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A World of Games: Qbert’s Qubes

I’m not going to lie: I did not know there were any sequels to the game Qbert. The original game has become an iconic arcade game that sits up there with heavy hitters Pac-Man, Galaga, Space Invaders, and Joust as one of retro gaming biggest names. With all that in mind, I never really stopped to consider how obvious it must have been in the early 80s to follow-up the success of Qbert with a sequel.

Enter Qbert’s Qubes, another arcade action puzzle game that has you jumping in an isometric view to turn cubes to a correct corresponding color. However this time the then-futuristic idea of 3D space was taken even further over the original game, adding the titular cubes (“Qubes” in this case) to the jumping mix. Rather than jump on a spot and change the color, you now must jump on a cube to rotate it to a correct side of corresponding colors to match a requisite goal. Think maybe matching a Rubik’s Cube side, but in a pyramid-like structure reminiscent of Qbert’s original game.

It’s kind of hard to explain, but once you start playing it the gameplay becomes apparent. And then it becomes freaking hard. Early stages allow for simple 2-color matching of the cubes, but later stages add even more colors to the cubes, making it that much more challenging to get your matching colors correct. I could routinely make it to the stages where three colors were needed, but couldn’t ever get past them. Enemies would either block my path and knock me out, or I’d start getting too confused by the colors I’ve already been on and accidentally change a cube when I didn’t need too. I appreciated the challenge, but wow was I bad at it! And apparently it can get even harder, with up to six colors being on a cube, oh my gosh!

As with the original game’s cabinet, Qbert’s Qubes also has a busy arcade cabinet. The bright reds and other colors help make it stand out against other games out there. The controller overlay in particular stands out, as it once again shows the non-cardinal direction inputs, and the enemies you can expect to encounter. It’s also arguably more confusing than the first game, as the enemy and point totals don’t follow a standard pattern display, and are instead sort of haphazardly thrown on there with arrows pointing to the enemies themselves. It’s a stylistic choice for sure, and one that looks much more artistic than necessarily user friendly. I like it though! It’s a game, and it’s meant to be fun. This display is illicit fun. What’s not to love?

Qubes released right on the cusp of the video game crash of 1983, and as such didn’t see many successful home ports. As far as I know, it also hasn’t received any modern ports either, not showing up in best of or arcade compilations at all. With that in mind, the only place you might be able to actually play the game legitimately would be in an arcade that has a dedicated cabinet. Considering how many people don’t even know this game existed (kind of like me), you’re going to be hard pressed to actually find one out there. But when you do, be sure to give it a few quarters.


Played at Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfield, IL 2019


I've been writing about video games for years and playing them even longer. You'll find me playing all types of games, old and new. Mega Man III is greater than Mega Man II.