The Game: Q*Bert is back, hopping around from cube to cube, rotating the cubes 90 degrees with every hop…but a nasty bouncing rat and his minions are out to get the big Q. If one of the rat’s henchmen hops onto a cube whose top surface is the same color as its skin, it melts into the cube harmlessly. Q*Bert must change at least one row of cubes to the target color to advance to the next level – and there aren’t any flying discs this time! (Mylstar Electronics, 1983)
Memories: Similar enough that veteran Q*Bert players could pick up its play mechanics in their first game, but different enough to throw them off their game, Q*Bert’s Qubes was a textbook example of a good arcade sequel. It certainly didn’t hurt that it introduced a whole new pantheon of cute adversaries for Q*Bert to avoid, and yet somehow, the only thing anyone really seems to remember about any iteration of Q*Bert’s Qubes is how scarce it was – and still is.
This sequel to Q*Bert was hard to find in the arcades – I only ever saw one coin-op machine in the ’80s; I’ve actually seen and played more coin-op Q*Bert’s Qubes at Classic Gaming Expo than I ever did “back in the day.” Prior to that, most of my experience with the game came from the Atari 2600 version, which is now something of a major collector’s item, fetching well over its original retail price in online auctions.
But truthfully, this ingenious puzzle game was a tremendous amount of fun, and it shows what a franchise Q*Bert could have become (beyond the toys and the Saturday morning cartoon series, that is). The character could have supported a seemingly endless variety of geometric puzzle games, all of which would have been perfectly in character.
A very good port, though with rather diminished graphics, appeared on the Atari 2600 thanks to Parker Brothers’ licensing deal with Gottlieb. But despite the number of Q*Bert ports issued for various platforms in the early ’90s, and another revisitation of the original game in the late ’90s, Q*Bert’s Qubes seems to have faded into obscurity.