Poor, poor Q*bert. As an icon of the arcade era of video games, it’s a shame that his legacy as a member of subsequent generations is shaky at best. Sure, he’s not the only one — you could make the case that other arcade characters have had it pretty bad as well — but while nostalgia has ensured that guys like Pac-Man at least land in a title as good as Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS, poor Q*bert only gets to be the cute comic relief in another one of Adam Sandler’s disastrous star vehicles. Given that the timing of Q*bert Rebooted’s release on PlayStation consoles seemed to dovetail conveniently with that film’s debut last year, I wasn’t exactly filled with hope at its prospects on any console. And, unfortunately, I was right: even the slightly-improved Q*bert Rebooted: The Xbox One @!#?@! Edition can’t help but feel like a cheap mobile cash-in meant to capitalize on the character’s cameos.
As always, the objective in this new version of Q*bert is to change all the tiles on an isometric grid to the required color by having our long-snouted little hero step on them. At first, you merely need to hop in the right direction, but you’re soon beset by other obstacles as well: monsters that can kill you, irritating creatures that bounce along and turn the tiles back to their original color and some gimmicks with the tiles themselves (such as tiles that need to be hopped on twice or ones that revert if stepped on again). Of course, the grids change shape as you move up through the various levels as well. As one of the main gameplay improvements to this mode, there’s now an indicator that tells you which tile you’ll be jumping to before you hit the button — obviously meant to address criticisms over the analog stick’s rather confusing orientation in the original game.
This may be lighthearted fun for a little while, of course, but it’s pretty shallow when you get right down to it. Q*bert Rebooted honestly feels like it was tailor-made for mobile devices as a time-waster — there’s flat-out not enough here to keep anyone interested for more than a few minutes at best. For one thing, the level design doesn’t really evolve past its starting point. I kept waiting for some really devious enemies or complex grids to be thrown in, but the game just sort of flatlines through its 30+ stages.
Weirder yet, the difficulty actually seems to incur a significant decrease midway through, introducing levels that are much easier than ones at the beginning of the game. Perhaps most egregiously, there are still some problems with the gameplay not addressed since its first console release. Chief among these is the fact that the angle at which the grids are viewed makes it very hard to judge the depth of field, which also makes it difficult to judge where you’re jumping (sometimes the indicator is obscured by other tiles). Since the game requires you to pick a spot and hop to it fairly quickly, this can make later levels an extreme annoyance.
If there’s anything that makes Q*bert Rebooted feel definitively like a mobile port, though, it’s the uninspired art style and clunky graphics. They’re functional, but that’s just about all you can say for them — these models are pretty plain and simplistic, with little visual flair. Would it have been that hard to include some nice, flashy effects to make the game a bit more pleasant on the eyes? I doubt it, just as much as I doubt the designers’ ability to create uglier and lamer “secret” characters. These abominations can be unlocked using the gems you collect across the campaign, and they’re a pretty sorry bunch of skin-swaps: highlights include the Q-1000, which costs a whopping 1000 gems and slaps a lazy “metal” texture on Q*bert, and Q*zard, who is a version of Q*bert that’s a wizard. Get it? At the very least, I found the new soundtrack — full of cheerful, bouncy EDM tunes courtesy of “superstar” EnV (i.e. a fairly little-known composer from New Hampshire) — a massive improvement over the original.
For what it’s worth, Q*bert Rebooted also includes the original arcade game, but this version has mangled controls that make it almost impossible to enjoy. To put it bluntly, they just feel broken; after fighting with the analog stick for what seemed like forever, attempting to figure out just how to get Q*bert to go in the right direction, I quit the classic mode without having cleared the first level. It’s a miserable experience.
On the whole, Q*bert Rebooted: The Xbox One @!#?@! Edition doesn’t have enough improvements to make this newer version of last year’s game worth it. The new soundtrack is a great listen, sure, and the tile indicator makes it easier to jump where you want to go, but this is still a fairly ugly and boring way to revisit an old friend. Q*bert really deserves better after being subjected to Pixels.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
Q*bert Rebooted's Xbox One version is marginally better than the original game - particularly when it comes to the new EDM soundtrack - but it still feels like a cheap mobile title meant to cash in on Q*bert's appearance in "Pixels."