TURN TO CHANNEL 3: ‘Root Beer Tapper’ serves up fast-paced arcade fun
In nearly five years of running my small business of selling video games, one of the constant conversations I have is about the simplicity of the classics versus all the bells and whistles of today’s modern games, and today’s topic here on Turn to Channel 3 is really about what I feel every good game has to have, regardless of whether they were made in 1982 or 2018 – that one X factor that keeps you coming back.
In no other gaming time period is this more important than in the golden age of arcades, so this month, as we continue looking at some of these titles from when arcades were ruling the gaming landscape (or at least still affecting them in a huge way), keep in mind that arcade games, more than any other games, had to have something to keep gamers coming back, pumping quarters into the cabinets and bugging parents for more coins.
Today, have a seat at the bar because “Root Beer Tapper” is up next!
“Root Beer Tapper” (arcade)
Other than a little rendition of “Oh! Susanna,” there is no prominent music in this game but, in that alone, you get that catchy feeling of being inside this little saloon your bartender works at. I don’t always view this kind of stuff on a grand scale, more so for the time period itself, so this, along with satisfied patrons drinking their root beer and the smash of a glass on the ground, is enough to set it apart from other arcade titles on the time.
Arcade games, more than any other games, are all about ambience and creating something the gamer will come back to, and “Root Beer Tapper” builds its own unique niche with just sounds alone.
Originally released as simply “Tapper” in 1983 with Budweiser branding all over it, this alcohol-free version is practically identical except for the logo changes and the bartender now dressed as a soda jerk.
While there isn’t a whole lot to look at, what’s there is fun, bright, colorful, and kind of cartoony in the best ways possible. For the time period, the attention to detail is pretty impressive, as glasses slide down bars, smash on the floor, and patrons demand their drinks wearing different outfits ranging from cowboys to sports stars.
Your player is colorful in his own right, dashing from bar to bar, filling up drinks, and celebrating his victories. Whether he’s filling all the drink orders or choosing the right can of soda from the ones shook up by a guy who looks like the Hamburglar’s cousin, he’s quite animated and fun. Oftentimes, early arcade classics did more with less, and “Root Beer Tapper” is a great example of this.
“Root Beer Tapper” is frantic fun despite it being mainly about that elusive high score. What makes it interesting is that you can often hinder yourself from getting that high score through the fast-paced nature of the game. Speed doesn’t always add up to a great score and, furthermore, you can often lose sight of a score as you are making your way through each level trying to satisfy your impatient patrons.
“Root Beer Tapper” can be unforgiving, but I also feel that the simplicity of the game mechanics can make any gamer who sits down to play feel comfortable. Everyone who plays this one seems to have their own strategy, and my advice would be that, whichever way you choose to make your way through “Root Beer Tapper,” stay true to that strategy – don’t abandon it.
“Root Beer Tapper” rewards you for your dedication with a gaming experience you just can’t find anywhere else. Bonus levels break up the frenzied fun and make this game great for both long stretches and rainy days.
While there are versions on the ColecoVision, Atari 2600 and 5200, some forgotten home computer systems, and various Midway collections, truly the best way to experience this game is on an actual arcade cabinet. With its root beer barrel look and colorful top, this is a game that stands out from the rest. Do yourself a favor and play “Root Beer Tapper” – it’s classic, simple, and fun. There’s a good reason this game has endured over the years and is still being rediscovered today.
I hope you enjoyed this review as much as I did. Next time, we finish up our month in the arcades with an under-the-radar fighter – “Breakers!”
Until then, if you’ve got yourself a snow day, use it wisely and game on!