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Video Game: Q*bert

Q*bert is a 1982 arcade game published by Gottlieb, created by Warren Davis and Jeff Lee. In Q*bert, the player maneuvers the eponymous character around an isometric pyramid-like structure of tri-colored cubes. Q*bert's purpose is to hop around the tops of these cubes, changing every square to a specific color (e.g., from blue to yellow).

The "changing the cube colors" idea came quite late in game development. Davis and Lee had implemented the pyramid level and enemies, but were unsure of what the Q*bert's goal would be. It was Ron Waxman, vice president of engineering at Gottlieb, who suggested having the cubes change color when the player landed on them.

Q*bert is harassed by an assortment of enemies. "Coily" the snake appears at the top of the pyramid inside a purple ball, bouncing toward the bottom of the screen. Once he hits the bottom row of cubes, the snake springs out from inside, hopping around in pursuit of the little orange hero. Red balls also appear at the top of the pyramid, bringing bouncing death if they collide with Q*bert on the way down.

Other threats come from "Ugg" and "Wrong-Way," a purple pig and gremlin team who bounce along the side of the cubes. Additionally, Q*bert has to deal with "Slick" and "Sam," two green creatures who turn cubes back to their original color when they hop on them. Q*bert can eliminate Slick or Sam by jumping onto them.

Aside from some strategic hopping, Q*bert's only defenses are the spinning discs at the side of the pyramid and the green balls that bounce across the squares. The discs provide a quick escape, floating Q*bert back to the top of the pyramid as Coily jumps to his death in pursuit. The green balls freeze the enemies, giving Q*bert a free run of the pyramid for a limited time.

Q*bert's use of sound was one of its most distinctive features. The game's sound board contained a Votrax speech synthesis chip, but according to David Thiel, who created the sounds for the game, the chip's output was so poor that some words were not understandable. In frustration, he programmed it to produce random phonemes, and discovered that the result sounded like an alien language. This randomized speech, played at different pitches, became the voices of Ugg, Wrongway, Slick, Sam, and Q*bert himself. Sometimes if you're lucky, you'll get a cuss word from random babble. The only actual word that remains is "Bye-bye" whenever you get a Game Over.

Dedicated upright cabinets for Q*bert contain a pinball "knocker" (a solenoid that creates a knocking sound) inside the cabinet whenever a character falls off the pyramid, simulating the sound a character might make if it actually fell to the bottom of the cabinet. In some units, this sound is created by a bean bag inside the case rigged to fall. This resulted in more of a "thud" than the distinctive "pop" created by the knocker-equipped cabinets.

Q*bert was one of the characters featured on Saturday Supercade. The game has a follow-up called Q*bert's Qubes and an unreleased sequel called Faster Harder More Challenging Q*bert, a case of In Which a Trope Is Described. A home sequel, Q*bert 3, was later released for Super NES. In 2012, Disney released Wreck-It Ralph which gave Q*bert a prominent role in the film.

Of the many, many home ports of Q*bert, the MSX and NES versions were developed by Konami. The MSX version, however, starred a different-looking Q*bert with a long tail instead of a long nose; its gameplay was based on Q*bert's Qubes, but it was perhaps more valued for the bonuses it gave to other Konami games when the cartridge was plugged into the second slot.

Legendary turntablist DJ Qbert got his name from this series.

Q*bert provides examples of:

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alternative title(s): Q Bert
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