Quest For The Rings

Quest For The RingsThe Game: In the opening screen – the mists of time, so the rulebook tells us – two players pick their characters’ classes. Warriors are sword-wielding strongmen, wizards can cast spells from a distance, phantoms can walk through solid walls (but not lava formations), and changelings can become invisible when they move. The two intrepid adventurers then set forth on a quest to retrieve the ten rings of power from randomly selected dungeons and filled with randomly selected horrors. (Magnavox, 1980)

Memories: According to the rulebook, a third player (whew, is anyone else beginning to figure out why these games never caught on?) – acting as a dungeonmaster of sorts – selects the combination of mazes and monsters to challenge the players, based upon their position on a map (the aforementioned gameboard). Continue reading

Qix

QixThe Game: In an exceedingly abstract and addictive game, you are a marker, trying to claim as much of the playing field as you can by enclosing areas of it. Drawing your boundaries faster is safer, but yields fewer points. A slower draw, which leaves you vulnerable to attack from the Qix and the Sparx, gives you many more points See the videoBuy this gameupon the completion of an enclosed area. If the ever-shifting Qix touches your marker or an uncompleted boundary you are drawing, you lose a “life” and start again. And the Sparx, which travel only along the edges of the playing field and along the boundaries of areas of the screen you’ve already enclosed, can destroy you by touching your marker. And if you linger too long, a fuse will begin burning at the beginning of your unfinished boundary, and will eventually catch up with you. (Taito, 1981)

Memories: Possibly the single most abstract thing to hit the arcade until Tetris, Qix was an underground arcade hit. Its bizarre game play, which defies any attempt to attach a narrative element or even define the Qix and sparx as anything other than “your opponents,” is enormously addictive. To this day, it’s still one of my favorites, but it’s nearly impossible to explain the game to anyone who wasn’t there to see it for themselves. Continue reading

Q*Bert

Q*BertThe 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 See the videoBuy this gameone-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, arcade- cabinet-shaking splat and a burst of incomprehensible obscenity! (Gottlieb/Mylstar, 1982)

Memories: So many arcade games looked like hits and smelled like hits before they actually got an arcade road test, and this archive is itself littered with screenshots of wanna-be hits where every name, graphic and sound were trademarked. Because someone was sure that, for example, Winky from Venture would be a runaway hit. Q*Bert is a case where that optimism – and the marketing muscle behind it – was perfectly justified. With a game concept by Warren Davis, memorable characters from Gottlieb staff artist Jeff Lee and wacky jumbled-synthesized-speech effects by David Thiel, Q*Bert was one of those games that went into orbit instantly. It was almost universally loved and talked-about, and you could count on quite a line at the Q*Bert machine at your local arcade. And this is a rare case where I’ll admit, even in jaded hindsight, that all the praise was so worth it. Continue reading

Qix

QixThe Game: You control a “marker,” trying to claim as much of the playing field as you can by enclosing areas of it. Drawing your boundaries faster is safer, but yields fewer points. A slower draw, which leaves you vulnerable to attack from the Qix and the Sparx, gives you many more points upon the completion of an enclosed area. If the ever-shifting Qix touches your marker or an uncompleted boundary you are drawing, you lose a “life” and start again. And the Sparx, which travel only along the edges of the playing field and along the boundaries of areas of the screen you’ve already enclosed, can destroy you by touching your marker. And if you linger too long, a fuse will begin burning at the beginning of your unfinished boundary, and will eventually catch up with you. (Atari, 1982)

Memories: One can think of no better early 80s platform for Qix than the Atari 5200, and it almost manages to pull off a perfect translation. Qix is another case where the infamous 5200 joysticks can confound your efforts to draw a straight line, but a lot of games have that problem, and I can’t really hold the grudge against anyone but whoever it was who designed those controllers. Continue reading

Q*Bert’s Qubes

Q*Bert's QubesThe 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 See the videoleast 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. Continue reading

Q*Bert

Q*BertThe Game: Q*Bert, a nosey little guy with a propensity for hopping, spends his time hopping around a pyramid of colorful blocks, avoiding Coily the Snake and other assorted purple and red creatures, including a few who operate on a See the videoslightly 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 deposit 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 block 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. (Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: One of the last games ever produced for the Odyssey 2, this great adaptation of Q*Bert also has the distinction of being among the hardest to find. Released primarily in Europe for the Videopac (the Dutch-produced equivalent of the Odyssey2), Q*Bert has decent graphics and damned fast gameplay for an Odyssey game. Continue reading

Q*Bert

Q*BertThe 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)

See the original TV adMemories: 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. Continue reading

Q*Bert

Q*BertThe 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 See the videoone-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 responds with a cartoon balloon full of mock profanity. (Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: Oof. If you thought this arcade classic suffered when crammed into an Atari 2600 cartridge… well, wait. Maybe’s that’s not a fair thing to say. The Intellivision version’s graphics were marginally better at best, and the sound was certainly better. But with the disc controllers, Q*Bert was almost unplayable. Continue reading

Q*Bert

Q*BertThe 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 deposit him back at the top of theSee the videopyramid – 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 burst of incomprehensible obscenity! (Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: This game has been much-maligned by some VCS owners over the years, which is something I take issue with. The 2600 translation of the famous arcade game was just fine! The graphics conveyed the pyramid of cubes just fine, it was easy to tell which way Q*Bert was headed, and overall I had no complaints. Even the sound effects, even though they were in some cases not even close to the distinctive sounds of the original, had their own strange charm. Continue reading

