Poor Q*bert deserves a return to glory. One of the first gaming icons born of the 1980s arcade boom, the sprightly (if somewhat profane) orange orb with legs and a comically large nose has spent many years out of the spotlight. Unfortunately, Q*bert: Rebooted will not swing him back toward acclaim. The game would have been merely a shallow, imperfect straight-from-mobile port, but the lousy controls, inconsistent graphics and animation, and exhausting tedium do more to damage Q*bert's reputation than anything the march of time could have possibly achieved.
Swapping cubes for hexagonal shapes, Q*bert: Rebooted allows for some variety of movement, made painful thanks to horrid controls. With the hexagons, Q*bert allows you to traverse beyond the classic diagonal steps for both horizontal and vertical progression across a 3D board. But the controls are incredibly slippery, which makes it difficult to judge if holding right on the analogue stick will move you right or right-up or even right-down.
That is, if you're able to move in the attempted direction at all. In far too many cases, the game moved in the complete opposite direction to which I held the analogue stick. This issue, combined with the already squirrely controls, resulted in many needless deaths as Q*bert leapt onto nearby enemies or off into the surrounding abyss. The controls also make it impossible to move using the DualShock's directional pad, as you must press the required directional buttons at exactly the same time or the game will only read the first input. It is feasible to get somewhat used to moving with the analogue stick over time. But even after hours of play, I still found myself accidently sending old Q*bert off into the void, eating lives, and causing me to shout far more colorful things than "@!#?@!"
Q*bert: Rebooted still follows the classic formula with some changes, though the design shows its age, even more so now that it is blended with tired mobile-game trappings. Completing levels is just the same as ever. As Q*bert, you start from the top of a small handful of boards ranging from a large pyramid to a rectangle. Hopping on the hexagons changes their color, and completion comes once every platform's color has been altered. Levels are broken up into three stages (which changes up enemy placement) and capped off by a bonus round where you collect gems. The premise, however, while nostalgic, hasn't matured all too well. It's fairly straightforward, and after spending several hours hopping around the same stages and dodging the same enemies, things begin to taper off into boredom. It also doesn't help that the game requires you to complete objectives and earn stars in order to unlock a gate barring off the next group of levels, not unlike in mobile games such as Candy Crush Saga. Completing a level awards you with one star, but to earn two of the available three you must also finish a time trial and play it once more to collect a fixed amount of points. There are only five stage designs dispersed among 40 levels. And to complete the game, you will need to replay the same stages dozens of times to unlock more levels that also look the same. There is no attempt at variety; it just gets so tiring.
Lousy controls, inconsistent graphics and animation, and exhausting tedium do more to damage Q*bert's reputation than anything the march of time could have possibly achieved.
Q*bert: Rebooted comes with some extra content, but not a whole lot. The game includes Q*bert classic, if you're pining for a trip down memory lane, or if you're curious to gaze upon the 30-plus-year-old relic. But again, those controls, those awful controls, swiftly prevent you from enjoying the game for long. It's especially bad since Q*bert classic only allows for diagonal controls, and it's usually up in the air whether or not the game will read the correct inputs--in fact, it's even worse in some ways. Gems collected in the Rebooted portion of the game can be exchanged for skins. These are strictly aesthetic changes, so don't expect the Q*zard skin to bring any needed magic to the fold. You can also unlock Q*nicorn, who leaves a trailing rainbow in his wake, or the Terminator-inspired Q*1000. Just note that some of the skins come with their own special audio, so you may want to choose your skin with care. The Q*1000, for example, sounds like slapping pieces of metal at every hop, while Q*knight is more akin to the sound of someone kicking a metal trashcan down a long flight of tall stairs.
Not surprisingly, the game has other issues. Most levels are not all that challenging to complete, yet there is the occasional difficulty spike that pops up from nowhere just to make sure you're still paying attention. Some graphics, such as words, are heavily pixelated, and there is one starry background that doesn't quite stretch all the way across a wide screen. All of the above stand as constant reminders to Rebooted's origin as a mobile game. The animation for Q*bert is surprisingly smooth, however, but that degree of care isn't shared among his enemies. Coily the snake is easily the worst, as his barely passable animation makes it hard to tell if he's getting ready to jump or just wiggle a bit. Levels near the end of the game also get incredibly difficult, especially thanks to one new enemy, Uppercut, a giant boxing glove that bops you away if you get too close. The problem was that I could never figure out what direction it would send me, though most of the time it just knocked me out of the level. One such level finally took too much, and after nearly 20 attempts, I gave up. I was done. Oh, have I mentioned the music? It's bad. And it loops. I ended up muting the game after a few hours.
Not every great video game icon should get a reboot, but I feel that Q*bert is one of few who has earned a second chance. So a game like Q*bert: Rebooted, which takes a tepid approach to the need to take risks in order to refresh a classic formula, saddens me. Even if the game featured stable controls, the overall package is still mediocre at best. But with the bad controls, compounded by lackadaisical graphics and boring gameplay, Q*bert: Rebooted never had the potential to shine anyway. Q*bert, old friend, you deserve better.