Q*bert

Q*Bert

Q*Bert

Qurious.

Gottlieb certainly weren't prolific videogame developers. In fact, it could easily be argued it was a one hit wonder: but what a hit! Q*Bert put his developer firmly on the videogame map for all eternity to see, and although his antics would only really be expanded by way of home system conversions, his well-earned renown places him in the same pantheon as Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and... Horace (on account of them both looking so weird).

It would have been easy for greenhorn Gottlieb to simplify the production of Q*Bert and reduce their programming workload. The concept is blindingly simple, yet the extravagance of the game's visual (and, considering it was 1982, audio) design camouflaged the minimalism of distinctly austere gameplay. Of course, that's not to say simplistic gameplay is a bad thing, but Gottlieb evidently understood that it doesn't hurt to make even the most uncomplicated games look great.

The most significant aspect of this overly-conscientious design has to be Q*Bert himself. An eponymous, surreal, modernistic character, our horn-nosed hero leaps from square to square on the isometric, pyramidal playing field changing the colour of the block he lands on. Change the colour of the entire map, and it's onto the next level. Avoiding a host of equally unusual enemies as they patrol the pyramid (although the triangular shape of the map quickly changes to any number of cube-based architectures) and trying not to hop over the edge into oblivion are 'Bert's only worries.

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Q*Bert

Q*Bert

Hop, skip and a jump.

Having bought most of the games available for download on the PlayStation Store, I'm struck by the ambition Sony has shown, along with the strong sense of innovation, experimentation and value.

The quality level is somewhat variable, but you can't help but get the sense that many of PlayStation 3's downloadable offerings are doing their best to push boundaries and go the extra mile in their own way - just as Bizarre Creations' Geometry Wars did at the debut of the Xbox Live Marketplace. Unfortunately, Q*Bert is somewhat akin to the stagnant depths that Microsoft's games-on-demand content is capable of plunging to, only worse.

At its most basic level, Q*Bert is a direct translation of the quarter-century-old Gottlieb arcade machine, re-coded for PlayStation3, and given an extremely basic 1080p (!) high-definition facelift. The gameplay itself is identical to the original coin-op - you take control of the eponymous Q*Bert, your aim being to leap around the isometric-3D pyramid, changing the colour of each square until the entire structure is resplendent in its shiny new paintjob. Standing in your way are bouncing balls, creepy-crawlies and Q*Bert's arch-nemesis - Coily the Snake - who relentlessly pursues our long-snouted hero all the way to his ultimate destruction.

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Sony's bringing Q*bert back, for some reason, with a downloadable PlayStation 3 version of the '80s arcade game due to hit the PS3 Store next Thursday.