Retro Coin Op Synopsis
If you’ve always dreamed of hurling frothy beer mugs at angry drunks but never had the guts to chase that rainbow, then Bally Midway’s Tapper was the game for you. This 1984 arcade hit was unique in every way, featuring everything from a realistic beer tap control to a Budweiser tie-in, all designed to give adult arcade fans a game of their own. Naturally, kids were dying to play it.
The duty of your mustachioed tapper was to fill and deliver alcoholic refreshments to patrons before the thirsty customers reached the end of the bar. Using a four-way joystick, players moved the tapper across four different bars, each with its own tapped keg and a handful of impatient customers. Filling mugs was as simple as pulling and releasing the Budweiser tap on the control panel, but with several patrons moving up each bar, the game was by no means easy.
Sliding a brew down the bar knocked thirsty patrons back a bit, but if they didn’t make it all the way back out the barroom door, they’d soon be clamoring for more. The ingrates made your life even more miserable by sliding back their empties, forcing you to scramble to keep the mugs from crashing to the floor. A broken mug meant a lost life, as did an unsatisfied customer who reached your end of the bar. The job wasn’t without its little joys, however. Some patrons actually left tips, earning you a hefty point bonus.
If you managed to clear the screen of customers (more came out if you took too much time), the game moved on to the next bar, from a Western saloon to an outdoor sports bar, a run-down punk rock club, and finally to an outer space bar (aliens enjoy a nice cold one, too). Between scenes, players got a chance to test their skills against the “beer bandit.” The black-masked bandit shook up five of six beer cans on the bar, then pounded the wood until they were all mixed up. If you opened the unshaken can, you got a nice bonus. If not, you got a face full of frost-brewed alcohol.
Along with the clever gameplay, Tapper included a few authentic touches to its game cabinet. Illustrated like a wood-grain bar, the cabinet featured two brass drink holders on the side of the control panel and a real brass bar at the bottom. Little details like these helped make Tapper a hit with its intended adult audience, but the game also found its way into more traditional arcade locations. That meant kids had access to the game, which meant that Bally Midway was technically advertising alcohol to minors, which meant the federal government had a stiff warning or two for the game company.
Tapper was quickly redesigned as Root Beer Tapper for the game’s more kid-friendly locations. The main character was now a soda jerk, and all Budweiser references were removed (as were the drink holders and the brass bar). Gameplay remained the same, however, and Root Beer Tapper’s popularity continued in its new, non-alcoholic form.
Arcade Machine Release History1983 - Tapper
1984 - Root Beer Tapper