Midway Arcade Origins

midway arcade origins

Nostalgia can be extremely arresting.  Can a gamer ever return to the feeling experienced when first taking out the Death Star in Star Wars, smashing multiple baddies with a single rock in Dig-Dug, or playing a flawless board of Ms. Pac Man?

midway arcade origins

Gamer nostalgia is also conjured by environments and contexts.  I’m sure most middle aged gamers have swapped stories from their youth about visiting the local arcade (remember those?) to plunk some quarters in their favorite machines. In those golden years, we played for nothing but score and bragging rights, and we were fascinated by graphics that were so remarkable that they couldn’t yet be reproduced on our home systems or personal computers.  I used to beg my father to take me to the PX on base (military brat, represent) so that I could play one of my retro favorites—the cartoonish cop chase game A.P.B.  It was my fond memory of this 1987 relic that led me toward Midway Arcade Origins. I do not regret the purchase.  At the same time, some of the classic titles within this trove of 30+ games simply don’t reignite the longing to play arcade games that I fondly remember from my childhood.

midway arcade origins

The first problem with the compilation is that some of the classic control schemes just don’t translate to modern joypads.  720 is a prime example. In my youth, I would eagerly line my quarters on top of the black-and white-checkered plastic control panel assembly, but without the circle-locked joystick on the arcade cabinet, the game is almost unplayable.  Too much die, not enough skate.  The same unfortunately applies to A.P.B., a game that is dysfunctional sans its steering wheel and pedals.  Granted, you can still get some enjoyment out of the titles, but they just aren’t the same without the respective racing wheels and other cabinet specific peripherals.

midway arcade origins

Unfortunately, there is also a lot of useless filler in the compilation.  The less you remember about Pit-Fighter, Xenophobe, and arguably the worst sequel of all time, Spy Hunter 2, the better.   In light of these weak choices, I found myself wondering why Paperboy, NARC, and Roadblasters were left out.  All three were extremely popular Midway titles from my youth, and all three could have easily made the compilation exponentially better, especially since Paperboy is no longer available on Xbox Live Arcade.

midway arcade origins

Thankfully I was able to get a lot of enjoyment out a few of the included offerings.  Joust and Joust 2 hold up extremely well, as do Satan’s Hollow, Robotron 2084, Spy Hunter, Rampage, and both Gauntlet games (just don’t shoot the food!). Two titles I’d never played before, Wizard of Wor and Bubbles, ended up being my favorites.  Smash TV and its sequel Total Carnage also play well with a modern controller, and they still serve as a reminder that most of these games were simply designed to get one more quarter out of the pocket of your Kangaroos.  This is certainly a staunch contrast from the “save anywhere, unlimited lives” mentality that permeates game design today.

Leaderboards are also included so you can still appreciate how badly you perform compared to other hardcore retro gamers.  Further, multiplayer is offered on any title that traditionally supported it.   While the limitations of portable console gaming and the omission of certain titles does make the compilation feel a bit incomplete, the game isn’t a bad purchase if you are looking to scratch that retro itch. Just don’t expect most of the games to play like they did when you were waiting in line behind that skeevy dude in the Iron Maiden t-shirt to get one more crack at Sinistar.

Wreck-It Ralph: The backstory behind the classic Tapper arcade video game

Wreck-It Ralph: The backstory behind the classic Tapper arcade video game

Out of all the vintage arcade video games that make cameos in Disney’s new Wreck-It Ralph film, which opened this weekend, perhaps none are as much of a surprise to old school gamers as Tapper, Bally Midway’s 1983 cult classic.

wreck-it-ralph - tapper

Originally conceived as an arcade title for bars and taverns, Tapper went into business with an official license with Budweiser, courtesy of Midway marketing guru Tom Nieman, and was programmed by Scott Morrison and Steve Meyer. A cabinet resembling a real bar, complete with cupholders, a brass footrail and a small beer tap as a controller, housed the unique coin-op title.

The object of Tapper was to control your speedy bartender as he tries to keep up with thirsty patrons who are capable of chugging their beer quickly and tend to get grumpy if they don’t get another right away. After the bartender fills a beer glass he slides it down to the customers, who slide back an empty one if they’d like to wet their whistle some more. The first level takes place in a saloon setting, with an athletic contest, punk bar and space alien bar appearing in future levels.

wreck-it-ralph - tapper

At one point a special chip was ordered to record burping sounds for use within the game. The production crew for Tapper sat around one night drinking beer and burping into a microphone, but once the concept was installed into the game it quickly became annoying. The idea was dropped.

The game was a modest success at a time when the arcade market was falling into a deep slump due to over saturation of product and locations. Around 3,300 Tapper machines were sold, and not all of them to bars and taverns as expected. When concerns arose about alcoholic advertising appearing in arcade locations where children might see it, Midway released an altered version of the game called Root Beer Tapper. The basic concept of the game was the same, but with root beer replacing Budweiser, removal of many of the bar elements from the game cabinet and replacing the bartender with a younger and more family friendly looking soda jerk.

wreck-it-ralph - tapper

Root Beer Tapper also allowed for the game to be licensed for home consoles of the time, though another licensing arrangement appeared in other home versions where soft drink Mountain Dew was the product of choice. The root beer version appears in all other modern day console re-releases.

In Wreck-It Ralph, Tapper’s is the name of the hangout where all the arcade characters gather at the end of a hard day. While it is quickly noted on screen that root beer is served there, the bartender is the mustached tapper from the original version. The arcade cabinet within the film features art from the original Tapper arcade machine with the root beer version on-screen.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yy5j0L6o6ns[/youtube]

This film appearance appears likely to cement the Bally Midway classic into pop culture some 29 years after it’s original release.