THE SODA BAR is as much an American institution as blueberry pie or Grandma Moses. To judge from Tapper, the latest import from US Gold, the only character who hates it is the guy who serves the soda.
Your job in Tapper is to keep the refreshing fizz flowing as the customers queue for more. There are four bars, with several layers of play in each. First it's the turn of the cowboys, a fairly docile lot. Slide a drink along the counter quickly enough and they'll take it and leave, but customer waits too long he'll around for another.
And that's where the trouble starts. Obviously impressed with your skill at delivering drinks, the customers tend to hurl the empties back at you. One mistake - a drink too many served, a glass on the floor, or a customer left unattended and you lose a life.
If you manage to satisfy the cowboys, you move to a duel of wits with the Soda Bandit. He swaps around the cans, after shaking all but one. Find the untampered can and you win. Open one of the others and you get a face full of froth.
Then it's on to the senior prom, with jocks and their girls crowding the marquee. Life gets even more hectic when you graduate to a punk bar, although the balding bespectacled boys look more like fifties college wimps. Nice to see the colony still retains a touching innocence about British mores.
The final sequence involves aliens, just as eager for a slow Sarsparilla as anybody else. A lovely touch is the occasional appearance of a tip. Collect the tip and a pair of dancing girls perform on stage. That can be a blessing, as heads will turn and customers stop bothering you for a while. But serve a drink and they won't notice - so you have to be careful.
Tapper is simply delightful to play. It's surely the most addictive game released this year, and its theme is just right for the summer.
Graphics are clear, humorous and simple so that its easy to see what's going on. Problems can occur if the bar gets too crowded, so that two people in the same place create a blur. For once, that adds to the realism.
The action is extremely well-paced against the demands of the game. Its fast, but not fast enough to be impossible. As usual with US Gold products, the choosing of skill levels, joystick selection and so on is made very friendly. Highly complex arcade-adventures are all the rage at present, and it is good to see such a fine, unpretentious classic arcade game released. If your brain has been completely drained by the mysteries of Shadowfire or Gyron of late, take a trip to the soda fountain. It's a refreshing experience.
Publisher: US Gold
Joystick: Kempston, Sinclair, Cursor