Catalogue of Arcade Emulation Software - the Absolute Reference

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Mello Yello Q*bert

Q*bert (c) 10/1982 Gottlieb.

The player takes control of Q*bert - a two-legged large-nosed orange creature - in this abstract platform game from Gottlieb. The object of Q*bert is to jump around a forced-perspective, M.C. Escher-esque pyramid - landing on every block in order to change its colour. On certain levels, blocks must be jumped on several times before they are changed to that level's target level (as shown in the upper left-hand corner of the screen). Obstructing Q*bert in his task are a variety of enemies, such as 'Coily the Snake', 'Ugg and Wrong Way' (who can also bounce UP the pyramid as well as down) and 'Slick and Sam'. Unlike Namco's Pac-Man, Q*bert has no power-ups to speak of, and contact with the game's enemies must be avoided at all times. There are, however, emergency escape routes in the form of spinning discs that, when jumped on, transport the player to the top of the pyramid. There is also a freeze ball which appears occasionally, catching this will freeze all enemies for a short time. Q*bert has nine levels, consisting of four rounds each.


Game ID : GV-103

Main CPU : I8086 (@ 5 Mhz)

Sound CPU : M6502 (@ 894.886 Khz)

Sound Chips : DAC, Votrax SC-01

Screen orientation : Vertical

Video resolution : 240 x 256 pixels

Screen refresh : 61.00 Hz

Palette colors : 16

Players: 2

Control : 4-way joystick (diagonal)


Licensed to Konami for Japanese distribution (02/1983).

Inspired by artwork by M.C. Escher who was an artist that Jeff admired. Ron Waxman came up with the idea of Q*bert changing the color of the cubes. Q*bert's name originated by the combination of 'Cube' and 'Hubert', but the 'Cube-Bert' was changed to 'Q-bert' to make it more unique. The concept game was called 'Snots and Boogers' and then '@!#?@!' (which many of the programmers and Gottlieb VPs said would be impossible to get anyone to say) before the final version was called just 'Q*bert'. Slick and Sam were a play on the phrase 'spick and span' with Sam being named after co-worker Sam Russo. Rick Tighe came up with the idea of adding the pinball hardware which generated the very mechanical KA-CHUNK when Q*bert falls off the pyramid.

A Votrax SC-01 speech synthesis chip is used to generate the incoherent speech of Q*bert swearing, Slick and Sam (high pitch) and Wrong Way and Ugg (low pitch). The only true speech ever generated is 'Hello, I'm turned on' when the game is first powered up and 'Bye Bye' after entering your initials at the end of a game.

Approximately 30,000 units were produced by Gottlieb.

Several early cabinets were produced with @!#?@! on the marquee.

Bob Gerhardt holds the official records for this game in 'Marathon' setting with 33,273,520 points on 11/28/1983.

Tom Gault holds the official records for this game in 'Tournament' setting with 1,895,565 points.

A slightly different version known as 'Mello Yello' was programmed for promotion of the Mellow-Yellow softdrink, but it was never released to the market.

Such was the character's popularity at this time that Gottlieb assigned pinball designer, John Trudeau (Creature From the Black Lagoon, Congo), to devise a Q*Bert pinball. It was called "Q*Bert's Quest" and Trudeau created an innovative design pattern that should have sparked arcade goers to try it. Remarkably, the table was a commercial flop. Released in March 1983, a paltry 884 machines dribbled out of the plant and further convinced management that pinball was indeed experiencing desperate times.

A Q*Bert unit appears in the 1983 movie 'Koyaanisqatsi - Life out of Balance'.

Parker Brothers released a boardgame based on this videogame (same name) in 1983 : Object of the game is to be one of the 'NOSER ELITE' by collecting more pegs than your opponent. One player takes on the role of the hero, Q*bert, who must make his way around the pyramid trying to get as many pegs as he can. A second player controls the 'nasty' characters out to thwart Q*Bert.


Changing a cube to intermediate color : 15 points.

Changing a cube to destination color : 25 points.

Catching Slick/Sam : 300 points.

Killing the snake : 500 points bonus.

Completing a level : 750 points + 250 points x level number.

End of level bonus : 50 points per teleport disc remaining.


* A big part of the game is waiting to see where creatures are going to jump. You need to make sure you always time a jump at the same time the creatures jump, so you can always have a clear path to a new square.

* Since the game only has 9 levels, if you can master level 9 then you should be able to play indefinitely since level 9 repeats once you reach it and the game doesn't get any harder.


1. Q*bert (1982)

2. Q*bert's Qubes (1983)

3. Q*bert 3 (1993, Nintendo Super Famicom)


Designed by : Jeff Lee

Programmed by : Warren Davis

Cabinet graphics by : Terry Doerzaph

Audio by : David Thiel


* Consoles :

Sega SG-1000 (1982)

Colecovision (1983)

Mattel Intellivision (1983)

G7000 Videopac

Atari 2600 (1983)

Atari 5200 (1983)

Atari XEGS

Magnavox Odyssey 2 (1983, "Q*bert", Parker Brothers)

Nintendo Famicom (1989)

Nintendo Game Boy (1992) : Japanese release only.

Sony PlayStation (1999) : features 'Classic', 'Adventure', and 'Head-To-Head' variations with updated 3D graphics.

Nintendo Game Boy Color (2000)

Sega Dreamcast (2000) : features 'Classic', 'Adventure', and 'Head-To-Head' variations with updated 3D graphics.

* Computers :

Atari 800 (1983)

Commodore VIC-20 (1983)

Commodore C64 (1983)

Commodore C64 (198?, "Hexpert")

Tandy Color Computer (1983, "Cuber")

Tandy Color Computer (1983, "Cubix")

Texas Instruments TI-99/4A (1984)

BBC B ("R*THER" 1984 - Acornsoft)

Memotech MTX 512 (1985, "Qogo")

Tandy Color Computer 3 (1987, "Pyramix")

PC [MS Windows, CD-ROM] (1999) : features 'Classic', 'Adventure', and 'Head-To-Head' variations with updated 3-D graphics.

Apple Macintosh (2001) : features 'Classic', 'Adventure', and 'Head-To-Head' variations with updated 3-D graphics.

* Others :

VFD handheld game (1983) released by Parker Brothers : Excellent conversion!