Title  : Q*bert
Platforms  : Sony PlayStation, Sega Dreamcast
Publisher  : Hasbro Interactive
ESRB Rating  : Everyone
Game Rating  : 8.4
Review by  : Ken Gagne

A trend that began in the Nineties continues in the year 2000, as developers, lacking original ideas, offer old games in new formats. Fortunately, some classics deserve a second look, as Hasbro Interactive aptly demonstrates with Q*bert, for Sony PlayStation and Sega Dreamcast. [PSX version reviewed here] 

Q*bert has its roots in an arcade game of the mid-Eighties, which featured an armless, trunk-nosed, orange character (Q*bert) hopping about pyramids of 3D blocks, changing their colors. Players would avoid the falling balls and spiteful snakes to try to change all the blocks to a new color and go to the next level. 

The PlayStation version has three modes of play. Classic mode will be a strong attraction for arcade veterans. This mode features an identical version of the coin-op original, with two-player mode, score rankings, and an optional, updated graphics mode. 

The new Adventure mode has over a hundred strangely-shaped rounds, with themes from cityscapes to arctic icecaps. As in the old days, Q*bert jumps about the isometric plane to change the color of each block, some of which require multiple jumps or an odd number of jumps. 

Head to Head mode lets two players compete on a single board to be the first to change all their blocks and make it to the exit. This mode features thirty-six unique levels and special blocks. 

Though the gameplay remains faithful to the original, don't think you can play blindfolded, or last for twelve hours on one quarter. Old foes and new will corner Q*bert in a variety of uncomfortable positions. Clever players will barely escape, while the best will work bad situations to their advantage to drop snakes off the board and come out ahead, point-wise. 

Hasbro has provided four control options to accommodate Q*bert's diagonal movements. Players can orient their controllers normally and push the diagonals, hold it 45 degrees clockwise or counterclockwise so the D-pad points diagonally, or use the four shoulder buttons. Regardless of which is chosen, it becomes second nature after a few rounds, though the occasional, suicidal mistake can still occur. 

But there is an unnecessary oddity in the setup. Before playing can begin, both controllers (if plugged in) must be configured. This is bothersome to a single player, who is told to configure the second controller, and it wouldn't even be necessary if the game automatically loaded saved data. Instead, game data must be restored manually. 

Graphic quality is high, but presentation is sometimes flawed. Due to varying board shapes and camera angles, it can be difficult to discern where certain blocks are in relation to Q*bert. Some backgrounds seems out of place — geometric shapes swirling against psychedelic backdrops. Huh? However, various enemies and icons are easily discernible, while bonus levels are hidden in plain sight. 

Sound effects are the audio highlight. The music doesn't change from world to world (one world is about twenty-four rounds), though it is neither irritating nor significantly noticeable. But the constant hopping sound that accompanies Q*bert's travels, the "boing"ing of a coiled snake, and other effects recreate the arcade experience perfectly. 

Unlike with Frogger and Centipede, Hasbro has finally done justice to a classic game, with an update that preserves the original's spirit while presenting it in a fresh way. Arcade veterans and those experiencing Q*bert for the first time will be pleasantly surprised by this update.


This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 17-Jan-00