Berzerk (Arcade) is the Retro Game of the Day for 28 November, 2016

Released: 1980
Publisher:  Stern Electronics
Developer: Stern Electronics
Platform: Arcade
Genre: Shooter
Played on: MAME, gamepad

Berzerk takes place in a maze-like installation of killer robots all out to get you.  Simple premise, of course, but again, this is what videogames are supposed to be about — simple ideas as an excuse to put you right in the action.  Modern gaming, are you listening?

The robots themselves are (intentionally) pretty dumb — they will fire at you when you are in line with their shots (eight directions) and advance when you are near or at least they think they have a good path, but they are ignorant of the electrified walls, other robot’s shots, and even other robots, all of which will kill them.  This means that not only do you have a direct means of killing them with your eight-direction weapon (used by pressing a direction with the fire button) but you can also guide them to their own deaths by luring them into a wall or in the line of fire of another robot, or even into another robot.  This element of the game gives it a bit of strategy.

You don’t have to kill all the robots to exit a room, but the game will chastise you for doing so (via speech synthesis, a pretty cool feature at the time) calling you a “chicken”, but you get a bonus for clearing the room first, making it worth the effort.  Taking too long to leave, however, will summon an invincible, bouncing entity called “Evil Otto”, which will home in towards you even through walls and kill you on touch (and other robots, giving you another way to clear the room).  Killing all the robots in the room will make Evil Otto move toward you more quickly as well.

The game is incredibly fun even in its simplicity, and the voice synthesis is nice even as it taunts you when you lose a life (“Got the humanoid, got the intruder”) or you run out of the room without finishing it (“Chicken, fight like a robot”).  It even taunts the player to try the game at the high score screen outside of a game (“Coin detected in pocket”).  It’s definitely worth giving it a shot.  Because if you don’t… well… chicken.



Tapper (Arcade) is the Retro Game of the Week for 21 November, 2016

Released: 1983
Publisher:  Bally Midway
Developer: Marvin Glass and Associates
Platform: Arcade
Genre: Action
Played on: MAME, gamepad

A new PC and a new, re-energized love for retro gaming means I’m back and ready for more games that you probably never knew existed!

Tapper is a cool one.  The game itself is incredibly simple, and almost seems like what a smartphone game would be these days.  You are in charge of a series of bars with a ton of thirsty customers waiting for drinks, slowly advancing down the bar.  You are in charge of filling up a mug of beer and sending it sliding down the bar so that the thirsty patron can grab it.  The customer can either take it with them and leave or send the mug sliding back down the bar, waiting for another drink.  If you let a customer reach the end of the bar, let a returning empty mug crash onto the floor, or send a full mug down the bar with no one along the bar to recieve it, you lose a life and start the round over.  Some customers will also leave tips at the very far end of the bar, where you can run down the bar to grab them (you can also run down to grab empty mugs, and any time you run down you don’t have to take the time to run back as any action will immediately move you to a bar end), and this money allows dancers at the top of the screen to distract some customers that would normally be advancing down the bar, waiting for you to serve them, giving you a little breathing room.

Sure, at first this seems simple enough, and the first couple of levels are indeed cleared very easily as long as you are quick to throw the drinks down the bar.  But as the bars get cluttered with more and more customers and more and more start chunking the glasses back for more, giving you many bars full of empty glasses threatening to break on the floor all at once, the game gets very hectic and quite challenging.  You have to prioritize where to go and what to do and if you can risk (and have time to) run down a bar to grab a tip that might give you a little breathing room.

The interesting thing?  The game’s blatant ad for Budweiser beer plastered everywhere.  Given that games of the time seemed to be geared for young people and be family-friendly for the most part, the idea of chunking beers down a bar and a Budweiser ad staring them in the face is a bit jarring.  This certainly prompted a different version of the game, Root Beer Tapper, that was the same game except obviously with root beer instead of the harder stuff, and a generic ad for root beer in place of the Budweiser logo.  Regardless, I remember many more arcades carrying the original Tapper game back in those days rather than its kinder, friendlier alternative.

Regardless, the game is fun and a nice, challenging arcade game to quench your thirst for simple action gaming.

This Tapper’s for you.