Thursday, June 25, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Q-Bert 3

Yup, it's Q*Bert 3. I wonder if I am getting too out-there, too early, with some of these games?


This game was released in late 1992 for the Super Nintendo, based on the obsolete gaming icon of a decade earlier. Q*Bert used to hang with the best of them - Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Mario - but after the video game crash he sort of fell off the face of the earth (yes, that there's a joke!) For some reason it was deemed necessary to resurrect the Long-Nosed One from the abyss and give him a shot at Next-Gen Glory - NTVIC and Realtime Associates decided to give it a shot, I believe I heard that the original programmer actually put this game together, interestingly enough..

For those in the dark, the original Q*Bert was a truly.. BIZARRE game, in some ways. The weird-looking, but cute protagonist was charged with jumping on each square of a level's pyramid. Jumping on a square changed it's color - change all the colors and you clear a round. You are contsantly being chased by balls, snakes and.. uh.. evil goblin things wearing sunglasses, sometimes. Hey, it was the 80s. Anyway, the best you could do was avoid them, or try to get them to chase you over the edge (you could jump on colored "escape disks" to return to the starting point). It wasn't much, but it was enough.

Several years later, the game re-emerged in sequel form on the SNES - with turbo-charged graphics and a beefed up soundtrack. The gfx looked nice, the backgrounds garish and distracting (thankfully, there's an option to disable them - use this!). The game is liven up considerably, in that you no longer need to jump on cubes every single level. You get suitcases, dice, presents, crates, all sorts of things. More bonuses to pick up, more monsters to avoid.

The game still works. It's a product of a bygone time, but it had some strange charm that would keep coming back to it, and this sequel is no different. It's biggest flaw is likely one of it's biggest draws however - the control is absolutely EFFED. As in the arcade, it's all set on a diagonal so you aren't pushing your character NSEW, but rather at right angles. This is just.. confusing, and requires practice. The default setup on the SNES game feels busted to me, fortunately I can alter that in the options and get it working kinda ok. It'll never be "right," but it would be even worse if they tried to force it to map to a normal config. It's one of those things - you fight it fr awhile and then you get used to it.

Q*Bert will always be an original game, and this sequel - though it can be very rough on the eyes at time - is also quite charming and worth spending some time with. It's still something I can enjoy to this day, and it's also challenging enough that it deserves an honest go-round to get to the higher levels. I like these games where they really test your mettle!

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