Review by Retro

"Good #!$%"

When I was a kid, just about all I ever bought with my own money was video games. Whether it was with the aid of my almost microscopic allowance, my huge bundles of Christmas money, or just finding a dollar on the side of the street, video games were always what I had in mind.

There were always a few games that I just wasn't interested in after checking out the back of their box at a store. Those were the ones that my mom usually liked the best. She always liked watching me play video games (and she even played a few of them), so she started taking in the vast views of the hundreds of games at the various stores. Q*bert just didn't look very interesting to me, but she kept on and kept on reminding me that it looked fun and that I should get it. One time when we went to Toys 'R Us, I didn't see any games that I was dying to own, and as expected, she kept up her streak of begging me to get Q*bert. It didn't cost but about $15, so I went ahead and bought it.

As the story unfolded and the war against opinions clashed, it turned out that I was the one that was in the wrong. I'm actually glad that my mom begged me to get this game so much, because if she hadn't, I would've missed out on a great, classic game. Q*bert quickly became one of my favorites for the Atari 2600, and that feeling is still intact after all these years.

Q*bert is an orange creature that has a long nose, but no arms. However, he does have legs that give him great jumping ability. He also seems to have a hobby of changing the colors of squares by jumping on them repeatedly. There are 21 blocks in each level that change color when Q*bert jumps on them. What you have to do is jump on the blocks and change them all to a certain color. Once you change all the blocks to the correct color, you'll proceed to the next level.

Q*bert starts out pretty easy and gets more difficult in a flash. In the first few levels, you only have to jump on all the squares once in order to convert them to the right color, and if you jump on a square that you've already jumped on, its color won't change.

As you progress, the blocks become much more of a daunting task. For example, later on in the game, you will have to jump twice on each square to change it to the proper color, and if you jump on any that you've already changed to the correct color, it will change right back to its original shade, forcing you to start all over on that particular block. That's not as difficult as the square-jumping quest becomes; it gets much harder than that later on.

The blocks by themselves seem like a puzzling challenge, but they're not all that the springy creature named Q*bert will have to keep an eye, or a nose, out for. While making Q*bert jump on top of all the numerous squares, you'll also have to watch out for some interesting, but dangerous creatures.

One enemy looks like a flea and just goes from square to square changing any that he touches back into its beginning color. This type of enemy can do no harm to you other than making your task more time-consuming. The most numerous enemies are the balls that bounce from square to square in differing patterns. Green balls are there only to appear dangerous. If Q*bert can catch up to and squash a green ball, all the other enemies on the screen will freeze in their current place for a few seconds, but Q*bert himself can keep moving and he'll also collect a few bonus points.

There are a lot more purple balls than any other kind of nemesis. Coming in contact with a purple ball results in the loss of a valuable life. The purple balls and the two enemies I mentioned before, all start their downward journey from one of the two squares on the second row from the top. Once a purple ball reaches any of the squares on the bottom, Q*bert's fiercest enemy, Coily the purple snake, will appear. Even after the snake is on the board, the various bouncing balls (mostly purple ones) still invade the perfectly lined up squares. Coily the snake curls up and then leaps from square to square, always chasing Q*bert no matter where he is at. Q*bert must do all he can to stay away from Coily, because if he touches it, it will kill him deader than dead.

On the sides of some of the outermost squares, you'll see a horizontal flashing line. These are lifts that will instantly take Q*bert to the uppermost square when he jumps on them. They are also Q*bert's only true defense against the snake. If you jump on any of the lifts while Coily is in the right place, the snake will jump off the board like a suicidal maniac, and you'll be free from harm until he shows his venomous face once again.

Anytime a perilous enemy touches Q*bert, he will say something (you can figure out what he's saying for yourself :-D ) in this sort of language: @!#?@. The final way that Q*bert can die is if he happens to miss a square and jump into thin air.

Upon passing a level, all the blocks will flash for a few seconds while some memorable music plays out. While the music is playing, Q*bert's points also increase. Then it's on to the same-looking level that includes more complex colored blocks and a better challenge. Not only do the blocks require more attention as your jumping adventure progresses, but the enemies also get a lot faster.

For this to be an Atari 2600 game, this game looks great. Q*bert himself and the enemies are very well done and they look a good deal like they do in the arcade game. Whenever you finish a level, the blocks flash different colors, which was nice graphical effects back in the day. Also, each time you progress to a new level, the squares turn a different shade of color. In short, Q*bert has some detailed and colorful visuals.

There's not any music that plays during the actual gameplay, but each time you complete a level or jump on top of one of the green balls, you'll hear some nice, clear music. The sound effects aren't bad either. Q*bert's jumps sound like a jump; the innovative lifts have their own space-like sound; the enemies all have their own sound. Not bad for an Atari 2600 game.

The only thing you have to do in this game is jump, so you won't ever have to even press the button on the joystick (unless you use it to start a new game). The controls are very responsive and pretty much perfect. You just have to push the joystick right to move right, up to move up, etc. You'll probably make quite a few mis-jumps when you play Q*bert for the first few times, but it's like anything else. Practice makes perfect.

Playing Q*bert is a fun experience to behold. Jumping continuously from square to solid square while avoiding the various perils that await you, and using the unforgettable lifts as a snake-killing machine never fails to be a lot of fun. There's only two things I don't like about the game. For one, it's only one-player, which isn't really a flaw, but it could've been an even stronger title if it had two-player capability. The other thing is that it just doesn't have enough variations. I would've liked to have played the game with invisible blocks, with no lifts, or something else cool.

Bottom line, Q*bert is one of the best one-player games for the Atari 2600. You should get it right away. Just a word to the wise: Make sure you play the game on a color television. Playing it on a black and white TV won't be much fun, as you won't be able to tell what color the squares are in later stages.


Reviewer's Score: 9/10 | Originally Posted: 04/05/01, Updated 03/20/03


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