The Game: Q*World is attacked by the evil purple snake Coily, and the apple of Q*Bert’s eye, Q*Dina, is abducted by Coily, along with several others. Q*Bert pursues Coily through several dimensions to rescue his friends. (Hasbro Interactive/Atari, 1999)
Memories: Another quest-style revival of an arcade classic, this new version of Q*Bert still manages to stay faithful to the original, perhaps even moreso than Pac-Man World. While one never had to deal with the yellow fellow jumping, butt-bouncing, or rev-rolling, Q*Bert sticks to the mode of movement from the original game – hopping around diagonally. In short, if you could play the original, you can play this.
And like Pac-Man World, Q*Bert ’99 contains numerous references to the original game that only someone who was around in 1983 would grok. Q*Bert and the other residents of Q*World speak in the bizarrely fragmented voice synthesizer gibberish that made the original arcade game so hysterical. Coily and his arcade henchmen are still present, and Q*Bert, when his loses a life or just generally gets frustrated, still issues a cartoon speech balloon containing the universal comic book euphemism for profanity: @!#?@!
The graphics are gorgeous, and this has quickly become my favorite Playstation game because of one thing – the perspective does not shift around all the time. What you see is what you get, and it’s what’s there. A lot of current quest-style games make use of a disorienting pseudo-first-person viewpoint which almost makes me sick sometimes. Q*Bert is a great exception. Again, you play it exactly the way you played the arcade game.
Kudos also go to Hasbro Interactive and Artech Studios for making even the background graphics gorgeous. By ditching the Steadicam approach to game graphics, they allow the game to look better, more colorful, almost beautiful at times. And the opening movie is another chunk of retro nostalgia, funny and fully capable of setting the tone for the game.
I’ve been playing this game almost non-stop since I got it. And I think you will too. I highly recommend this for retro-gamers as well as their kids – even the little ones will get into it very quickly. They may not understand the character motivation established by the movie – and why is it that both Q*Bert and Pac-Man’s friends seem to be getting kidnapped in their respective Retro Revivals? Why is this a staple game storyline element? For one thing, it makes a lot of decent games look very similar, and for another, it trivializes the horror of a crime that happens every day in real life, not in a video game. The kidnapping element is all that would give me trepidation about sitting some youngsters down with the new Q*Bert or Pac-Man World. I heartily urge game makers to come up with something more original.
Like many other recent retro remakes, Q*Bert includes a Classic Mode, which goes above and beyond the call of duty. It’s a perfect emulation, and you have the option of switching between the original, no-frills arcade graphics, or something more akin to the new game’s style without affecting game play at all. Honestly, I rather like the new graphic set!
The only drawback for most people? Like the Atari 2600, the Playstation has controllers which rely primarily on direct up-and-down, left-and-right commands. For Q*Bert, you can orient the controller configuration in any number of directions, but the end result is that, as with the 2600 version of the game, you’ll have to hold the controller at an awkward diagonal. That’s really the most confusing part of the game. Other than that, Q*Bert is a must-have.