A Boy and his BlogA Boy and his Blog

Posted on Feb 2nd 2011 at 05:00:00 AM by (singlebanana)
Posted under Atari, Tapper, 2600, Game Review, Classic Gaming



Game:  Tapper
Year:  1984
Publisher:  Sega
Developer: Bally-Midway Manufacturing Co., Inc.
Designer(s): Marvin Glass
Rarity (according to AtariAge): 6 = rare+
Controls: Joystick
Number of Players: 1 - 2 (turn based)
Average Cost: currently, usually $10 - $30 loose, depending on condition
Also Available On: Arcade cabinet, Atari 8-bit, ColecoVision, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, BBC Micro, PC, Mobile phone, Xbox 360 (XBLA); also released in the compilation "Midway Arcade Treasures" for PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameCube, and the PC.

"Side-splitting, soda-flinging laughs and spills!
The Official Home Version of Bally/Midway's Arcade Sensation. 
Five belly-busting screens of Soda Fountain Fun, including:
-- Four mad-capped barrooms of soda-starved, clamoring cowboys, sports fans, punks, and space creatures.
-- Plus a head-spinning Soda Bandit Bonus Round
Awesome color-packed action graphics.
Just try to keep your cool as hot-headed, crazy customers blitz your bar for another cold one."

In Tapper, you control a beer tapper (bartender) and have to serve beer to demanding customers. Customers shuffle up the four bars toward your beer taps and you must slide them drinks in order to keep them satisfied and make them go away.  You start out with 5 lives and these lives are lost as follows:  (1) if a bar patron reaches the end of the bar without receiving their beer, (2) if you slide an extra beer when there is no customer and accidentally spill beer needlessly, and (3) if a patron throws you back an empty mug and you fail to catch it.  You can score additional points by competing in a bonus round between every few stages.  In these bonus rounds, a masked bandit creeps into the bar and shakes up all but one, of six available cans.  The cans then flip around in a shell-game fashion and you must keep your eye on the one that was not shaken.  You then select the can you deem undisturbed and the bartender opens it; if you are correct, you are awarded bonus points, if you are wrong, the tapper receives a heady bath.

Tapper was originally a coin-op machine marketed in conjunction with Budweiser and intended to be sold only to bars; many of the cabinets were designed to look like bars with a brass rail footrest and drink holders. The controller was designed to look like the tap handles on a real keg (see photos below).  It's also rumored that digitized belches were also recorded, but never used.  In order to broaden their target market (and to not lure the kiddies toward the "sauce"), Bally/Midway created coin-op cabinets and tabletops known as Root Beer Tapper.  The Atari 2600 version is simply called Tapper, which apparently leaves it up to the consumer, or pre-video game advisory warning parents, to determine which frothy beverage bar patrons are actually chugging in game.  However, in between clearing a few stages there is a bonus stage, brought to you courtesy of your good friends at Mountain Dew.  It's not clear whether or not Tapper on the 2600 was trying to "C.I.A." by employing the soda company's logo, but by doing so, the ad's presence resulted in one of the earliest examples of marketing within a video game.

Tapper is a great game and probably one of the best ports to the Atari 2600.  Not only is the concept original and the gameplay simple and attractive, but the sound effects and music (yes, actual music on a 2600 game) are wild west saloon-like and second to none.  The graphics are as good as they can be due to the limitations of the system and all characters and settings are well defined and recognizable.  My only real knock on this game is the controls.  You use the joystick to move the tapper up and down, while using the orange button to fire off brewskies.  Like many other 2600 games, Tapper is hampered by the rough and often rigorous directional tapping of the joystick.  Because the action is so fast paced, and gets even quicker as you progress through multiple stages, the 2600 joystick cannot keep up and it often results in a few misfired mugs.  One would do well in achieving higher scores by obtaining a European CX78 controller and popping this game into the ole 7800. 

Even though the controls can be a bit sticky, Tapper is still one of the best games for the 2600.  Though the rarity and price point make it a harder game to come by, you can easily snag a loose copy at a good deal with a last minute, no reserve auction bid.  No matter what price you pay due to condition or completeness, Tapper will be one of those games that you will be proud to own.

