When the original Q*Bert hit arcades over thirty years ago, it was a massive hit. The game's simple premise - climb up and down a pyramid made of cubes, changing their colors until all the cubes match - made it easy to pick up and play, while its punishing difficulty kept gamers coming back again and again. Q*Bert himself was a minor phenomenon, too; the banana-nosed hero appeared on t-shirts and sleeping bags around the country. He even had his own animated series.
And then the North American video game market collapsed. Arcades and home consoles vanished, and Q*Bert disappeared along with them. It never quite recovered. While Q*bert is still a mainstay in the competitive retro-arcade scene (the current high score holder, George Leutz, amassed 3.7 million points over an 80-hour play through), the franchise hasn't stayed in the public consciousness like, say, Donkey Kong or Pac-Man have. Outside of guest appearances in 2012's animated comedy Wreck-It Ralph and this summer's upcoming Adam Sandler vehicle Pixels, Q*bert's been absent from popular culture for a long time.
Developers Gonzo Games, Sideline Amusements, Games Production Company, and LOOT Entertainment want to change that. Last summer, Gonzo and Sideline released Q*Bert Rebooted, a modern spin on the franchise for Steam and mobile platforms. Now, the above companies are teaming up to bring the remake to all three of Sony's current PlayStation systems. Q*Bert Rebooted includes a new, 3D-rendered spin on the classic title, as well as a pixel-perfect remake of the original arcade game. Like LOOT says, it's essentially two games for the price of one.
The updated version of Q*Bert makes some big changes. In Q*Bert Rebooted, levels are made out of hexagons, not cubes. While that ruins the game's title (which is pronounced "cube-ert," see?), the developers claim that with hexagonal tiles "suddenly, you get some really interesting level designs, especially later in the game."
The remake also takes some cues from popular mobile titles like Candy Crush Saga and Angry Birds. Levels are broken out into small, easily completed pieces, facilitating short gaming sessions. No 80-hour marathons here. By playing through the game, players collect stars, which are used to unlock other levels on the world map. Gems unlock alternate player characters, while power-ups and enemy AI have also been overhauled.
The PC and mobile versions of Q*Bert Rebooted didn't exactly set the world on fire. The Steam version is currently rated 6/10, and there are only a couple of reviews on Metacritic, one of which isn't overly positive. Still, the original game is considered a classic for a reason, and the straight-up port is probably worth the price of admission its own. Q*Bert might be quaint by today's standards, but it's an important piece of video game history, and it deserves to be remembered alongside other classics.
Q*Bert Rebooted comes out February 17 for PS3, PS4, and PS Vita. It's out now on PC, Mac, Linux, iOS, and Android.