Q*bert Rebooted Review

By Mark Delaney, 10 months ago
As a lifelong gamer, I've played a lot. I have some gaps in my history, as anyone does, but I've had a dozen or so consoles and hundreds of games since I began playing video games in the mid-nineties. That timeline, however, means I missed the arcade era and its many headliners. Some, like Pac-Man, were able to hold onto their relevance long after the cabinets were unplugged and doors were permanently closed. One less-than-A-list title from the eighties, but one that still has its fans and can be recalled by sight, is Q*bert. The original debuted seven years before I debuted on this earth.

A year and a half ago, the series made its first reappearance in a decade with Q*bert Rebooted for Steam and mobile platforms. Now Q*bert REBOOTED: The XBOX One @!#?@! Edition has quietly hit Xbox One. Just like in the arcades of yesteryear, where it was often passed over by all but its devout fans, modern gamers lacking any nostalgic affiliation with the series can pass it over for something more worthwhile.

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Q*bert is a puzzle platformer where each step you take (hop, really) could be your last. Presented on a grid of blocks, your job as the titular orange blob is to change all of the blocks to the appropriate color. Doing so quickly and without falling off the edge or colliding with the game's several enemies earns you higher scores. For the reboot, the grid of blocks is now humorously made up of hexagons, instead of the previous games' cubes, making Q*bert's name irrelevant. This alteration does, however, make the game more complex. Instead of only moving diagonally, you can now additionally move straight up or down, left or right. Across dozens of levels that each bring with them unique encounters, the aim of the game is built on traditional arcade cabinet principles: beat the levels, chase bonuses, and achieve high scores.

A great perk of this reboot is that it includes the original game from 1982. If you grew up with Q*bert, or maybe want to introduce the retro title to a friend or family member, it's there in full and plays just like the way it used to do. This inclusion aided me greatly in seeing what the true rebooted version has done to earn such a descriptor. For one, the arcade version is much harder early on. The new version displays a lot of uneven difficulty spikes throughout the game, but the first few levels act as an easing-in process, like we've come to expect from games.

If you grew up with Q*bert, you may enjoy revisiting the original game.If you grew up with Q*bert, you may enjoy revisiting the original game.

The original doesn't show such mercy and comes at you much more persistently with its various enemies. In the new game, you meet new enemies every few levels and they'll mix them together a lot, but not for a long time will it overwhelm the puzzle grid with them. Another change is that instead of three lives to get through the game, you now have five lives per level, but you play each level three times before you can move on to the next. Each tier of a level increases the difficulty and some tier three portions were frustrating to the point of almost inducing controller throwing.

When difficulty spikes cause early tiers to be very hard, that can often be a death knell for the next few minutes of effort, because it makes failure so likely for the final tiers. Interestingly, dying is sometimes advantageous because when Q*bert loses a life, he (it?) is teleported to the starting point again while all enemies are wiped off the map and are reset to their original timers and routes. Some levels even seem designed to take advantage of that, something that is so rarely seen in games. Q*bert Rebooted is at its best when it mixes up strategies. Sometimes speed-running a level can be the only means of success, while others actually require slowing down your decision making to where every step has to be the right one.

They may look cool in their sunglasses, but those green guys are actually the biggest jerks in the game.They may look cool in their sunglasses, but those green guys are actually the biggest jerks in the game.

Neither the analog stick nor the D-Pad feel very reliable in the reboot when selecting where to jump. The latter requires you to often press two directions at once for the diagonals, which never feels fluid. The former is more trustworthy but still fails sometimes, which is a huge letdown for a game centered around careful coordination and movement. Playing the game more makes it easier to work within the controls' limitations, but that's a workaround that shouldn't exist in the first place.

Many times the puzzle grids are reused but have different enemies or modifiers, like jumping on blocks and reverting it to the wrong color, or blocks needing two jumps to get to the correct color. Towards the end of the game, the grids become much more advanced, sometimes even requiring you to leave via flying disc from one grid to an adjacent grid. These elements, as well as the new movement patterns, improved graphics, abundance of costumes for Q*bert to sport, and the sheer number of levels, which are multiplied by three if you want to complete every challenge, all add up to earning that moniker of 'reboot'. However, it feels like a reboot for fans and no one else. The challenge of each puzzle keeps some interest, as games innately do for people, but I can't say any of it was ever fun.

Puzzle grids are reused, but they are always presented with different enemies and rewards.Puzzle grids are reused, but they are always presented with different enemies and rewards.

The achievement list is a short one that means a handful of heaping gamerscore unlocks are available. If you want the completion, you'll need to excel at both the reboot and the original. You're even handsomely rewarded for dying. The list won't be famously hard, but it'll be a memorable challenge for anyone going for the completion. Simply put, you have to be very good at it to unlock all ten achievements, but the game's learning curve, while sometimes betraying, overall aids you in mastering earlier levels by being so relentless. In that classic video game way, more recent tribulations make earlier troubles seem so much easier. While I believe nostalgia might be a necessary ingredient to have fun with the game, the achievement list abides only by the adage of "practice makes perfect" and, with that, anyone who is willing can obtain the full 1000 G.



Summary

If you grew up playing Q*bert, the Rebooted package is both a revitalization of a formula that you already enjoy, as well as a nostalgic trip down a colorful and snake-infested memory lane. For everyone else, however, it doesn't have the lasting appeal of a contemporary puzzler. Maybe the nostalgia is a pre-requisite for fun to be had, or maybe it's the fact that the game is a port from mobile platforms. Most likely, it's both. Whatever today's equivalent is to Q*bert's quarter-eating arcade competitors would be time better spent for all but those that speak fluent Qbertese.
3 / 5
Positives
  • Plenty of levels
  • Modifies the gameplay in interesting ways
  • Includes Q*bert Classic
Negatives
  • Very little appeal unless you're already a fan
  • Uneven difficulty spikes
  • Controls can't always be trusted
Ethics Statement
The reviewer spent four hours jumping across thousands of hexagons and cubes, narrowly avoiding snakes, cats, and throwing his controller. He earned three of ten achievements for 125 G. A digital copy of the game was provided by the publisher for this review.
Mark Delaney
Written by Mark Delaney
Mark is a lifelong gamer and current Assistant (to the) News Manager on TA. When not playing games, he can be found cheering for a bad football team, playing Batman action figures with his son, or going to concerts with his lover. Days where he does all of those things are his favorite.