**video courtesy of Hairman9252

RATINGS (on a scale of 1-4: 4 being the highest):

Controls: 2
Graphics: 4
Sound Effects/Music: 4
Concept: 4
Replay Value: 3
Cart/Box Art:  4
Overall Score: 3.50

Posted on Jan 26th 2011 at 03:07:55 PM by (singlebanana)
Posted under Atari, 2600, Game Review, Space Cavern


Game:  Space Cavern
Year:  1981
Publisher:  Apollo, Inc.
Developer: Apollo, Inc.
Designer: Dan Oliver
Rarity (according to AtariAge): 3 = scarce
Controls: Joystick
Number of Players: 1 -2 (turn-based)
Average Cost: approx $1 - $5 loose
Also Available On: exclusive to the Atari 2600

Tagline/Description: "You command an intergalactic starcruiser that has landed on a mysterious planet riddled with smokey caverns and inhabited by savage Electrosauri whose horns generate deadly electro-molecular charges.  The Elecrosauri stalk you, their horns crackling and sizzling.  If even one blast of energy strikes you, your skeleton will glow as you disintegrate. Warning: Beware the shaggy marsupods [last sentence added for blue cartridge version only]."

Space Cavern is a very simple space shooter created by Apollo Games.  Apollo only officially released 10 games for the 2600, which does not include three (3) unreleased prototypes and an original (and very rare) version of Shark Attack called Lochjaw, that was removed early on from the shelves due to a lawsuit claiming that it's title was too similar to the movie "Jaws."  Two versions of Space Cavern exist, a red box/cartridge and a blue box/cartridge.  Neither version is more rare than the other, the blue version was released by Apollo later only as a means of cutting costs by using a simpler and more cost-effective color palate.     

Unlike the more popular Atari space shooters, in Space Cavern, you do not control a ship fending off enemy starships in outer space, but instead, command laser wielding astronauts who have crash landed on an alien planet.  Sounds cool right?  Well, that's certainly the draw.  Apollo was masterful in their marketing; if you don't believe me, take a look at the cover art for such super lackluster games as Lost Luggage, Infiltrate, or Final Approach (heck yeah a game about landing planes).  I mean what early 80's video game playing kid wouldn't want to buy Space Cavern after seeing it in the store?  Badass cover art - check!  Cool description - check!  Being hit by deadly "electro-molecular charges" and disintegrating - I don't even know what the hell those are, but DOUBLE CHECK!!!!  The reality is that Space Cavern isn't all that great, but for an Atari fiend like me, it isn't all that bad either.

(Apparently someone took out their frustrations for being duped by this game.)

There are three (3) enemies that commonly fill the sky of Space Cavern and they are collectively called Electrosauri; however in my adolescence, they were affectionately named: egg beaters, toilets, and scissors -- I'll let you figure out which enemies fit these descriptions.  By pressing the orange button, your astronaut fires his laser into the sky and is awarded 115 points (wow, random) for each Electrosauri he/she shoots down.  These particular enemies are fairly colorful and typically either bounce in an up and down pattern or diagonally across the screen.  When you zap one, they change to a pale blue and actually fall from the sky, which is pretty creative.  After 20,000 points, smaller and much harder to hit versions of Electrosauri appear in the sky; at each 20,000 points you are also awarded an extra life.

The only other enemy in the game is the Marsupod (200 points each), which are dull gray in color and come out of the caves from the left and right corners of the screen.  Since the orange button only allows you to fire into the sky, your must press the joystick up or down (up = left: down = right) to fire at and dispense with Marsupods - pushing the orange button to fire left to right is not necessary.  Though you'll fire the wrong way several times, recovery time from firing is quick and becomes second nature after continued play.

There are 48 variations of gameplay, which can be set to adjust the number of participants, the number of Electrosauri that appear in  the sky at one time (4 max), the presence of Marsupods, the random angles of enemy lasers, and the difficulty (i.e. speed of the enemies).

Space Cavern is tough to review, since I get a bit nostalgic when returning to play it (**see eggbeater, toilet, scissor discussion above).  The controls are perfect for the 2600 system, since you only use the four (4) main directional positions on the joystick and the fire button.  The sound effects are pretty good: shooting down an Electrosauri sounds like R2-D2 speaking in tongues and blasting a Marsupod is rather blunt and effective.  There is really nothing that bad about this game, other than the replay value.  Let's face it, there's not a whole lot going on in this game, and after about three to four rounds, you'll probably want to put it away if you are playing it alone.  As far as Apollo releases are concerned, I'd put Space Cavern at the top with the Pac-Man clone, Shark Attack.  If you're a serious collector, or just a casual 2600 gamer, the small price tag makes Space Cavern worth picking up.   

