Copy obtained via Playstation Plus subscription
Platform: PS4 (downloadable title only)
Developed by: Sideline Games, Gonzo Games
Pretty much everyone with interest in videogames knows Qubert, star of his eponymous arcade game in the 80s, a really iconic title from that era, so much that even System Of A Down made a song about him.
I would be surprised if more than 5 of you knew Q*Bert Rebooted existed, and i’m not counting myself, i learnt of this modern remake just because it was a “free” PS Plus game months ago, i wouldn’t have played it otherwise.
And frankly, it’s easy to see why it was trashed by the press and quietly forgotten. Because it really deserves to stay in oblivion and just once in a while get dragged out of the black abyss of reviews’ aggregators by people like myself.
Cointaing both the remake and the original arcade version, this title is plagued by abismal controls made with no apparent understanding of modern design. The remake mostly stays true to the Q-Bert formula, as in you move around a grid, jumping cube to cube to change every face of the cubes into the required color, all while avoiding enemies that try to kill you, since you’re defenseless.
You can jump onto the enemies that change the color of the squares, or use the disks at the edges of the map to make the snake enemies jump to their doom, but you don’t have any kind of attack. So, yeah, it’s Q*Bert. So far, what you could expect from a game with “Q*Bert” in the title.
Problem is that an analogue stick just isn’t fit for the kind of rigid inputs required by the game, and changing the cubes to hexagons just makes it worse, since you’re given 8 directions to move in, and with an oversensitive input method (you can’t use the d-pad, either), you will never exactly know if the game will read your inputs as diagonal movements or not, causing you to fall to your doom, or into the mouth of a quite hungry purple snake. And yes, you can use the d-pad, but it makes the game almost worse, and doesn’t change the fundamental problems with the controls.
Mind you, there’s an alternative control method available that does help (but was patched and not in the game as it launched, as i understand), and basically maps the jump to the X button, making you use the analogue stick to decide the direction of the jump itself. I spent pretty much all my time in Q-Bert Rebooted with this control method, i tried the old school controls, and i couldn’t manage to finish a single stage, so.. And yes, now you have 5 lives per stage (in the remake mode), which makes the whole thing more bearable, but it’s just that, a band-aid over gaping necrotized wounds.
The original Q-Bert works a little better control wise, but it’s simply due to the game not reading diagonal inputs of any kind, and it still controls really bad. More workable, but not good controls, still. You can get used to the controls and actually manage to play…. alright (i guess), but it doesn’t change the fact they are shit, even the more workable control system for Q Bert Rebooted doesn’t change the fact it’s a bad and slippery control system for a game requiring precise and fast movement, split secound manouvers to avoid enemies.
So good luck with this fiddly controls of “orientate yourself first, then press X to jump” when you gotta escape from 2 snakes AND have to repaint some blocks flipped by other enemies.
The hellish controls are the main issue, but i wanna stress that the game itself leaves a lot to be desired. Modern remakes of old arcade titles from the ’80s have a history of mostly failed attempts to revise and adapt the formula to new standards in both tech and game design, sometimes with results too different from the original titles, or barely evolved at all, leaving fans mostly disappointed and wondering why bother to begin with, but there are rare cases like Pac Man Championship Edition that really do manage to update the gameplay while not touching the formula at it’s core.
Qubert Rebooted definitely fits into the “barely evolved since the 80s” category, because – as i said before – at its heart, this is Q*bert, but also, this is Q*bert, barely untouched in design from the arcades. The main differences are to be found in the overall structure and some ancillary features, as you have many levels, with three rounds and a bonus stage each level, and a 3 star rating system of sorts. Yeah, this is basically a mobile port (the game was originally release for PC and iOS, but everything seems designed to be on smart devices), and this isn’t the kind of mobile game that would benefit from a port on PC and consoles, especially since very little is “enhanced”.
