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Q*Bert
This nOde last updated June 10th, 2004 and is permanently morphing...
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DJ QBert of the Invizibl Scratch Piklz - member of internal linkDr. Octagon

DJ Qbert in the video for Blue Flowers by Dr. Octagon



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Ozric Tentacles - Waterfall Cities on Phoenix Rising (1999)

 



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Your missionis to hop Q*Bert around the tops of a internal linkpyramid-shaped arrangement of colored cubes using a four-way joystick, changing the tops of the cubes to a specific color. This seemingly simple task is hampered by various outlandish enemies and objects, which fall onto the pyramid from above and below.

Q*Bert's primary nemesis is Coily, a mind-bogglingly stupid snake who hatches from a large purple ball which falls onto the pyramid and bounces to the bottom row of squares during every round of play. Once hatched, the singularly unpleasant Coily will pursue Q*Bert around the pyramid, and if left to his own devices, will crush Q*Bert with a gleefully merciless crunch. This will invariably elicit a short, completely unintelligible outburst from the fuzzy orange creature, before (extra lives permitting) he continues on his way.  After the initial rounds, Q*Bert must also worry about Uggs and Wrong-Ways, ghoulish purple creatures who live life at a 90-degree angle the rest of the pyramid's inhabitants: the sides of the cubes are their "tops". These cretins bounce across the pyramid, emitting low, cryptic utterances, and will crush Q*Bert if he isn't careful. They won't follow him, however, and the skilled player can actually make Q*Bert jump under the Uggs and Wrong-Ways with precise timing. In addition to these foes, Q*Bert must also avoid bouncing red balls, which bounce down the pyramid randomly, and will kill Q*Bert if they land on him. To make matters worse, two additional little bastards, Slick and Sam, will periodically appear and hop down the pyramid, changing the color of any cube-surfaces they land on, effectively undoing Q*Bert's work. Q*Bert can stop them by hopping onto them, but in the higher levels of play, attempting this can actually make matters worse, as it may force Q*Bert to change cubes of the right color back to the wrong one as he pursues these two gremlins across the playfield.

There are two helpful objects Q*Bert can jump on during the game to get himself out of perilous situations: internal linkGreen balls (which appear every so often), and spinning disks. The green balls freeze all characters except Q*Bert if he lands on them, buying him precious seconds to hop unhindered around the pyramid. Spinning disks hover in space next to various random cubes on the pyramid, and will take Q*Bert back to the top cube if he hops on them. This helps dispose of Coily- he'll pursue Q*Bert right off the edge of the playfield to his internal linkimmediate death- as Q*Bert rides a disk to safety at the top.

There are 9 progressively more difficult Levels of play in Q*Bert, each with four Rounds (pyramids). Sucessfully completing a Round takes you to the next one in the Level. The speed of all the characters' movements increases as the game progresses, reaching quite a clip on the higher levels. If a player successfully completes Level 9, he simply repeats it as long as he can (this can go on for hours, if one is good enough and has too much free time).

In addition to its imaginative premise and outlandish characters, the grainy electronic sounds heard during the game are a big part of Q*Bert's hectic and totally involving feel. The game uses a primitive speech-synthesis chip to string together seemingly-random groups of syllables at various pitches to create the voices of Q*Bert, Ugg, Wrong-Way, Slick and Sam.

There's never been an arcade game remotely like this one (with the exception of Q*Bert's Qubes, a sequel game released by Gottlieb in 1984) before or since. Although not the monster Pac-Man-sized blockbuster that Gottlieb was probably hoping for, there were nonetheless various ports of Q*Bert to home video game platforms, including the internal linkAtari 2600/5200/7800, Colecovision, and Intellivision, Nintendo and Super Nintendo systems.

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first mention of Q*Bert in internal linkUsenet:

From: mark@cbosgd.UUCP (mark@cbosgd.UUCP)
Subject: Q*bert Atari 2600 review
Newsgroups: net.games.video
Date: 1983-08-03 20:45:23 PST

After hunting for it for weeks, we finally found Q*bert for sale today and snapped it up.  (We paid $35 for it at Gold Circle. It was "on sale" from the "regular" price of $40.)

