Q*Bert Rebooted – What We Think:
I remember the dim lighting and cacophony of noise more than anything else. My local arcade was a cool place to live in for a couple of hours, and when I entered it, I wouldn’t want to leave. My pocket–so filled with quarters it would weigh down one side of my pants. I’d excitedly roam the arcade looking for whatever caught my eye but I’d always make an effort to play the older classics because they exemplified what I had enjoyed most about video games, the addictive simple to pick up gameplay.
Fast forward to 2014, Sideline Amusements and Gonzo Games release Q*bert: Rebooted as a downloadable title. A lot has changed since the creation of the original Q*bert. Games have become more forgiving, narratively complex, and realistic. It’s a new era where older games have received the same re-imagined treatment.
Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, for example, was a fantastic reinvention Pac-Man by making it even more addicting as well as modernizing its core mechanics in fun ways. Q*bert: Rebooted updates the original in superficial ways, but fails to re-imagine Q*bert for the modern age.
Rocking Blocks Before They Were Cool
When you boot up the game you are able to choose whether you want to play Q*bert Classic or Q*bert: Rebooted. Both games feel similar in terms of how they play: Q*bert’s main mechanic is jumping on all the blocks in a given level in order to change their colors. Once all the blocks in a given level are switched, you complete the initial round. Each level has three rounds and levels’ layouts will change as you progress. The complexity and challenge comes from the enemies and the slight variation to the core mechanic. For example, later levels will feature more enemies and or blocks that change back to their original color if you jump on them again.
The Q*bert Classic featured in this game is a sub par emulation of the original arcade version and is missing some of the original’s sound effects (the snake’s jump sound for example). The game ends up feeling too quiet and less engaging. The simpler the game, the more these things stand out and affect the overall experience. It’s a shame this emulated version wasn’t as good as it could have been, but it still plays pretty much like the original Q*bert – just don’t expect it to be a ROM style clone of the original.
The second game you can play is Q*bert: Rebooted. It’s the same established gameplay mechanics with a couple of updates that include updated 3D graphics, a couple of new enemies and some new sound effects. The game is more forgiving, since Q*bert now has 5 hearts/lives that are replenished after every level. This changes up the feel of Q*bert significantly; the original was notoriously challenging, not only for its odd 2D for 3D diagonal layout, but also in that you had to restart the game once you were hit three times. Level progression has been modernized, feeling very much like a mobile game.
Levels feel familiar because they are basically recreations of the classic arcade game’s playfield layouts. Each stage has three gold stars you can earn: One gold star for completing the level, one for completing it under a certain amount of time, and one for scoring a certain number of points. Gold stars are important since they help you progress in unlocking more of the game’s 36 levels. On the level-select map, you’ll come to an impasse that will require a given number of gold stars in order to proceed.
The problem with these gold stars is that they can only to be earned one at a time. You essentially have to replay the level over again to earn another gold star. I would prefer if I could tackle multiple objectives at once, in hopes of making the game more fulfilling and less of a repetitive slog. Instead the game feels padded out and rigid. Obtaining gold stars – especially the score based ones — is where you’ll find the most challenge in this game. It offers the right amount of challenge without feeling unfair.
Gems Are Truly Outrageous
Q*bert Rebooted also has gems scattered throughout its levels that can be redeemed for new skins for Q*bert. Q*nicorn, Q*bertha, Q*bot, and Q*zilla are just a few of the ones you can unlock and use in the game. Besides a different look, each unlocked skin has a new jump sound associated with it. Unlocking these skins adds only nominal added incentive since you pretty much unlock all the skins well before you finish the game. I would have liked further variations or power-ups beyond merely the superficial in this area.
Q*Bert On The Default Controls: @!#?@!
The default control scheme for both the original Q*bert and Q*bert Rebooted are mouse controls. They are as awkward as you might suspect. Imagine a touch screen mobile game where you hold your finger in order to move your character. It feels exactly the same and I highly recommend using the in-game partial controller support. It’s as partial as can be, however, because you can’t navigate the map or menus with the controller. It’s awkward having to use the mouse to navigate the level map and menus after each level, then switch to your gamepad when a level starts. The controller support could have been implemented better, but it’s essential for this game since a joystick feels better than using a mouse to control Q*bert.
I did encounter a couple of issues with the game’s audio. The game only has a couple of musical tracks and it gets repetitive fast. Also every time the cat enemy appeared, the game would make an awful noise much louder than anything else in the game, which was effective for letting me know what enemy appeared, but I’m sure it’s cringe-worthiness was not an intended design choice.
Reboot vs Familiar, Worn-In Boot
I’d say the most disappointing thing about Q*bert: Rebooted is that it fails to reboot Q*bert in interesting ways. Yes it has updated graphics and new level progression mechanics, but the core gameplay could have used an update. It’s still fun to jump and color blocks, but it’s not as fun and addicting as it was back in the day. If you’re looking to play more Q*bert, Q*bert: Rebooted does a decent job of giving you more of the same.