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Q*uite a Q*uandry

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    Q*bert: Rebooted

    Rating: 1.5 – Bad

    Q*uite a Q*uandry

    Though Q*Bert is a pretty well-known arcade icon from the 80’s, a resurgence of sorts came with his appearance in the movies Wreck-It Ralph! And Pixels. The game pioneered a transition to 3D graphics, of sorts, with its isometric perspective. It was enough to wrap any young gaming enthusiast’s head around, but it’s more of a novelty these days. The original game’s been remade a few times, so here it is again.

    Q*Bert has to change every hexagon (they were cubes in the original arcade game) on the level map a certain color, by hopping around the map one hexat a time. He may have to hop on a hexagon twice in order to change it to a requested color, and a hex might revert back to its original color if it’s stepped on a second time (it depends on the rules of the stage). A stage is complete when Q*Bert has changed all the cubes over. Of course, there are plenty of enemies to hinder the little alien’s progress, like balls that bounce from the top of the stage to the bottom, clever snakes that can only be stopped if Q*Bert hops on a teleporter and tricks the snake into falling off the stage and a few new baddies for good measure. The game is well-known for being an introduction to isometric (“three-quarters perspective, kind of 3D”) that was championed in games like Crystal Caves and Marble Madness. Of course, it’s still used today.

    This retread was obviously designed as a mobile title, and no care was made to translate this experience to home consoles. It’s clear in the game’s own setup: players have to go through the same level multiple times to clear one of three objectives (clear the stage, time attack and achieve a minimum high score by destroying enough enemies and collecting bonus gems), even if they’re able to do all three in one go. Of course, new levels are available at achieving a certain amount of stars. It artificially extends the game completion time of what is already a short game, which makes this game’s high price on a console iteration far more suspect.

    The game is perfectly functional, which is the best I can say about it. Using analog control in an isometric game with any kind of precision is difficult, and the true difference between any of the six directions Q*Bert can jump in is hard to gauge at times. Because it’s an isometric game with analog control, I don’t think it’s fair to judge a player’s accuracy in the form of a time trial. It makes nabbing the stars extremely difficult, borderline unfair, even early on. This makes playing the game the way the developers intended very difficult. This would probably work a lot better with a mouse to click on the hexes or for a touchscreen, but here we are.

    This doesn’t completely mar the experience, but it does prevent me from playing the game to its full potential and consistently unlocking any new content. I will inevitably hit a wall where the controls only take me so far and where the passing requirements for the time trials leave for too razor-thin a margin of error for me to proceed further. There are forty levels, so there’s plenty to do if you’re not too easily bored, and there are some unlockable costumes with the gems earned in levels and bonus stages, but these don’t add much longevity to a game whose visuals and gameplay are so repetitive that it’s difficult to gauge this as a long-term time and money investment to begin with.

    The graphics in Q*Bert Rebooted are serviceable, but they are by no means a treat for the eyes – or even that interesting. Q*Bert looks fine, the stages look fine… some are presented in more of a bird’s-eye view but are more or less pretty straightforward. There is not much in the way of a new soundtrack, but what’s here works fine. The classic sound clips (some early examples of digitized speech) are intact from the original, and there aren’t any new ones. There are a few characters to unlock with extra gems, and some of them are kind of cute, but that would be about it.

    There are two alternatives for Q*Bert remakes which I’d say are far superior to this one. Q*Bert for the PlayStation and Dreamcast holds up surprisingly well despite its own set of issues and has a neat soundtrack. The gameplay innovations from that remake work really well with the established formula. It’s far more ambitious and interesting than what’s on tap here. Q*Bert 3 for the SNES has some pretty varied course layouts and great graphics to boot. Q*Bert Rebooted does not have pristine graphics or much in the way of gameplay innovation to differentiate this remake from its forebears. I suppose you can’t go wrong, though, if this were to be knocked down to $5 or less and you had a real nostalgic bend for this kind of gameplay, but this is far better-suited for a mobile device because of the control scheme. Its current price is heinous for the content provided in this arcade retread, particularly for the PS4.

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