customer. Moving left and right allows you to collect the glasses; up and down gets you from row to row.

Our Editor, Tom, primed me with this arcade-to-home-history. The original (bar) game Tapper advertised Budweiser ("This bud's for you"), and was later re-released for the family (arcades) as Root Beer Tapper, then finally to the home consoles. In Australia (editor, If I am wrong about the country, feel free to correct me at, the Suntory Beer company label was displayed, and "This one's for you" was heard after earning the Beer Hunter bonus. On the home versions, Mountain Dew advertised on the Atari and Commodore versions. Root Beer was still served on the Colecovision.

There are 4 different levels (bar scenes), each having (2, 3, 4 and 4) rounds respectfully, before moving to the next level. Every round/level gets harder, and on the 3rd and 4th levels, the bars are split such that half (or every other row) are facing in opposite directions. This is enough to drive you nuts, or simply make it one of the all-time most challenging hand-eye coordination classic video games ever. The C64 version even swaps the left/right symmetry from round to round. The bar scenes vary from system to system, but are essentially: 1) Old West Bar, 2) Sports Stadium Concession Counter, 3) London Punk Rock Bar, (or Oriental Seaport, or a 2nd Western bar), and 4) Alien Space Port.

After completing a level, you play the bonus round, "Beer Hunter" as Bob & Doug MacKenize called it. Sneaky Pete shakes all but one of the 6 beverage cans, then mixes them up (the shell game). Pick the correct can and get a nice bonus to your score. Open the wrong one and get a "wet head". You can earn a brief reprieve if you collect a tip, in which case the patrons are treated to a dancing show (with show girls, an organ grinder, cheerleaders, or aliens. This instantly stops most of the crowd who watch the show, but, thereís just no stopping until the bar is completely cleared of patrons. And, if you take too long the patrons whip their glasses back at you so fast that you are guaranteed to miss one. If beverages or empty glasses break, then you lose a life.

Bonus lives are earned at different point levels, such as at 20,000 & 50,000 on the Atari 2600.

The number of starting lives, scoring, and bonus lives varies from system to system. The 2600 & CV provide all 4 starting difficulty levels: Beginner, Intermediate (missing on C64 & Atari 8-bit), Arcade, and Expert. All 4 home versions allow a two-player game, where players take turns after each life is lost.

Original (Arcade) Designer for Root Beer Tapper: Steve Meyer [1983, did Timber in 1984]

Other Designers: Ken Jordan (Atari 8-bit, 5200, SEGA), Henry Spragens (C64), ? (CV)0

Classic Platforms: Apple II, Atari 2600, (& maybe a 5200 prototype), Atari 8-bit,, Colecovision, and Commodore 64.

Categories: Gameplay, Addictiveness, Graphics, Sound & Controls

Disqualified: Atari 5200, Apple II
Too bad we never got to see the 5200 port - even if only as a prototype.

I do not have an Apple II, and have never seen or played this version.

The Have Nots: Atari 2600 (36)
The Graphics are mediocre, with sparse details, and very plain looking patrons. The Sound is very good, but the worst of the 4 systems. The Gameplay was great for a 2600 game, but lacking a pause or collecting tips makes it the worst of the lot. Despite being the most challenging to play, it offers 3 more challenging difficulty levels via use of both A/B switches. The Controls are outstanding and the Addictiveness is very good. Tons of fun to play - just a bit hard to find.

Bronze Medal: Atari 8-bit (38)
A notch above the 2600, this port should have been much better. The Graphics are not plain like the 2600, but still poor. In an attempt to improve the graphics, they actually turned out worse; so much that it is harder to play, especially on the Space Port level. The Addictiveness is very good, but suffers from the poor Graphics. It's frustrating to try to play what you cannot easily see.

The Sound is outstanding, maybe the best. The Gameplay is also outstanding, probably only missing a pause feature, which I didnít discover. The Controls are perfect, programmed to use the standard joystick even better than all the others.

Silver Medal: Colecovision (44)
Just missing the Gold medal again, this time due to Graphics. The Graphics are very good, but would otherwise be outstanding if not for the pastel (yes, pastel - yech) colors of the patrons. They're difficult to discern, yet critical to controlling the action. This pastel blur of the patrons prevents the Addictiveness score from being a perfect 10. The Sound and Controls are outstanding. The Gameplay is perfect, plus it even has a pause.

Gold Medal: Commodore 64 (45)
Hmnn, winning again due to a flaw (maybe a programming deadline), from the silver medalist.

All five categories were outstanding, getting scores of "9". Gameplay only loses a point due no pause, or "intermediate" start level. The Sound and Controls are outstanding. The Addictiveness could only be better if there was a pause. The Graphics are reason enough to play this version over all others. Clear crisp patrons so that you can completely enjoy the fast paced action, knowing exactly how many patrons, and whether they need a drink or not.

Warning: The C64 cart version only includes the 1st two levels and not all 4. Definitely get the full version on disk, or play the CV version instead. Feel free to ask me for the C64 disk copy. Anyone know if the Atari 8-bit cart is also lacking?

Come back next month when I plan to review H.E.R.O. found on the Atari 2600, 5200, Atari 8-bit, C64 and CV.

(Alan Hewston has held the Twin Galaxies World Record score on Tapper for all but the CV version - still getting used to those pastel colors. Thanks go out to Steve Knox (a great Tapper player) for getting me the Atari 8-bit disk version. Alan can be reached at

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