But beside that, the bigger problem is that the game is long, absurdly so, and has no reason to feature 40 levels, since there are literally 5 stage designs, and they get recycled again and again, with just a different set of enemies (taken from a ridiculously small pool as well) going after you, or the hexagons requiring you to jump twice to color them in the required pigment. There’s also a new type of enemy, a boxing glove that will punch you off the map, and a treasure chest that’s hard to catch and gives you bonus points, but it’s really minor stuff added to the formula.
As you may guess, this makes the game become way too repetitive very fast, with the “variety” you could expect from an arcade game of the 80s, that is simply way too archaic, outdated and beyond simple “lazyness”, kinda amazing since this is a 2014 title, but could have easily have been 30 years ago, if it were not for the whole “3 stars rating” thing, along with other playable characters that require gems to unlock, gems you find in the levels and bonus stages (no microtransactions), though these are just skins, they don’t change the gameplay in any way.
Truth to be told, i know the game has 40 levels by reading reviews made by other people, i managed to trudge my way to level 26, and i really don’t want to see what’s next, mostly because i already played it 5 times in small variations. I can’t even muster up the sick curiosity of seeing the “ending” (if it has one), i played worse games all the way through, but for all i care, level 26 is more than enough, a lot more than i needed for a review, for sure.
I talked about the levels having a mobile style rating of 3 stars, but this isn’t exactly true, unless you manage to fulfill some or all criteria (always the same for every level: finish stage, complete under par time, score at least said number points) on your first go. Otherwise, you can’t get all 3 stars at once; if you just finished a stage, you’ll have to replay it to get the time trial star, and once more for the high score one. Yeah, this is made to artificially fatten the playtime, as it’s made crystal clear by the game gating out levels until you ammass a specified number of stars.
To make this repetitive, recycled, horrendously outdated game with frustrating slippery controls even worse, there are difficulty spikes, made more obvious and frustrating by levels that are too easy. Gotta have badly balanced difficulty curve in your shit game! guess.
From a technical standpoint, it’s alright, but the overall esthetic is bland, without much in the way of taste, and while the modern designs for the characters are fine, the animations are really bad on anyone expect Qubert (and his foul mothed censored phrasing) himself. I kinda like the selection of music tracks offered, gotta be honest, but it seems Sony choose some random tunes from its library and plonked them in the game, they don’t gel together with everything else, at all.
Probably the real reason this port on consoles exists it’s Pixels, the Adam Sandler movie nobody wanted, a movie that featured Qbert as a character because Sony owns the rights to the series (odd to see the logo of Sony Pictures in a videogame). While this isn’t a tie-in game based on a movie like the shitty Pixel Defense title for mobile device was, it also serves to point out how cynical that movie is and how seethrough its “we really love videogames” facade really is.
When the best offering of your reboot/remake of an old 80’s arcade game is the original version of said arcade game (and even that isn’t good), you know something went wrong. And in the case of Q*Bert Rebooted, a lot went wrong.
I really don’t get what the “vision” behind the project was, if there is was any, with barely any update to a formula that could have used it, very small changes made because something had to be changed or added. Changes made just for the sake of it, with no regard to even how the control scheme would work on a modern controller, and all made worse by beyond outdated game design and a need to pad longevity, with too many levels that recycle a very small amount of assets over and over, and progression gated by a mobile style “star system” that forces you to replay levels to even proceed.
Yeah, the graphics are updated and Q*Bert himself looks nice, but the other enemies models have noticeably lower framerate, and there’s no style or art direction to speak of, the presentation is really bland and the soullessness is made even more clear by the random selection of musical tracks (that are there because it’s Sony) that aren’t that bad – mostly – but don’t really fit the aesthetic of the game. The bland, unimaginative aesthetic of it all, that it won’t be fixed by having skins like “Q*1000” for the old long nosed fella, but they do make it obvious how creativity and/or inspiration probably were never a thing in this project. Or any shade of quality, either.
You probably never even knew this one existed (or remember it was once a thing), and i would like to keep it that way. Let us just keep it forgotten in the sands of time, occasionally salvaged for a laugh (and little more), but ultimately doomed to well deversed obscurity.