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Q*Bert (Parker Brothers)

DoctorSpuds

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This is going to be a comparison piece between the three most popular console ports of Q*Bert from the second generation of game consoles. We will be comparing the Atari 2600, Mattel Intellivision, and Colecovision ports of Q*Bert. Despite all being the same game there are a hefty amount of differences between the three. But the outcome of this review is not certain. since all the versions have their own strengths and weaknesses. Let's start with the graphics.

 

Which console has the best looking Q*Bert?

In my opinion the Intellivision has the best looking Q*Bert, the sprite looks far less scary than the other two, I think mainly due to the fact that his eyes aren't massive voids from which no light or life may escape. While the Colecovision Q*Bert has more pixels and therefore looks smoother, it seems a bit squashed and a little off center, I would have preferred the extra life icon as the playable Q*Bert. The Atari Q*Bert looks like the extra life icon from the Colecovision version, and I'm fine with that since the Atari can barely manage with the rest of the game.

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Which console has the best play-field?

Colecovision.. Hands down, this looks the closest to the arcade out of the three, followed by the Intellivision, and then predictably the Atari. Every element of the arcade game is represented in the Colecovision version, including the interludes between levels, everything is also in the same place as the arcade version, which is a very nice touch. The Intellivision Q*Bert's play-field feels a bit squished, like everything is a bit narrower that it should be, but otherwise it's basically a more pixelated recreation of the Coleco port. Everything from the arcade port is represented in the Mattel version but not everything is in the same place, and not all of the text can be displayed. The Atari port looks very weak in comparison to the competition. Instead of having a darker color on the sides of the blocks to represent shadow like in the other versions, the Atari version opts to simply add some black lines to the sides to give the impression shadow. This works if you're standing twelve feet away from the 13 inch CRT TV and crossing your eyes,

otherwise it looks serviceable bordering on rather crappy.

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Which console has the best floating platforms?

Colecovision again, these cool floating circular platforms are represented spectacularly, even including the spiral in the center of the platform. The Intellivision also does rather well, the platforms are circular and have the four spinning colors like the arcade, but these lack the spiral in the center. Then there's the Atari... they're lines... The circular rainbow spinning platforms are just straight lines, thats it...

 

Winner: Colecovision...

 

On the subject of sound all the consoles put up a decent fight.

 

Which console does that classic jingle best?

I feel that the Itnellivision and Colecovision are on even playing fields when it comes to the opening jingle, both have a rich and harmonious sound that sounds very much like the arcade game. The Atari is off to a rocky start, playing only the final measure of the song and doing so with a rather high pitched beeping noise, it cannot compare at all to the others.

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Q*Berts Profanity?

Both the Atari and Intellivision have Q*Bert swearing like a sailor when he gets hit while the Colecovision goes with a rather disappointing hissing sound very much like a lo-fi cat. The Intellivision has the better swearing when compared to the Atari simply due to the fact that the programmers could fit more weirder sounds into the mix, whereas the Atari's swearing sounds more like a low grumbling rather than shouting.

 

General sounds?

I would have to say it's a toss up on this subject, they all have the proper sounds, and all are implemented as well as they can be (I'm lookin' at you Atari). Concessions will have to be made for the 2600, since it only has two channels for sound versus Coleco and Mattel's four (I'm including the noise generator), so not every action will have sound based on what's going on on-screen, at least that's what I noticed.

 

Winner: Intellivision...

 

Game-play... This is where the winner will be decided... Everything up to this point will be rendered irrelevant if the game doesn't play well.

 

Which game controls the best?

There is no other way of saying this but, both the Intellivision and Colecovision's controllers are crap... Especially when it comes to playing Q*Bert. In order to play these games you have to hold the controller at an angle, this is what ruins it for Coleco and Mattel, those controllers have to be held a specific way just so your hand doesn't cramp up when playing a normal game, but with Q*Bert its downright painful when playing for periods of time longer than ten minutes. The Atari shines in the control department, since you're using a square controller, it doesn't feel like your hands are being twisted in weird and awful ways, even a Sega Genesis controller feels alright like this, in fact I'd recommend using one for this game since it feels SO good. The Atari does have some negatives though... When it comes to enemy movement you kinda don't know where they're going until they're already there, the enemies have no fluid animation when jumping between platforms, you can often tell where they are going to jump to next by the direction their sprite is facing so it's not all bad.

 

Winner: Atari

 

The Atari emerges from this battle as the victor, not because it has the best graphics, or the best sounds, it wins because it's fun. I don't think the other versions are fun to play at all, they were too caught up in their "arcade quality" graphics to notice that their games don't have the "Arcade Quality" game-play they were so desperately trying to emulate. Skip the others and play Atari.

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Love the multi-system reviews! 

 

No need to review the 5200 version, as it has much the same controller problem as the -Vision consoles, plus the lack of self-centering.  But the Atari 400/800/XL/XE version may be worth a look... that was my go-to version back in the day.  Not quite as nice looking at the Colecovision version, but very playable.

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