Atari 2600 Reviews Q

Q*bert
Grade: B
Publisher: Parker Bros (1983)
Reviewed: 2009/5/25


screenshotLike Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, Q*bert is one of those age-old classics that truly stands the test of time. Long after humans are extinct from this planet, the roach people who replace us will still be playing Q*bert. The game's simplicity and quirky characters are appealing to both men, women, and roach people of all ages. The star of the game is a whimsical character with a cylindrical nose.

The object is to hop around a pyramid to turn all of its blocks the same color while avoiding falling hazards. Red balls tumble down the pyramid, a green freak named Sam changes the blocks back to their original color, and Coily the Snake relentlessly chases our hero. To be honest, the first time I played Q*bert on the Atari 2600 I was less-than-impressed with the watered-down visuals. I mean, those blocky, disjointed squares are a meager approximation of the pristine pyramid in the arcade game. And what happened to Q*bert's eyes?? The fact that they look like two holes in his head transforms him from lovable icon to soulless freak!

And then there's the animation - or should I say lack of animation! Although Q*bert moves smoothly between squares, the rest of the gang simply disappears from one square and reappears on the next. Not only does this make it hard to anticipate their movements, but it makes the game look cheap. Also, the spinning "escape disks" are rendered as simple white lines. The control scheme requires you to tilt the controller 45 degrees, which is slightly awkward.

But almost in spite of itself, this Q*bert still manages to capture the spirit and fun of the arcade hit. The color schemes are easy on the eyes, and a tuneful theme song plays between rounds. When Q*bert is caught by an enemy, he exclaims "!#?", and in video game language that little piece of profanity translates to "[expletive]-[expletive] [expletive]." Wow, that's pretty hard-core! Maybe this game needs a Mature rating! There are only two difficulty levels, but the "A" option will give expert gamers a run for their money. All things considered, this arcade translation is flawed yet highly playable. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: A
Our high score: 31,100

Q*bert's Qubes
Grade: C
Publisher: Parker Bros. (1984)
Reviewed: 2009/12/12

screenshotThe original Q*bert combined flashy visuals with simple gameplay, and topped it all off with an ultra-cute lead character. It proved to be a recipe for success. Q*bert's Qubes adopts the same style, but takes a Rubik's Cube angle that's hard to wrap your brain around. You hop around a board consisting of 12 cubes arranged in a diamond formation. Three sides of each cube are visible, each being a different color. Depending on which direction you jump off a cube, its sides will change.

You're effectively "spinning" the cube, but since the animation stinks, you'll need to visualize it yourself. Once the colors match the "target cube" in the upper left, that entire cube becomes "locked in" (turns green). Lock in four cubes in any row and you're off to the next stage. Complicating matters are bouncing balls, turtles, and pursuing rats. I really hate how these creeps appear without warning near the top, often costing you a life.

Q*bert's Qubes has a substantial learning curve, but the game isn't half bad once you get the hang of it. The graphics however are disappointing. Instead of being solid in color, the sides of the cubes are rendered in pixelated patterns that are hard on the eyes. As with the first game, Q*bert is still missing his eyeballs, but at least your adversaries now hop smoothly from block to block. The bulk of the sound effects seem recycled from the first game. Q*bert's Qubes is more cerebral than your typical arcade game, and it won't appeal to most casual gamers for that very reason. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: A
Our high score: 14,825
1 player 

Qb
Grade: B
Publisher: RetroActive (2001)
Reviewed: 2001/5/1

screenshotThis exciting new cartridge was originally released at the Philly Classic 2001 convention. That's right, it's another new game for the 2600, and this one is surprisingly well-designed and brilliantly executed. It borrows some ideas from Q*bert, but offers more than enough originality of its own. The colorful playing field consists of sliding squares that you must arrange in a certain pattern, as shown in the corner of the screen.

The star of the game isn't the best-looking character in the world - I can't decide if he looks more like Humpty Dumpty or an unmasked Darth Vader. While sliding around and hopping between squares, Qb can also collect fruit bonuses. There are some dangerous enemies, but he can dispose of them by using the fire button. The graphics are chunky but smoothly animated. The game is a pleasure to play, thanks to its excellent, responsive controls. Had Qb come out in 1982, it may have been a huge hit. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 20550
1 player 

Quadrun
Grade: C-
Publisher: Atari (1983)
Reviewed: 2010/8/25

screenshotThis extremely rare cartridge was only available via a special offer from Atari Age magazine in 1983. Had I known then what I know today, I would have ordered these things by the dozen. As the only voice-enabled Atari cartridge released in the U.S., your TV will blurt "Quadrun! Quadrun! Quadrun!" before each wave. In terms of pure gameplay, Quadrun may be the least intuitive video game ever conceived.

The idea is to shoot various objects with cute names like goons, nods, brats, and yo-yos. They move up and down the screen, but only one at a time. Your square cursor flips between the top and bottom, and after shooting it's necessary to catch your missile on the far side of the screen. This awkward concept is a little hard to wrap your brain around.

Every now and then a "runt" appears in the side areas that you can snag for bonus points. Quadrun is playable once you get the hang of it, but the controls never feel comfortable or natural. Like patting your head while rubbing your stomach, Quadrun is challenging but not necessarily in a fun way. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 8,500
1 player 

Quest For Quintana Roo
Grade: D+
Publisher: Telegames (1989)
Reviewed: 1999/12/21

screenshotIn this elaborate adventure game you explore a pyramid with rooms containing snakes, mummies, and treasure. Quest for Quintana Roo's graphics are generally blocky but adequate for their purpose. An unconventional control scheme allows you to shoot snakes, throw flasks, and discover secret vaults. Unfortunately, the controls prove awkward because the select and reset buttons are used quite a bit during the actual game.

You'll also collect health, maps, and treasure during your journey. Thanks to the game's incomprehensible instructions, it took me a while to figure out exactly how to play. There's not much strategy involved - you just open all the vaults and collect everything you can. Still, the lackluster gameplay didn't stop me from playing for about an hour. The ending was a major disappointment - I'm still not sure what happened. Quest for Quintana Roo will hold your attention for a while, but it has little replay value. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 30200
1 player 

Quick Step
Grade: F
Publisher: Imagic (1983)
Reviewed: 2008/4/17

screenshotImagic was known for its quality games, but Quick Step is pretty lousy! Although clearly inspired by Q*bert, Quick Step lacks the charm, style, and everything else that made that game such a classic. Designed for two players, player one assumes the form of an orange kangaroo while player two (or the CPU) is a purple squirrel that looks more like a massive claw. Hopping around frantically, they compete to turn squares into their color before the squares scroll off the bottom of the screen. New squares take their place from above, so the action is continuous.

There's a certain degree of risk-taking involved as you can try to capture lower squares before they scroll off. Falling off the bottom costs you one of your six lives. It's really annoying how you tend to respawn on the bottom row, leading to a quick death if you're not alert. You can make life more difficult for your opponent by making squares disappear (using the fire button), or freezing your opponent in place after obtaining the "magic mat".

It all sounds perfectly reasonable on paper (as if!) but Quick Step is a hectic mess that's seriously lacking in the fun department. The game ends abruptly when one player depletes his lives, so your score is pretty meaningless. After playing a game like Quick Step a few times, the idea of the video game industry going belly-up in 1983 doesn't seem so hard to believe after all. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 1501
1 or 2 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of Atari Age, 2600 Connection, Atari 2600 Homebrew, Moby Games, Atari Protos.com, Atari Mania