Quick Step

Quick StepSee the videoThe Game: In what one can only assume is a long-standing rivalry spawned at your local zoo, a kangaroo and a squirrel battle it out on a relentlessly scrolling playing field of multicolored magic flying carpets. The player’s kangaroo tries to change as many of those carpets to his color (green) by hopping on them, while the squirrel (controlled either by the computer or by a second player) will try to turn those carpets blue. Allowing your critter to scroll off the bottom of the screen will cost you one of his lives, and the game ends when one critter or the other has run out of them. (Imagic, 1983)

Memories: In the early days of third-party games for the 2600, game manufacturers were happy to just mimic what was in the arcades – Activision‘s early hit Kaboom! directly copied an early arcade game called Avalanche, Imagic‘s Atlantis (which borrowed heavily from the obscure Taito coin-op Colony 7), and countless Pac-Man clones (Alien, Shark Attack, and so on). Even Atari got in on the act, porting Exidy‘s Circus to the VCS as Circus Atari. But after Atari sued the Odyssey2 game K.C. Munchkin! off the shelves, however, you’d think the rules would’ve changed, and the third-party developers would have found that ever-present legal threat encouragement enough to pursue more innovative ideas. Continue reading

Q*Bert

Q*BertThe 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). 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, arcade- cabinet-shaking splat and a burst of incomprehensible obscenity! (Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: With a huge advantage over the other consoles of its generation, the Colecovision should’ve been able to play the best game of Q*Bert in town. And the graphics are probably the best console rendition that the game got prior to the NES era. Where this Q*Bert makes one want to jump off the pyramid is in the controller. Continue reading

Q*Bert’s Qubes

Q*Bert's QubesThe 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 See the videoleast one row of cubes to the target color to advance to the next level – and there aren’t any flying discs this time! (Parker Brothers, 1984)

Memories: Thanks to a quirk of distribution more than anything, Q*Bert’s Qubes is one of the rarest and most valuable games for the Atari 2600. In the post-crash world of unhealable deep-cut discounts, some retailers decided to get out of the video game “fad” as soon as they could possibly get out from under the inventory. As a result, the final few Parker Brothers game cartridges wound up being sold almost exclusively through Sears. (As the retail chain that invested heavily in such products as Atari’s original home Pong console, Sears had more of a stomach for staying with the video game industry than most, but even then they balked a bit as the Atari gravy train went off the rails.) Continue reading

Q*Bert

Q*BertThe 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, arcade- cabinet-shaking splat and a burst of incomprehensible obscenity! (Konami/Ultra, 1989)

Memories: Ah, the eternal conundrum of Q*Bert – to turn the controller, or try to do diagonals with an NES joypad? The original arcade incarnation of the mighty orange one solved the problem pretty simply by turning a standard four-directional joystick at a 45-degree angle within the coin-op’s casing. To truly replicate that effect, you’re given the option of rotating the NES controller 45 degrees or to try to do diagonals while holding it straight (in effect, hitting the left and down portions of the plus-shaped pad simultaneously to move in that direction). There’s a whole pre-game startup screen devoted to controller orientation here. And as awkward as it is, the 45-degree angle option is much more responsive on the NES. Now, a joystick such as the Advantage may help here, but again, the hardware itself dictates that the controller won’t be as responsive diagonally. Continue reading

Qix

QixThe Game: You are a marker, trying to claim as much of the playing field as you can by enclosing areas of it. Drawing your boundaries faster is safer, but yields fewer points. A slower draw, which leaves you vulnerable to attack from the Qix and the Sparx, gives you many more points upon the completion of an enclosed area. If the ever-shifting Qix touches your marker or an uncompleted boundary you are drawing, you lose a “life” and start again. And the Sparx, which travel only along the edges of the playing field and along the boundaries of areas of the screen you’ve already enclosed, can destroy you by touching your marker. And if you linger too long, a fuse will begin burning at the beginning of your unfinished boundary, and will eventually catch up with you. (Nintendo/Taito, 1990)

See the videoOne of the few completely abstract arcade games ever to catch on with the public, Qix is very hard to get wrong, and this adaptation – an early first-party Game Boy cartridge patterned after a similarly first-person NES version – certainly doesn’t get it wrong. It’s pure Qix, without any added bull about having to uncover a picture by claiming area on the playfield. Continue reading

Q*Bert 3

Q*Bert 3The 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). 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, arcade- cabinet-shaking splat and a burst of incomprehensible obscenity! (NTVIC, 1992)

Memories: Released a full decade after the original game, Q*Bert 3 for the SNES seems to draw its inspiration in equal measure from the 1982 arcade classic and the Game Boy version by Jaleco, which broke the arcade game’s “pyramid of cubes” mold and brought newer, more challenging shapes to the table to confound long-timers who thought they had the game licked. Continue reading

Q*Bert

Q*BertBuy this gameThe 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 See the videoPac-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. Continue reading

Qix Adventure

Qix AdventureThe Game: A boy named Speedy ventures through a mystical land, taunted by cute animals. Somehow this quest is expressed through a series of challenges in which the player tries to claim as much of the playing field as possible by enclosing areas of it. If the ever-shifting Qix touches Speedy’s marker or an uncompleted boundary, a life is lost and the boundary must be built again. Sparx, which travel only along the edges of the playing field and along the boundaries of already-enclosed areas of the screen, can also cost Speedy a life. (Taito, 2000)

Memories: In 2000, two trends collided within this one game. Trend #1 was the fading glow of a few years’ worth of retro video gaming nostalgia, a trend that brought of lots of arcade compilations and lots of “remakes” of classic arcade games, especially on the then-ubiquitous Playstation. Trend #2 was simple and obvious: jumping on the Pokemon bandwagon. Continue reading

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