• Tag Archives VCS
  • Q*Bert (Atari 2600)


    Source: Video Games Player – August September 1983 – – Q*Bert (Atari 2600)

    While there can be no doubt that Q*bert is one of the great arcade classics and one of the most recognizable classic arcade characters, I always found it to be incredibly frustrating. Yes, it was a difficult game but it isn’t really the difficulty itself that really bothered me. It was the fact that I was always leaping to my death by accident because I never quite grasped the pseudo 3D viewpoint.

    For those that don’t know, in Q*bert you controlled…well, Q*bert…in his effort to escape various creatures and obstacles by leaping around a pyramid. Game play was fairly simple. You just jumped from square to square up or down the pyramid. The goal was to hop on each square to change its color. Once all squares were changed, you proceeded to the next level. Of course you had to avoid getting trapped by the various on-screen enemies. However, for me the view point always caused me issues. It seemed like I was always leaping to my own death by accident. As the levels progressed, things got harder. You would have to jump on each square multiple times, enemies would move faster and there would be more of them, etc.

    Q*bert was first released to the arcades in 1982. Ports to various systems started appearing the following year. While this add is targeted towards the Atari 2600 version (and mentions the upcoming Intellivison version), there were a wide variety of systems this game was ultimately available for. Because of the limited nature of the Atari 2600, it really isn’t one of the better ports. The graphics were actually ok for that system but the pyramid was smaller and there were fewer enemies. The controls also suffered (and I already hated the controls anyway).

    If you are looking for an original copy of the Atari 2600 version then they are relatively common and can be had for a reasonable price. You can always use emulation too. However, if you really want to play Q*bert you are better off using MAME to emulate the arcade version or checking out the more recent release Q*bert Rebooted which was released for various modern systems in 2015 and includes a port of the original arcade game.

    The ad above is from the August/September 1983 issue of Video Games Player magazine. Screen shots are from the Atari 2600 version of the game.

  • Surround (Atari 2600)

    Cliff Spohn art for the Atari 2600 game “Surround,“ 1977.

    Surround, released in 1977, was one of the first games for the Atari 2600 (Atari VCS at the time). It was one of the nine launch titles for that system and comes from an era before there was any 3rd party development for that platform. This was a fairly simple game in which you moved a block around the screen leaving a trail behind you. The goal was to make the 2nd player (a real person or the computer) run into this line.

    While a very simple game, several game variations and somewhat addictive game play make this a pretty good early Atari 2600 game, at least in terms of fun if not in terms of graphics and sound. It would go on to inspire many similar games in later years (Serpentine for the Commodore 64 was one of my favorites). This game also had a “graffiti” mode in which you could simple draw on the screen. Other game variations include various speeds, diagonal movement, the ability to wrap around the screen, etc.

    Finding re-releases of the original is pretty easy as it has been included in a number of compilations and in downloadable form for some game consoles. It is also included on various Atari Flashback units. If you prefer an original cartridge, those are also pretty easy to come by and aren’t too expensive. As one of the original releases and a pretty fun game, especially with a friend, this is probably one you should have in your Atari 2600 collection.

    The image at the top is the artwork used on the box, manual and label for the game. As you can see, quite a bit of imagination was used. The game graphics are just a tad simpler as seen in the screenshots above.