Review: Q-Bert (Atari 5200)

In this review, we hop to it in the Atari 5200 game Q-Bert. We find out how well this puzzle game plays.

This game was released in 1983 and is a port from the arcade title. Previously, we reviewed the NES version and found the game to be dated for the release year. So, we rewind the years to see if this version is any better.

The idea of Q-Bert is simple: change the cubes on the pyramid to the goal color. In the first round, this requires a single jump onto the cube in question. In round two, it requires two jumps onto the cube to get it to the correct color. Round 3 ramps up the difficulty by allowing additional jumps to revert the cube back to the original color. Never made it any further to find out if the game cycles through multiple colors. Change all the cubes to the goal color and advance to the next round.

Along the way, there are a number of enemies. There is the red ball that hops down the pyramid before falling off the bottom. Touch this enemy and lose a life.

There is also the purple snake. The snake creature starts off as a purple ball that hops down the pyramid. When the snake ball reaches the bottom, it transforms into a snake and chases after you.

In later levels, there is the introduction of another purple enemy that hops around from the bottom and gradually moves upward.

When you advance even further, there is a green enemy that reverts the cubes to another color. This is the first enemy you encounter that you can actually attack. Touch this enemy and you stop it.

Finally, there is the green ball. It hops down the pyramid exactly like the red ball. The difference is that if you touch this ball, it freezes all enemies for a moment. This can be very helpful in getting yourself out of tight situations.

While there are a lot of obstacles in your way, there are also warp pads. If you jump onto one of two or three warp pads off the side of the pyramid, you’ll be moved all the way to the top of the pyramid. Often, this is your best defense against the purple snake as it often jumps to get at you only to fall to its death.

As you go along, you can find yourself developing strategies to make navigating the pyramid easier. For me, the goal is to get the bottom two corners. After that, the bottom two rows are the next goal. After this, the game becomes substantially easier as I just go after the rest of the cubes.

One thing I like about this version is that there is no special angle controls. Down left moves Q-Bert to the cube in that direction. Up and right moves Q-Bert in the upper right direction. Because of this basic control scheme, the controls seem better realized. You still had to press a button to actually execute the jump, but this is no big deal I find.

The game has a reasonable difficulty curve. It allows new players to have a chance at completing the first level or two. After you get practice, it is more than possible to work your way up the rounds.

Generally speaking, this game doesn’t really feature any real big flaws that stuck out to me. It is respectably entertaining. While there is a small sense of repetition with this version, it’s not a huge deal. I like the controls on this one and the game has a reasonable difficulty curve. A very solid game.

The graphics are reasonable. While they are a little on the basic side, it’s hard to really criticize them. Great overall I’d say.

The jingles work pretty well. The sound effects are also pretty good. Would have been great to hear some in-level music that is nicely subtle, but i guess you can’t get everything you want.

Overall, this version is a very solid version for the time. The controls work well and the difficulty curve is nicely realized. There is a sense of repetition after a while, but this is a minor complaint for me. The graphics may tip towards the more basic side of things, but it’s hard to really criticize them too heavily. The jingles were nice and the sound effects were pretty good. Overall, this is a very good version for the time.

High score: 33,810
Round 3, Level 1

General gameplay: 22/25
Replay value: 8/10
Graphics: 8/10
Audio: 4/5

Overall rating: 84%

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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