Q*bert Rebooted – Review

Title   Q*bert Rebooted
Developer  Gonzo Games / Sideline Amusements
Publisher  Gonzo Games / Sideline Amusements
Platform  PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, PlayStation 4 (reviewed)
Genre  Arcade
Release Date  February 17, 2015

When it comes to classic coin-ops, some are more classic than others. At the very top you’ve got the likes of Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, and Space Invaders as well as a few others. Then there is a slightly lower tier where games like Q*bert reside. They are kind of revered mostly due to their age, or for certain innovations they may have ushered in, and in 1982, Q*bert’s isometrically viewed playfield was quite unusual and gave it a certain uniqueness.

Unlike other more famous arcade franchises, Q*bert isn’t one that has been revisited too often. It has had ports on plenty of systems and a few sequels across different formats, but a new Q*bert still has some rarity value and Q*bert Rebooted brings both the original arcade title and an updated re-envisioning to the PS3, PS4, and Vita.

For the uninitiated, and I’m one of you as I had never spent more than a few minutes with Q*bert in the last few years, the original game puts you on a pyramid of coloured blocks. You jump between the blocks, and touching them changes the colour. Get all the blocks onto the right colour and the level ends and you move on. In some ways it is almost like a 3D Pac-Man. You have a screen needs clearing, enemies chasing you, and one way to turn the tables on your enemy. It really is early ’80s arcade gaming as you’d expect, and having spent more time with it now, I still don’t really like it. If you are a fan though, the classic version does appear to be emulated perfectly.

Now where the original’s blocks are essentially just cubes viewed from an isometric angle (it is worth noting that the original coin-op uses a four directional stick that only works in diagonals), Q*bert Rebooted has you on hexagons (with up and down being the two new directions) and the play areas are smaller. Purists may be irked slightly but, to be honest, that’s just the start of Q*bert Rebooted‘s issues. Strap in people; it’s about to get bumpy.

Okay firstly, fuck this game’s controls. The enemies in this game aren’t much of a problem. There are ball things that roll randomly downwards, a pink snake thing that is easily outwitted, and a cat that only moves when you do and, as such, is fairly easy to avoid. Unfortunately, 95% of my deaths have come from Mr Q*bert jumping in an unexpected direction. The analogue stick on the DualShock 4 is no fan of this six-directional bullshit. You could try the d-pad but extensive testing reveals the game is essentially impossible with it. Now that’s not to say the game is unplayable; it’s not. It’s mostly very, very easy and you have five lives for each level so you’ll make progress easily enough but even so: fuck off, Q*bert.

Then you’ve got the levels themselves. For the longest time you just get a few variations. A pyramid, a pyramid with holes in it, a weird sinkhole pattern, and a flat wall thing. These repeat often and don’t really offer any new challenges until much later into the game where the design becomes outrightly unfair. Game-ruiningly so.

Each level has three challenges: beat the level, beat it in a limited time, and a points challenge. Bafflingly, these unlock individually so you can have a fantastic run but it’ll only unlock the ‘beat the level‘ challenge; you have to go back twice for the other two. It’s so ridiculous that I can only assume this was playtested by an infinite number of twattish monkeys.

Also, each level has three sub-stages, and for a while the play area only changes after three whole levels, meaning you end up playing that particular level design eighteen times in a row if you are trying to tick off each challenge, and given that you don’t level up your abilities in any way, you may as well approach the game in that linear fashion. There are also these green enemies that change your blocks back to the previous colour. Completely annoying. They can be farmed easily for points, making the points challenges completely irrelevant. To make matters worse, score means nothing. The game doesn’t total up a score for you at all and there are no leaderboards. It’s all just so careless.

Then you’ve got the presentation. I reviewed the PS4 version and suffice it to say, the visuals are as unspectacular as you can imagine. Then you’ve the sound which is a combination of THE WORST EVER MENU MUSIC, a frantic but unforgettable in-game theme and a host of annoying spot effects including a garbled speech sample whenever you die. Which plays through the DualShock speaker. Loudly.

Of course, you can’t actually turn the fucking thing down because – and get this – there is no options screen. Say what? Literally nothing. No volume controls, difficulty settings, controller configurations. Nothing.

The options button is used once and that’s to get you into a screen where you spend gems (which are picked up randomly in play) on additional characters who not only offer no differences to the gameplay at all but also all have the same voice it seems. Christ. On the classic mode, you can’t even pause. The game even keeps running if you back out to the PS4′s dashboard. The only button that does anything is the circle button, which bounces you back to the main menu (which offers the two modes and a credits screen) without warning, which is nice if you happen to accidentally brush against the button.

I’ve always felt like I should give Q*bert more time and now that I have, it’s definitely one of the least good arcade classics. That said, the Rebooted mode does at least have a basic level of arcade playability and some of the points challenges do require some decent, well-thought-out play. But even then they fuck it up.

  • Rebooted mode is at least playable and can be sort of fun in between fuck ups.
  • Dull level design.
  • Awful controls.
  • Hateful sound.
  • Below-average graphics.
  • Full of poor design choices.

There are plenty of good reboots out there of old coin-ops but Q*bert Rebooted really isn't one of them. Poor interface designs, the worst presentation I've seen for a while, and shocking controls mean that even at a budget price, you'll want to avoid this one like it was Billy Mitchell looking to fill your face with his patented hot sauce.

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