Thursday, August 8, 2013

"Q-bert", Atari 2600, 1983.

If I'm not going to write on a regular business, I can at least troll for readers by covering popular and "canonical", if you will, games that will draw traffic to the blog. Games you might remember playing, or at least are darned sure you've heard the names of before. This brings us back to Q*bert, arguably the best game (sorry, WinAdv) ever set against an MC Escher backdrop.


No one ever said it was going to be easy hopping the irresistible Q*bert(tm) from cube to cube and staying out of harm's way. Especially when he's trying to avoid creeps like Coily and Ugg.

But, there are times Q*bert can't escape. And just like in the popular arcade game, he doesn't take it quietly. Q*bert mutters a few choice words, puts his nose to the grindstone and comes back for more.

You'll grow so attached to Q*bert, you won't want to stop playing. He's one little character who's good to the last hop.

Now you can have the new Q*bert video game cartridge in your home, too.

For your Atari 2600 Video Computer System(tm) and the Sears Video Arcade(tm). Coming soon for Intellivision(r).

1983 was a bad year for video gaming, but some memorable characters still emerged from the crash. The slogan offered here presents a nod to a perhaps ideal arcade gaming situation, where skill could get a player far and deliver much enjoyment. Not Easy + Fun represents an enviable spot on the plane of video gaming satisfaction: Not Fun fails the player regardless of the difficulty, and Easy + Fun grows boring quickly.

The ad copy looks like a marketing man watched someone play the game, and then tried to present the salient elements of it: Q*bert hops; the environment in which he hops is filled with cubes; this environment is populated with opponents; here are their names; when they defeat Q*bert, an expletive is simulated.

Despite the somewhat uninspired text of the ad, there's a splendid * white face / red nose quality to the game, with the player trying to set a system in order and numerous chaotic opponents busy undoing all their hard work -- or actively antagonizing the player's agent of change. Despite all this, the basic rules of the game as sufficiently straightforward that the whole thing can be played, albeit very slowly, as a board game. No, I'm serious: I own the Q*bert board game and that's what it is.

Thank goodness Parker Brothers got out of the video game business when it did, or we might have seen a painful '90s re-interpretation of Q*bert, drinking deep from the same edgy well as Duke Nukem, wearing shades (depriving Slick of the very thing that gave him his name?) and sharing genuine digitized invective when things went sideways.