By: Matthew Striplen
Ah Q*bert, the legendary early 80s arcade game from Gottlieb. To give a little backstory, Gottlieb was initially a pinball company, which dates all the way back to 1927! Pretty crazy, right? Also, Q*bert went through a number of name changes before being released, which include the famous “@!#?@!” as well as “Snot Boogers.” Maybe it was better they ended up going with just Q*bert…
Q*bert Rebooted packages both a port of the original arcade game as well as an updated version. Let’s kick things off with the original.
After selecting the original version, players are transported in front of a virtual arcade cabinet. Only after confirming again does that game start with the instructions, just like the arcade. What made Q*bert such an influential force in the ’80s was its use of isometric graphics, meaning the camera does not face the scene head on, but rather from an angle.
This style edges towards full 3D graphics, and Q*bert was one of the first to implement them. To accommodate for this different perspective, the control stick on the arcade cabinet does not face the cardinal directions, instead facing northwest, southeast, etc. Obviously, since we’re using a PlayStation, the control scheme is a little different.
Two options are available: d-pad or analog stick, though both have significant problems. Instead of reassigning the d-pad keys to correspond with a new direction, as done in many other isometric games, movement is only possible by pressing two keys simultaneously. Needless to say, this makes the only action in the game cumbersome.
Although the analog stick fares a bit better, controls feel a bit floaty and imprecise. This hampers gameplay as Q*bert revolves around making accurate movements.
Upon death, the player is returned to outside the arcade cabinet and must confirm again to restart the system. While not a big deal, it would have been nice to have a quick restart button. Other than these issues, Q*bert classic pretty much unchanged.
Q*bert Rebooted adds some subtle but important differences, most notably the switch from square platforms to hexagonal ones. This frees Q*bert and friends to move in several new directions. Controls are still an issue in the rebooted version; the d-pad controls are completely broken, with the only reliable directions being north and south.
Everything else is a gamble. Analog controls feel much more at home in the reboot, as the gradations of directionality are much better suited to this configuration. However, the stick remains far from perfect, as incorrect actions are still performed on a regular basis.
Aside from the control differences, Q*bert Rebooted has been given a complete graphic overhaul. Fully three dimensional and animated characters have replaced the 2D sprites of the past, though some of them lack the detail expected from modern games. Q*bert even has a bunch of new and familiar friends that can be unlocked, though these new friends unfortunately provide a purely aesthetic change.
Levels are now arranged on a map, where the new star scoring system can be viewed. Each level, which is a group of several stages, has a maximum of three stars, which are awarded by completing various challenges. Unfortunately, only one star can be awarded per run, so getting them all requires playing each level a minimum of three times. Why not award all the stars if the player has met the criteria?
Q*bert Rebooted poses less of an overall challenge than its predecessor. The early stages, in particular, serve as baby steps into the game, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Classic games are notorious for their blistering difficulty. Also, the layout of platforms changes on nearly every level, which provides much needed variety.
That being said, there are generally fewer platforms per stage in the reboot than in the classic, effectively making beating each level easier. Rebooted also introduces enemies more slowly and in a different order. Make of that what you will.
As a huge fan of classic games, Q*bert included, Rebooted is a disappointment. The shoddy controls singlehandedly destroy the entire experience. Playing the classic version should feel like riding a bike, but instead it feels like an entirely new (and subpar) game. The revised version has plenty of potential, which stands out from the classic version, but the controls remain a weakness. While the original Q*bert endures as one of the most influential games of all time, Q*bert Rebooted fails to do this classic justice.