Q*bert (NES)

Q*bert Box Art


System: NES

Release Date: February 1989

Developer: Konami

Publisher: Ultra Games

Genre: Puzzle

It’s 1989 and we’ve got a much beloved arcade game ported to the NES with Q*bert. This guys got my kind of vocabulary… all the swears! Which is what I uttered many times over the course of my play through. You play as a little spherical dude who is being threatened by Tazmanians. Your task is to bounce on every square of a pyramid to change its color. Then you are whisked off to another. The instruction manual promises 36 pyramids. I did not get that far.

The first thing you do is set up the controller for what button presses move you. You’re only going to be using the d-pad to control Q*bert, there are no uses for the A or B Buttons. Do you want up to move Q*bert up-left? Do it. Do you want up to move Q*bert down-right? It’s your funeral, but go right ahead. Once you decide on your control scheme, you’re dropped off on the top square of the pyramid. You can start moving around, but be careful, because you can jump right off the edge.

Q*bert isn’t alone, as that would be too easy. There is a steady drip of enemies that try to occupy the same square and take one of your five lives. The red whammy ball continuously moves down the pyramid. There is purple ball that acts similar, but once it reaches the bottom of the pyramid, the ball opens into Coily and follows Q*bert around the pyramid. If you find yourself trapped, there are swirly circles positioned around the edge of the pyramid that can be jumped on, removing you from danger and back to the top of the pyramid.

Later stages introduce enemies, Ugg and Wrong-Way, that interpret gravity differently and jump along the sides of each block. This can be incredibly disorienting as you’re trying to figure out where they can jump in comparison to where you can. Sam and Slick are little green guys that also change the color of the squares they step on, for better or worse. You can remove them from the board by jumping on them. There are also little green blobs that you can capture to freeze everything on screen for a few seconds.

Typically, once you change the squares to the required color, you can’t change them again. Things get complicated as the levels go on, requiring you to jump on squares twice to change their color. And even after that, you can cycle colors every time you jump on the squares! This means you need to have a good strategy, hope Sam and Slick help you out, or brute force it.

Graphics: 1.0

The graphics are plain, not very detailed, but at least there are plenty of colors used.

Sound: 1.0

You just get sound effects, bleeps and bloops, nothing fancy.

Gameplay: 2.0

It’s simple, but it works. If you start going too quickly, you’re going to find yourself jumping to your doom.

Difficulty: 2.5

This is a frantic game that will cause you to let out some angry noises. I will say it’s mostly fair and your deaths will be your fault. Either because you painted yourself into a corner or because you went too fast.

Fun Factor: 2.0

I enjoyed my time, got frustrated, then started enjoying myself again.

Overall Grade: 1.7

Q*bert earns a C-. It’s a quick and dirty arcade port, but it’s good for a quick play here and there to try and beat your farthest run.

Q*bert Video Review on YouTube