It’s the horror of playing Q-bert Rebooted

80s video games will always get attention in my world, so I had to dip into Q-bert Rebooted, yet another update of the arcade classic. Not surprisingly, when you boot the game up, you can choose between the new version or the original.

Here’s the deal with Q-bert Rebooted. I began the game on PS4, then after getting frustrated with it, I moved over to PS3 for reasons I’ll explain below (when you buy the PS4 version, you get the PS3 version free), then moved back to the PS4 version and found there are actually different aspects to the game in each version. It’s possible that maybe there was an update for the PS4 version that changed things players were complaining about. Not sure.

Here’s a major point about the difference in the controls for both versions. On the PS4, you have to hold down the X button to jump, and on the PS3 you simply move the directional controls. Initially, this made me lean toward playing the PS3 version, because it didn’t seem to make any sense on the PS4. However, after playing both versions for a while, I discovered an advantage to the PS4 button-pushing method…

The huge problem with the controls ruins this game, not helped by the fact that now Q-bert can jump straight up and down on cubes within the pyramid as well as in the four standard angles.

The fluid rounding movement of the thumbstick doesn’t allow for precise up/down OR angled jumps. And the d-pad is a mess—trying to time hitting two directional buttons at once to jump at an angle is not the right design for the fast-paced play of classic arcade games. And honestly, there were times when I would press DOWN on the stick only to have Q-bert jump UP. And I wasn’t imagining it. I’ve seen others complain about the same exact issue—there should have been a patch fix for this.

After fighting with the game for a while and getting stuck at level 6, I began the game again on the PS3, not only so I didn’t have to press the X button each time I jumped, but also because I have an actual arcade joystick for PS3. Unfortunately, the precision is just as lacking. They simply don’t make joysticks like they used to in 1981 (aka: the Atari 2600 joystick). So…I continued on the PS3 with the regular controller.

You can mostly get by the first 5 levels without a problem, because even if your jump is read wrong by the controller, as long as you’re not on an edge of the pyramid, you’re basically safe even though you’ve jumped in an unintended direction. But once level 6 and beyond start chipping away at blocks and leaving tons of open spaces you have to maneuver around as the gameplay and enemies are getting faster, you don’t stand a chance.

Now, here’s what I discovered when I went back to the PS4 version. The advantage to having to press the X button to jump is…you can actually CHANGE the direction Q-bert is facing while you’re not holding the X button so you’re sure you are pointed the way you intend to go. While this demands a little more time and hinders your ability to move fast, it does often save you the frustration of going in the wrong direction, yet not even that much. Because once you point Q-bert in the right direction, you have to make sure that when you hit the X button, you hold the thumbstick or D-pad in the intended direction or you will end up jumping the wrong direction anyway. It happens less often than on the PS3 version, but it still happens. Even so, I fared much better on the PS4 version.

Okay. I think I’ve said everything I had to about the controls. Now onto the levels. Sadly, unlike the Q-bert remake from the PS1 days, this isn’t a journey through varying “worlds” with uniquely shaped boards. It is straight-up classic Q-bert pyramid boards over and over and over—approximately 120 boards by the time all is said and done.

Each level has three separate stages plus a bonus board that lets you collect gems (you simply don’t have enough time to ever get them all).

These gems can be used to buy other characters, however, doing so is pointless since they don’t have any different abilities to help you through harder levels.

On the PS3 version, you open each level up to level 6 just by playing all 3 stages of a level, but after that, you have to go back and replay levels to get gold stars on specific goals—as in, finishing stages within a certain amount of time. Very annoying. When I went back to playing the PS4 version and got past level 6, it turns out that wasn’t the case until much later stages, perhaps because it was easier to accomplish timed goals earlier in the game with better controls, allowing me to rack up the stars needed to open new levels.

Enemies are familiar—the red ball, the purple ball that turns into a bouncing snake you can get rid of by luring him off the board when you jump on a spinning rainbow disc, and the green guy with the spiky hair and sunglasses that turns blocks you’ve already changed back to the original color and can only be stopped if you stomp him out. In later levels, you are faced with the double whammy; you have to change each square TWICE to get to the desired color. Oh how I hated that complication back in the day. As in—I still do.

New enemies include a yellow guy (I’m not sure that he’s anything other than a regular enemy that kills you if you come in contact with him), and a POW guy with a huge bubble around him that knocks you over a few blocks (often right off the board). One time he actually bounced me onto the very last cube I needed to change to clear the board! He goes straight up and down, so you really have to work around him, and in higher levels there are more than one of him. I discovered that you can somehow get inside the bubble and move with it, but I can’t figure out how because it was an accident every time.

Ironically, as you reach higher levels, for a while it gets easier because the board becomes virtually square, so you have more places to run from the baddies. This is also the point when treasure chests start bouncing around the board, and you can grab them for more gems.

Next, the levels become “dimensional”. The outer frame of platforms is higher than those down within. This is about the best update to the whole dang game, actually making it feel like a modern “3D” game.

Eventually the amount of green guys gets out of control, especially when they just keep coming and you need to change squares twice AND there are other enemies on screen. Each level gives you 4 lives to clear all three boards, so it’s smart to try to manage how and when you die, because on harder boards you might want to sacrifice a life so that the board will just clear of too many enemies, allowing you to then quickly reset to the top with no enemies to finish the level easily!

Unfortunately, the very last few levels of the game become unbelievably hard—and by that I mean as soon as I reached the first such level and looked up how you could possibly beat it, everyone online was saying the levels are infuriating. I felt completely satisfied with calling it quits with only about 3 levels remaining. Not totally true—OCD will leave a nagging in the back of my head for the rest of my life knowing the game will be residing incomplete on my PS4. It’s a bummer, because although it’s not as good as the 3D journey remake from 20 years ago, it’s still always fun to play a new variation on Q-bert.

About Daniel

I am the author of the horror anthologies CLOSET MONSTERS: ZOMBIED OUT AND TALES OF GOTHROTICA and HORNY DEVILS, and the horror novels COMBUSTION and NO PLACE FOR LITTLE ONES. I am also the founder of BOYS, BEARS & SCARES, a facebook page for gay male horror fans! Check it out and like it at
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