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Q*Bert's Qubes (Arcade) artwork

Q*Bert's Qubes (Arcade) review

"Q*Bert's Qubes(QQ) certainly has a niche market--people who figured how to tread water in the toughest levels of Q*Bert. It's the arcade equivalent of a Rubik's Cube, and it's certainly one every action puzzler fan should see, even if it isn't much to look at. "

Q*Bert's Qubes(QQ) certainly has a niche market--people who figured how to tread water in the toughest levels of Q*Bert. It's the arcade equivalent of a Rubik's Cube, and it's certainly one every action puzzler fan should see, even if it isn't much to look at.

Instead of coloring a pyramid of tiles, your little big-nosed ball with legs hops diagonally around a five-by-five diamond of cubes. How he jumps off a cube determines how it spins. The four possible directions are like the ways you can roll a die over to another edge. Once a cube matches a pattern in the upper right, it goes clear, and you can't change it--well, for the first few levels. Enough rows and diagonals of clear cubes win the current board. The cubes, unfortunately, flash once you get five in a row, and it's terribly distracting when there's enough to do already. It's not even colorful.

This gets in the way of the neat logic. I spent the first game trying to place the top square of the cube--you can see three at once--and work on the others. But it's pretty quickly clear that it's better to get a side color right, then hop back and forth perpendicular to it. This isn't bad in the early levels, when you have two- or three-color cubes and may even get things right by accident. Later on, with a six-color cube, memorizing which colors are opposite each other helps. Cube orientations at the board's start, and how you need to change them, varies with each board. This ruins any hope for an easy pattern.

Of course, during all this, enemies drop to the second row and jump down the diamond. Some will sink into a cube if they are the same color as the top face, but there are also little green balls with legs, equivalents of Sam and Slick from the original, who turn cubes over as they move. Yes, they can undo your work. Coily exists, too, dropping to the bottom square. You can't jump on discs to get rid of him, so instead you have to jump from your cube just before he lands. Monsters get annoying since they jump at different rates, and often you'll just get stuck due to when they decide to jump.

The game doesn't need to do this. Even the apparent brute force solution of hopping back and forth from one cube at a time is disrupted by the constant flow of enemies. Later boards in a level have no blank cubes to start. This isn't bad when you need just one or two rows and can defend the bottom, but three?

It also makes things downright impossible on level six. That's where you can undo cubes you already finished. I've gotten good at the first few levels, but six leaves me confused and helpless. It's the most amazing jump in difficulty I've seen, and it's not due to enemies getting too fast or whatever. It's due to a rule that I could probably defeat if I had the desire, but at some point, I just want to play a neat game. Even the bonus level feels dry and drippy. Q*Bert gets bonus time based on how quickly he solves a few boards. During that time he gets to sit on cubes and flip them for more points. Too often I wind up with the minimum time anyway, so it feels more like a waste of time than a break.

QQ has some nice touches. It lets you start at a later level, which is necessary, as once you've solved level four, one feels trivial. You can even jump off the board to complete a level--usually it'd kill you, but the suicide jump is great fun when enemies would otherwise kill you. They're all a bit too abstract, though, and the old lovable, pseudo-swearing Q*Bert is replaced by someone much quieter. So are the enemies. I really miss the racket of enemies bouncing around. It's not nearly as much of a distraction as the damn cubes flashing when you're close.

aschultz's avatar
Community review by aschultz (November 13, 2010)

Andrew Schultz used to write a lot of reviews and game guides but made the transition to writing games a while back. He still comes back, wiser and more forgiving of design errors, to write about games he loved, or appreciates more, now.

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