After trying it out, I'm pretty underwhelmed.  They couldn't have done much less and still called it Q*bert.  Here is a review:

The really neat things about the arcade game are the sound effects (the coin clinking into the coin slow, Q*bert swearing under his breath, the klunk when something falls off the side, etc) and the comic balloon with the swear symbols in it when Q*bert gets hit. None of this is present in the Atari 2600 version, which is made
by Parker Brothers.

The screen is a 6x6 triangle, of which the bottom row runs slightly off the bottom of the screen.  The cubes are irregular, and they don't look very realistic (the tops look detached from the sides). Q*bert's figure is reasonable, but all red.  He looks either left or right, and his nose is angled up or down, to show the direction he's facing.  There are only a few colors that ever show up, two of which are black and gray.  Coily and Sam look reasonable, but the balls tend to look smashed when sitting on a square.  If Coily and Sam appear at the same time, they flicker.

The controls are not what I expected.  You have to hold the joystick diagonally, with the fire button away from you, and move the handle diagonally (which is orthogonal to the program).  I expected them to use the 4 diagonal positions of the joystick, but they didn't. The stick does not feel nearly as bad as Atari 2600 PacMan, but it's still not very good.  Many times we tried to move in a given direction and either it wouldn't move at all or it moved in a different direction. Bolting the joystick to a table would probably help a lot in this game - just pressing it against the floor seemed to help.  You can't hold a joystick diagonally in your left hand as firmly as you can when it's square.  The button doesn't do anything except start a new game after you loes all yoru Q*berts.

The sound effects are the biggest disappointment.  It plays the Q*bert theme song at the start and after each round, although it doesn't sound as good as the arcade version (nor as good as the Parker Brothers 2600 Frogger theme).  Instead of swearing, Q*bert makes a noise not that different from the "raspberry" that Space Invaders makes when you get hit, and the three 5x7 dot characters !#? appear on the screen (arranged as you see here) without a balloon around them.  Depending on the background color, the !#? may not even be visible.  It does make a fairly convincing whistling sound as Q*bert or Coily fall off the edge, and there is a small thump when they hit bottom.

The game: it's less than the arcade version.  The purple ball turns into Coily and can be lured off the side.  (He's too easy to lure off the edge in both games.)  The red ball will stomp you.  The internal linkgreen ball gives you points when you catch it, and freezes everybody for a few seconds while you run around and touch internal linkcubes.  (The screen flashes weird "negative" colors during this and you hear sound effects.)  The other green figure, Sam, turns cubes back to their original color and scores points for you when you catch him.  Sam and Coily make the same gargling sound effect when they move - it's kind of an unpleasant noise. There was no sign of Slick, Ugh, or the other ugly guy in the arcade game.

You get 4 boards at each of 5 levels.  In some levels, if you hit a cube again it goes back to the original color, so you have to hit every cube an odd number of times.  In others, it goes back to the intermediate color or the first color, where you have 2 colors to do.

The game seemed very quickly done.  Often the score (and spare Q*bert's) disappear from the top of the screen, for no reason.  The game starts internal linkimmediately after you power it on or hit reset.  The game select and B difficulty don't do anything.  A difficulty supposedly makes it more or less hard.  There is no two player version - just the one game. When you get smashed jumping onto a square, your new Q*bert starts life by falling into (and changing the color of) the square you were trying
to get.  There is no audible warning when Q*bert can move - you just have to keep trying until the joystick responds (there is about a 2 second pause at the start of the game and when a new Q*bert starts.)  There is no indication when you change a level, nor any level status indicator.

As for the hardness of the game, it seemed MUCH easier than the arcade version (except for the problems with the joystick).  Everything else moves very slow, and I can move very fast.  I can change about half the board before the first monster comes out.  Within a dozen or so games, we were getting scores of around 19000 (we lost the last Q*bert on the first board of the second level each time).  There is no question, however, that the different levels get MUCH harder.  I'm convinced that internal linkPacMan style patterns are the only way to win at this game, if only because of the "touch each cube an odd number of times" requirement.  I also noticed that each game starts with the same random number seed, because Sam always comes down in the same place right after you do in the first board.  We had it set to novice - the only difference with "expert" is apparently that the red balls don't appear for novices.

Overall recommendation - wait for the price to come down.  (This may take until after Christmas.)  And don't bother unless you have a better joystick than the standard one, or can firmly attach it to a fixed surface.

        Mark

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