The Game: Q*Bert, a nosey little guy with a propensity for hopping, spends his time hopping around a three-dimensional pyramid of cubes, avoiding Coily the Snake and other assorted purple and red creatures, including a few who operate on a slightly different plane (i.e., they move down the pyramid as if it were rotated one-third). Any green objects and creatures Q*Bert can catch will not hurt him – in fact, the little bouncing green balls will stop time briefly for everyone but Q*Bert. If he gets into a tight spot, Q*Bert can jump off the pyramid onto a flying disc which will despoit him back at the top of the pyramid – and lure Coily to a nasty fate by jumping into nothing. Changing the colors of the top of every cube in the pyramid to the target color indicated at the top left of the screen will clear the pyramid and start the craziness all over again. If Q*Bert is hit by an enemy or falls off the pyramid, he hits bottom with a resounding, splat and a burst of incomprehensible obscenity! (Parker Brothers, 1983)
Memories: One of my favorite games of all time becomes an excercise in massive frustration when played on the Atari 5200. As with the 5200 version of Frogger – also, coincidentally, produced by Parker Bros. – you must press the bottom fire button in order to move, making the game almost unplayable.
I realize that this was Parker Bros.’ response to the flood of complaints about the 5200’s non-self-centering joysticks, but it’s still a pain in the ass. The speed at which a session of Q*Bert moves requires lightning-fast joystick movements, and I can’t even begin to calculate how many times I’ve lost a “life” to a split-second gap between hitting the button and moving the joystick.
What a shame. Next only to the edition released for the ColecoVision, the Atari 5200 Q*Bert could have been at the top of the pyramid. “@#$%*!,” you say? Buddy, you don’t know the half of it.