**video courtesy of Highretrogamelord89 (this video does not represent the more difficult setting which includes Marsupods) **

RATINGS (on a scale of 1-4: 4 being the highest):

Controls: 4
Graphics: 2
Sound Effects/Music: 2
Concept: 3
Replay Value: 2
Cart/Box Art:  4
Overall Score: 2.83

Posted on Jan 24th 2011 at 01:55:32 PM by (singlebanana)
Posted under Atari, Entombed, 2600, game review, Classic Gaming


Game:  Entombed
Year:  1982
Publisher:  U.S. Games
Developer: Western Technologies
Designer(s): Jeff Corsiglia & Tom Sloper
Rarity (according to AtariAge): 4 = scarce+
Controls: Joystick
Number of Players: 1 - 2
Average Cost: approx $3 - $8 loose
Also Available On: 2600 only

Tagline/Description: "You and your team of archeologists have fallen into the "catacombs of the zombies."  There's no time to look around; these guys are after you, and they mean business!  Your only salvation is that you have discovered the secret to the "make-break."  Grab them, and you can break through walls when you get stuck, or create a wall  behind you - if you are being chased.  The longer you survive, the faster you have to move.  Explore alone, or two archeologists can work together or compete in a frenzied trek through the catacombs."

There was probably no more diverse or stranger catalog of games than the fourteen (14) titles released by U.S. Games, a subsidiary of Quaker Oats (uhhhh....yeah), for the Atari 2600.  Like several other companies (i.e. Purina, Johnson & Johnson, etc.), but with a larger volume than most, the Quaker Oats Company tried to cash in on the video gaming craze of the early 80's.  Titles released by U.S. Games include:

Sneak n' Peek (a game of hide and seek);
Space Jockey (a horizontal, UFO shooter);
Word Zapper (a spelling shooter);
Commando Raid (a parachuting android shooter);
Eggomania (a Kaboom clone where you can fire back);
Piece o' Cake (a cake decorating game);
Picnic (a fly shooter);
Raft Rider (a river rafting game);
Gopher (a vegetable protecting game, similar to Activision's Oink!);
Squeeze Box (a prisoner trying to escape a constantly closing Tron MCP Cone);
Towering Inferno (a firefighting/rescue game);
M.A.D. (an improved version of Atlantis); and
Name This Game (an octopus shooter).

While some believe that a few of these games are among the worst titles for the 2600, I'd have to say that the overall catalog is pretty creative and solid (and fairly cheap).  Where else can you fend off an octopus and fill your diving tank with air from a guy with long, flowing hair in a speed boat?

Entombed is another of these strange games in which you control an archeologist trying to escape a zombie-filled catacomb.  While navigating a random, vertically scrolling maze, your only defense from zombies and dead end walls is an item referred to as a "make-break."  A make-break allows you to knock down a square section of wall or place a similar section of wall in an open area to fend off zombies (similar to Lock n' Chase).  However, make-breaks are not abundant and are collected 3 at-a-time in the form of side-to-side moving rectangles, throughout the maze.  Scoring in Entombed, for the 1-player game, is determined by how deep into the maze your archeologist goes.  You are awarded one point for making it through an undefined section of the maze; there are no treasures to collect or points for killing zombies.  As you might have noticed, scoring is not one of the stronger features of this game.

Another poor feature of the game is it's graphics.  Zombies, which should be very cool, instead look like arachnids, your archeologist is merely a semi-mobile stick figure, and the make-breaks are, well, just blocks (a hammer, or some sort of device would have been cooler).  There is no music and the only sound effects are a series of extremely monotone beeps (only when zombies are near) and an electronic gurgle when you pick up a make-break.

With all of its faults, Entombed is a pretty good game (yeah, stick with me here).  I remember loving this game as a kid and playing it every time I went to my neighbor's house.  When I saw it in a pawn shop several months ago I grabbed it up quickly, even though it had a bit of label damage.  So what is it that I liked so much about this game?  Well for one, I enjoyed the pace of the game (how it continues to get faster as you complete every level) and the frantic dodging/escaping from zombies while collecting make-breaks to ensure mobility; you lose lives by either running into a zombie or by being forced into the top of the scrolling screen when you are out of make-breaks and are unable to escape a dead end.  The controls are adequate for a 2600 game, since your only movements through the maze are vertical and horizontal; however, setting make-breaks correctly in open areas to avoid zombies can sometimes present a challenge.

While the originality of the game is great, the best feature of Entombed has to be its 2-player option.  In two player mode, both participants play at the same time, instead of the Atari turn-based style that is typical with most 2600 games.  Two player mode can be played in two different ways (as determined by the participants): (1) you can battle against each other to see who can make it deeper into the maze (whoever dies first loses), or (2) you can work with each other, hoarding and best using make-breaks, to see how far you both can go.  Being somewhat of an a%$, and torturer of my wife and friends, I tend to prefer the former.

Though there is nothing particularly exceptional in terms of graphics and sound in Entombed, the gameplay is fairly solid and the cost of the game is typically low.  For a few bucks, Entombed should be worth heavy consideration if found in the wild.

