back to article Q*bert: The Escher-inspired platform puzzler from 1982

Given the choice, which 80s videogame star would you choose to have a friendly seasonal pint and chin-wag with? Pacman’s obviously got a personality defect, Mario’s breath probably stinks, and that bloke from Jet Set Willy is no doubt a pervert. But Q*bert? Well he’s one interesting individual – full of mumbled swear-word …

  1. Haku
    Thumb Up

    Mobile version? Yes, I have a very mobile version:

  2. boltar Silver badge

    There was a lot of originality back then

    Happily we're seeing a lot of originality in homebrew smartphone games. Unlike in the PC and console gaming arena which seem to be stuck in a 90s timewarp with endless tedious FPS type games. Doom has a lot to answer for.

    On a side note and this might sound odd - but I really like it when you open up a machine and there is a circuit board that looks huge and complex and impressive (just like that Q*bert machine in the video), even if its just a load of TTL chips some memory and a Z80. These days most circuit boards - in anything frankly - are a visual disappointment - usually a couple of lonely surface mounted chips, some resistors and thats about it.

    1. Kurt 5

      Re: There was a lot of originality back then

      Q*Bert actually used a 8086 for the game and a 6502 to control the sound. Definitely a big board

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: There was a lot of originality back then

        Another note about that 6502. It was doing nearly all the sound work. There wasn't a dedicated sound chip in Gottlieb/Mylstar's games. They simply hooked the 6502 to a DAC and let it have at it. The only thing that wasn't generated by the 6502 was the voices created by the Votrax SC-01 speech chip. BTW, I call it a bit of comical sound genius to direct the SC-01 to play random phonemes as needed to produce unintelligible speech. About the only time the SC-01 plays a predetermined sound is for death screams when Q*Bert or Coily fell off the pyramid.

    2. Oninoshiko

      Re: There was a lot of originality back then

      I think much of the originality that seems to be gone now, comes from the constraints about what you couldn't do. Now things seem so limitless, you can do anything so (relatively) easily we don't have the limitations that help us define the game. I really thing a large part of creativity is those limitation, seeing what we can do within them, seeing what we can do to hide them.

      1. DaneB
        Thumb Up

        Re: There was a lot of originality back then

        Spot on! The golden age of video games was exactly because of the limitations.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    aaah, yet another video gate that I sucked at

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Tom 13

    Yes, this was one of my favorites.

    I never got to level 9. I think 6 was my max.

    Quite right about rotating the joystick. It just doesn't play the same if it isn't in the arcade box. Which was even more true for Missile Command and Robotron.

    1. DaneB

      Re: Yes, this was one of my favorites.

      Joystick rotated was an ingenious little touch. Makes me think of all those other little controller ideas the arcades did so well.

  5. John Brown (no body) Silver badge


    I don't think I even knew it was an arcade game. I can't remember ever seeing one. My only memory of Q'Bert was on a BBC computer and struggling to get the hang of the cursor keys pointing in the wrong directions :-)

  6. YouStupidBoy


    Remember playing this back in ye olde MSX days. I believe it was named "Humphrey".

    Ah, memories.

    Merry Christmas and a happy, safe new year to all Reg staff and commenters. May your pagers not go off tomorrow as you're tucking into turkey.

  7. Alan W. Rateliff, II
    Paris Hilton

    Home conversions

    I played the ever-loving crap out of the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64 versions, both done very well, especially considering the comparative short-comings of the Atari 2600. I only just recently got my hands on the TI-99/4A conversion and I am very impressed.

    Good stuff, and the youngers seem to enjoy at, as well.

  8. CJ_in_AZ

    I'd still like to find a copy of the 70's game "RudeTrek" which was, ahem, a "salty" version of the StarTrek game.

  9. John Gamble


    "As an emerging programmer, Warren Davis used the project to practise code routines like randomness, producing balls that would bounce down from the top of each pyramid unpredictably."

    Which on an 8086 was quite an accomplishment. Creating pseudo-random number generators that weren't awful was an art form back then, and to do it on an 8086 took quite a bit of skill.

  10. DaneB
    Thumb Up

    Incredible game... can't believe it was as early as 1982. Good choice el reg!

  11. DaneB

    Q*Bert Lockets

    He's still a missed opportunity for a cold remedy advert though!

  12. FeRDNYC

    Ahh, Q*Bert, gaming's first lovable curmudgeon

    Of all the iconic characters that emerged in the early days of video gaming, I probably have the greatest fondness for Q*Bert. I think I just found him the most relatable. Growing up in New York City, it was easy for me to identify with this squat, dumpy, mammoth-schnozzed dude, doggedly trying to just make it up/down some freakin' stairs, already! And then swearing like a longshoreman at the endless parade of obstacles life keeps flinging in his path. He's kind of a walking—er, hopping—digital stereotype, really.

    Shame about the inevitable Saturday Morning Cartoon incarnation, though. Even by the incredibly low standards of the era and the genre, that show was supremely awful. I imagine the real Q*Bert would've had some choice words for its writers. Well... six choice phonemes, actually.

  13. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Up

    "a well-practised player...

    "could continue ad infinitum on just one credit..."

    Yep! With just a pound (10 pence a game!) I could waste spend a whole afternoon playing on Q*Bert and the vertically scrolling shoot-em-up game Xevious :-)

    1. Unicornpiss Silver badge

      Re: "a well-practised player...

      Ahh, Xevious. Another game I loved that when I tell people about it, they never heard of it, even people my age. I think the best I did was getting past the 3rd mothership. The graphics were outstanding for the time too. I still enjoy it on MAME.

  14. DaneB

    Only a programmer that also makes minor appearances in House could make a Bert like this. :) We need more like him.

  15. Robert Baker

    I have fond memories of two Q*Bert clones for the Speccy — Pi-Balled (by Automata of course, as you probably gathered from the title) and Pogo which IIRC was by Ocean. The Spectrum's low colour resolution meant that a 100% faithful conversion wasn't possible (Slick and Sam couldn't be rendered green, for a start), but those two were pretty close; Pogo in particular was the only Speccy version I saw which had Ugg and Wrong-Way.

    Talking of Pogo, I think Ocean was a label of Electronic Arts, either from the start or by acquisition; I wonder if that game gave its name to EA's Pogo online games service?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cloned gaming. Another fact of the past. Now outlawed by high-stakes game publishing. Pretty amazing how things have changed.

  17. Blitterbug

    He reflowed sudder along the connections?

    Did I hear that right? Or was it 'Sodder'? I can't tell due to the accent, but I must confess I've never personally 'suddered' any circuitry - I'm not sure what would happen!

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