The Many Faces of . . . Is Back
By Alan Hewston

By popular request, we're bringing back "Many Faces of . . .".

Original author Doug Saxon went to Europe last Summer and then began his Senior year of college. At that time, Doug did not mind if I did a few while he was gone, but I never got around to it, and Tom suggested that we wait. After a year, hopefully Doug does not mind me picking up where he left off, and will give me his blessing to continue.

One significant enhancement I'll add is a review selected 8 bit home computer platforms of each game.

These ARE classic gaming platforms, and I know some of you collect and play them - even if they exist on a floppy disk format. Many good ports can be found on the Commodore 64 & Atari 8 bit computers. There are also many ports on the Vic 20, but don't expect too many medals there. Due to a lack of cartridges for the Apple home computers, and not much fan base for the TI, I will not cover these platforms. Well, mostly because I do not have these platforms, and probably never will.

I'm adding a scoring system, 1 through 10 points, added up for each of 5 categories. The categories will be: Gameplay, Addictiveness, Graphics, Sound and Controls; as used by our fearless leader in RT issue 30 "Video Game Challenge". A score of "1" is for a complete dud, and a "10" makes it as good as the arcade (when applicable). I plan to include only the final score for each platform. I currently have listed 100+ potential "Many Faces" candidates, the platforms and a place for each score setup on a spreadsheet, which if Tom likes can be at home on the Tomorrow's Heroes site.

I'm also adding a self explanatory line called "Have Nots".

Bah Humbug. Intellivision fans will not rejoice at this column, since most games in that library are unique, to that platform or hard to find. Likewise the Vectrex, Odyssey 2 and Bally Astrocade will get almost no coverage.

Finally, unless I find/trade for several R or ER carts that I do not have, I'll be holding back on some reviews. I'm also hoping to get a CV multi-cart, and see also below for my desire to find more Atari 8 bit games. I hope that you still enjoy this series, and if successful, we have enough games to review for another 8-10 years. Now, on with the show . . .

The Many Faces of . . . Q*bert
After trading with original author Doug Saxon for the Odyssey 2 version, I am now able to review all but the Atari 8 bit version - which despite finding over 70 8-bit Atari carts, this one has eluded me.

Platforms: Atari 8bit, 2600, 5200, Bally Astrocade, CV, C64, O2 and Vic 20.

Categories: Gameplay, Addictiveness, Graphics, Sound & Controls

Q*bert, is definitely a well loved game, with versions (or clones) on nearly every gaming platform know to man. My wife's favorites are the NES and SNES. The Gameplay is really varied on this home classic - from the Atari 2600 version where the red balls are only there when set to "A" difficulty, to the C64 and CV versions which have most of the features covered. One of the strengths of Q*bert is the way the Gameplay progresses and becomes more and challenging, with levels and rounds. After avoiding Coily and just about to stomp the final block to the target color, out pops one of those green guys and the madness starts all over again. Then there are the rounds where every jump changes the color and you are lucky to survive.

Fortunately, all of the home versions are Addictive, have decent Gameplay, and gradually get harder and harder, to keep you coming back for more. The Graphics varied significantly from the O2, which were very poor, but functional, to the very crisp and clear C64. A couple versions even provide the between-levels tune and demo. The Sound took a backseat on the home platforms. I know that I really do want to hear every jump that Q*bert, and the bad guys chasing him, make. Since you cannot look everywhere to see UGH and THUGH (sic) coming (out from the bottom corners), hearing is believing.

Have Nots: Odyssey 2(19), Intellivision(26), Vic 20(31), Atari 5200(31), Atari 8-bit(34)

All of these are acceptable games, and are very playable relative to their systems. The Odyssey 2 Q*bert is probably one of the best 5 games on that platform, but not here. In fact, a good "Why is it that" only the good games for the Odyssey have more than one life.

I was depressed that the O2 version did not have more responsive Controls. Not surprisingly, the Controls for the Intellivision and 5200 are a problem. I even used 2 different Intellivision joystick inserts, and a 5200 Wico controller. The 5200 version requires you to push the button for every jump - yech! Maybe there is a 5200 keypad button for each jump direction, and I missed it. A perfect Controls score could have earned the 5200 a medal but not anyone else. What - No Gold for the 5200 version? Those who know Doug will doubt that he'll like my review.

Bronze Medal: Atari 2600 (34)

This version lacks some of the bad guys, so it gets a low Gameplay score. Actually, switching it to "A" difficulty will add in the red balls, but not UGH and THUGH. Overall a very playable port, and adequate in every way. Without having the cart, I am assuming that the superior Atari 8-bit (having no controller problems) would have easily outscored the 2600 for the Bronze, but not too much higher.

Silver Medal: Colecovision (40)
Coming in a close 2nd, this version has nothing to be ashamed of.  Someone else could give the CV platform the gold medal.  It has the most bells and whistles, and the best Gameplay and Controls were better for the C64.

Gold Medal: Commodore 64 (43)
This port is outstanding.  The controls are perfect, not surprising for such a simple game like Q*Bert.  The Gameplay is close enough to the arcade, and the Sound and Graphics are great. It is also the most challenging platform to play on.

 

Come back next time when I plan to review Commando.

Alan Hewston is hoping to start collecting Atari 8 bit floppy disk games, which should help in this column.

He has plenty of backup Commodore 64 game disks to trade, for your Atari games. Despite lacking a huge collection, this column will be helped by the existence of multi-carts. Gotta get me a CV one soon.

Alan can be reached at Hewston95@stratos.net.

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