**video courtesy of Highretrogamelord89**

RATINGS (on a scale of 1-4: 4 being the highest):

Controls: 3
Graphics:  2
Sound Effects/Music: 1
Concept:  3
Replay Value: 2
Cart/Box Art:  3
Overall Score: 2.34

Posted on Jan 17th 2011 at 09:08:05 PM by (singlebanana)
Posted under Atari, Game review, 2600, Jawbreaker


Game:  Jawbreaker
Year:  1982
Publisher:  Tigervision
Developer: Sierra On-Line
Designer: John Harris
Rarity (according to AtariAge): 5 = rare
Controls: Joystick
Number of Players: 1 - 2 (turn based)
Average Cost: approx $20 - $30 loose
Also Available On: Atari 400/800, Atari 5200 (homebrew), Apple II, Commodore 64, Commodore VIC-20, TI-99/4A, and Tiger stand-alone version  (gameplay may differ for each system)

Tagline/Description: "You're loose in a candy factory! Quickly move the chomping set of teeth to eat up all the candy bars. Be careful, the happy faces may get you! Clear the screen and it's time for some quick hygiene - a tooth brush will clean your teeth to get you ready for your next romp through the candy factory.  Tigervision fun at its sweetest."

Imagine if Pac-Man and Turmoil for the 2600 had a love child, that child's name would be Jawbreaker.  Jawbreaker is essentially a Pac-Man clone and earlier versions of it on the Atari 400/800 verify this accusation (see picture below).  Though Atari never went after Tigervision for infringement, rumor is that they were in heated discussions with Sierra On-Line (the developer) for their very similar 400/800 version.  All 400/800 Jawbreaker games were also replaced by a version similar to the 2600 version referred to as "Jawbreaker II."  Though similar in many ways to Pac-Man, I believe that Jawbreaker for the 2600 stands on its own and adds a new spin to videogaming's most well-known icon.

Jawbreaker for the Atari 400/800 (look familiar?)

In Jawbreaker, you control a set of chomping teeth and you must maneuver your way through a horizontal maze eating candy dots, while avoiding the jawbreakers. Although the concept is similar to Pac-Man, in Jawbreaker, the horizontal walls of the maze are constantly in motion and offer only limited escape by traveling through openings in these walls (as opposed to Pac-Man's stationary maze).  The goal of Jawbreaker is to devour all of the candy on the screen and you can also gain additional points by eating a "power bar," which strengthens your teeth and allows you to devour the jawbreakers for a limited time.  If you are successful at finishing a board, you are rewarded with a comical, yet voracious, toothbrushing to prepare you for more candy eating.  Jawbreaker, like the few other "dental hygienic" games on the 2600 (see Plaque Attack (Activision) and Tooth Protectors (DSD/Camelot), reminds us that it's okay to eat like gluttons, as long as we follow up with keeping our choppers nice and sparkly.

Jawbreaker for the Atari 2600

**video courtesy of Highretrogamelord89**

What I like most about Jawbreaker are the controls and the fluidity of the game.  Though movement in the game is limited to up, down, and side-to-side (perfect for the stiff 2600 controls), the action is fast-paced and you really have to be able to take in all of the movements on the board very quickly.  The jawbreakers and escape openings travel at various speeds and one must not only pay attention to the line you are currently on, but also those directly above and below you.  If your mouth comes in contact with a jawbreaker, you not only lose a life, but your teeth are also shattered and actually drop out of your mouth.  The teeth dropping, the creepy, smiley faced jawbreakers, and the toothbrushing at the completion of each level add a fun and comical element to the game.  Also, Tigervision cartridges are colorful, have a unique look, and are fun to collect, since they add a nice rainbow of coloration to your normally bland, black stack of rectangles; Jawbreaker being a distinctively bright, candy apple red color.   

Like the majority of the 2600 catalog, Jawbreaker is played for points.  Since the gameplay is so simple and easy to grasp quickly, I've enjoyed hours of playing this game with friends and competing for highest score.  For many of you who were disappointed with the port of Pac-Man on the 2600 like myself, I can highly recommend this game as a suitable substitute.

RATINGS (on a scale of 1-4: 4 being the highest):

Controls:  4
Graphics:  3  (should I even be rating this category, it's Atari)
Sound Effects/Music: 3
Concept:  3 (not original, but fun none the less)
Replay Value: 4
Cart/Box Art:  4
Overall Score: 3.50

**Since this is my initial blog entry, please comment and feel free to let me know what features or qualities about this game, or the others I will review, that you would like to know more about.  Any suggestions or constructive criticisms are greatly appreciated.  Thank you**

This is singlebanana's Blog.
View Profile | RSS
Dedicated to classic game reviews.
Blog Navigation
Browse Bloggers | My Blog
Hot Entries
Hot Community Entries
Site content Copyright © rfgeneration.com unless otherwise noted. Oh, and keep it on channel three.