Last week marked the return of a (hopefully) weekly series where I play through all of the games listed in the book - 1,001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die. If I played the game before, then I would share my memory of the experience. If I hadn't played the game before, then I would find an online version or an emulator and I would play the game. This is a book every gamer should have in their library, and if you're interested in purchasing it, you can find it here.

Last week also marked the transition from covering five games to just one. As I mentioned before - trying to cover five games is a time consuming process and also prevents me from really going into a lot of detail about each game. At least doing it this way, I am more likely to continue the series and actually make forward progress with my little quest.

If you're at all interested in seeing the previous episodes of this feature, you can find the links for them at the end of the post.

Speaking of previous episodes, last week I was playing Mr. Do, an obvious knock-off of Dig Dug where you play as creepy clown with a bouncy ball. If you haven't played the game, you're not really missing out on anything. But this week... This week was a real arcade classic that I know you've heard of. It's also a game I know for a fact I've played.

It's none other than...


I'm sure you don't need any sort of description, but just in case...

Q*bert is an isometric platform game with puzzle elements where the player controls the titular protagonist from a third-person perspective. Q*bert starts each game at the top of an isometric pyramid of cubes, and moves by jumping diagonally from cube to cube. Landing on a cube causes it to change color, and changing every cube to the target color allows the player to progress to the next stage. In later stages, each cube must be hit multiple times to reach the target color. In addition, cubes will change color every time Q*bert lands on them, instead of remaining on the target color once they reach it. Jumping off the pyramid results in the character's death.

The player is impeded by several enemies:

Coily - A purple snake that chases after Q*bert.

Ugg and Wrong-Way - Two purple creatures that run along the sides of the cubes

Slick and Sam - Two green gremlins that revert the color changes that have occurred.

(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

In terms of concept, Q*Bert is one of the easiest games you'll find. You just move your character around the pyramid of cubes trying to turn the tops of them to the indicated color...while avoiding the bad guys. Sounds easy enough - and the earlier stages definitely were - but the more you play the harder it gets.

There are two things I remember most about Q*Bert from my days of playing this classic...

He cussed. Well, he sorta cussed.

And the classic arcade coin-op versions of the game were outfitted with this device that would thump whenever you jumped off the pyramid.

"Following a suggestion from technician Rick Tighe, a pinball machine component was included to make a loud sound when a character falls off the pyramid. The sound is generated by an internal coil that hits the interior of a cabinet wall. Foam padding was added to the area of contact on the cabinet; the developers felt the softer sound better matched a fall rather than a loud knocking sound. The cost of installing foam, however, was too expensive and the padding was omitted."

Reading about Q*Bert is a fascinating lesson in the world of video game history, since the game holds a number of world records,  prestigious honors and interesting facts.

For example, the concept title was Snots and Boogers. Somebody on the team came up with the idea to name the character Hubert, and someone else suggested combining cubes and Hubert to come up with Cubert, which was later changed to Q*Bert.

The game has been referenced in South Park, Mad, Robot Chicken, Family Guy, Futurama, and The Simpsons. All of the characters were also featured in Wreck-It Ralph, a Disney movie from 2012.

Doris Self, credited by Guinness World Records as the "oldest competitive female gamer", set a record score for Q*bert in 1984 at the age of 58.

There were three main arcades I went to as a kid and Q-Bert was a popular game in all of them. But where I remember playing the game the most was at our local Wal-Mart. The way our old Wal-Mart was situated, you could walk in the entryway and there were several arcade machines as well as all the gumball machines and newspaper boxes. You had to enter another set of doors to enter the store. I remember Q*Bert was there, and so was Rush'n Attack and something else I don't remember. So, this was back in the days when parents let their kids ride in cars without seatbelts and we could play cops and robbers on the playground without getting expelled for making the likeness of a gun with our fingers. Anyway, my mom would go shopping at Wal-Mart and leave me out front with a couple quarters and I'd play Q*Bert and Rush'n Attack. I was never really good at Q*Bert, but I had a lot of fun with the game. For some reason, I always enjoyed jumping off the edge to hear the thump and seeing Q*Bert cuss.

Q*Bert definitely deserves to be included in 1,001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die. It is an iconic classic from the era of the arcade and is nearly as popular as the other greats like Pac Man and Donkey Kong. I've played it already. If you haven't, you should. 

As we continue this quest to play through all 1,001 video games, I peeked at next week's game and have to admit, I don't know if I've ever even heard of it. Should be interesting.

Hope to see you back here next week.



Previous Episodes:

Episode 1: 01 - 05 (here)

Episode 2: 06 - 10 (here)

Episode 3: 11 - 15 (here)

Episode 4: 16 - 20 (here)

Episode 5: 21 - 25 (here)

Episode 6: 26 - 30 (here)

Episode 7: 31 - 35 (here)

Episode 8: 36 - 40 (here)

Episode 41 (here)