Windows Wastelands: Q-Bob

Growing up, pretty much… let’s call it 40 percent, as a general estimate. of my gaming entertainment came from shareware. Shareware, for those of you youngins’ who don’t cling quite as desperately to the past like I do, was generally ware. That you share. Hence the name. More specifically, it was generally a demo version of a game that generally only had a small part of it avaiable, or might have had some extra features removed. However, you were free to share this cut-down version with as many people as you liked. Once you coughed up the cash, you would hopefully get the full, complete version of the game. That part, you weren’t supposed to share. A lot of times, this concept worked pretty well!

Doom, seen here being better than Alien Breed 3D.

Doom, seen here being better than Alien Breed 3D.

Other times… not quite as much.

Super Angelo, seen here more than likely fleeing in terror from Nintendo's lawyers.

Super Angelo, seen here more than likely fleeing in terror from Nintendo’s lawyers.

Point is, growing up, I played a lot of shareware games of all types and sorts. Problem is, I tended to forget most of them 15 or so years later. Except one. See, there was this specific game that had popped into my head one day. I remembered it pretty clearly, including the following details. – It was a Q-Bert clone, and a fairly decent one was Q-Bert clones go. – The main character was an astronaut in space. – The game had a goofy/snarky/weird sense of humor. – Most strikingly, the game had a surprisingly violent death animation. I could remember it down to the sprite, but I couldn’t remember the name! It took me forever, but thanks to some time searching The Internet Archive’s fantastic software collection project, I had finally found my game.

Why this game, of all the games, was I so desperately trying to find it?

Why this game, of all the games, was I so desperately trying to find it?

First off, I’d like to say that yes, I am running Windows 3.1, but it’s through DOSBox. I’d also like to give one huge thank you to The Fifth Horseman from the Abandonia forums, because he’s made a fantastic pre-made setup for Windows 3.1. I could never get this game running without his help, and if you have any interest in playing anything on Windows 3.1, you’ll want to grab this for yourself. That said, let’s crank this bad boy up.

I didn't think asteroids stacked like that, and I bet you didn't, either. Now you know!

I didn’t think asteroids stacked like that, and I bet you didn’t, either. Now you know!

Like I said, this is basically Q-Bert, so if you’ve played that, you should be all set here. If you’re some kind of weirdo who hasn’t played Q-Bert, let’s check out what the help file has to say.

Remember when those old .hlp files were a thing in games? No? ...Well, I still do.

Remember when those old .hlp files were a thing in games? No? …Well, I still do.

That’s pretty much the whole game in a nutshell, really. The big differences from Q-Bert are the fact that you have to escape to your rocket after coloring all the cubes, and the fact that, like most games that try to modernize all games like this, they’ve thrown in all sorts of powerups. Oh, and when you die?

The thing on his left is a badly-cropped '3', if you were curious.

The thing on his left is a badly-cropped ‘3’, if you were curious.

Pretty tame, right? Well, it is if you have the ‘Violence’ option in the menu bar ticked off, as this is all you see before you respawn. If you don’t, well…

It doesn't end well.

It doesn’t end well.

Ah, there’s that surprisingly gory death animation that had plagued my memories. I’m a little concerned that I remembered this so well, honestly.

Nice sneakers.

Nice sneakers.

This here is the less than creatively named UFO, who will be filling in for Coily the Snake today. Just like Coily, you can use the pads on either side of the pyramid to trick him into leaping into the unforgiving depths of deep space. Keep in mind, however, that you actually have to hit the ‘action’ button to activate the telepads, because Moonrock Software are jerks like that. Failure to remember this leads to… well, you know by now.

Once you color all the cubes and hit the Big Red Button (which, yes, is always capitalized exactly so), you’ve got ten seconds to get to your rocket. Regardless if you do or don’t, you’ll go to the next level. If you want your cranial structure and your number of lives intact, however, you’ll get to that rocket.

Either way, you'll still get to see the best explosions a clipart CD can buy.

Either way, you’ll still get to see the best explosions a clipart CD can buy.

Q-Bob always looks really nervous about something. I guess there's a reason for that, but still.

Q-Bob always looks really nervous about something. I guess there’s a reason for that, but still.

Here’s what the game looks like once you get to the higher levels. That jerk on the top of the pyramid is Agent Rosewell Coverup. Hey, I’m just reading from the help file, if you have a better name for him, you tell me. Basically, he goes around and changes the colors of the squares you hop on, meaning you have to go jump on them again. You can, however, jump into him to kill him with no ill effect to Q-Bob, and you’ll generally want to stop what you’re doing and get straight to the agent when he shows up. On the bright side, that thing under Q-Bob is a shield, which will help him avoid being murdered by aliens for a short period of time.

Well, this game is just as bloody as Mortal Kombat, so...

Well, this game is just as bloody as Mortal Kombat, so…

Sometimes, when you start a level, Q-Bob jumps in dressed like Reptile and says something like this. If he ever actually gives actual advice to this game, I haven’t seen it. Well, I guess that accounts for the ‘goofy sense of humor’.

And that’s basically the whole game. It’s pretty well-done as far as Q-Bert clones go, and it’s just different enough that it’s still kind of its own thing. If you can find it and get it running through Windows 3.1, somehow, I’d recommend playing it for the whole six levels the demo will last you.

Oh, by the way, if you want to see what the game looks like for yourself, check out this handy video I made!

MORE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!

MORE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!

Ah, Moonrock Software, I wish I could! I enjoyed your game and I’d like to play more of it, but it’s been a little less than two decades, so surely your site couldn’t still be onli —

Guys. Guys. I need 10 bucks. For research.

Guys. Guys. I need 10 bucks. For research.

Yes, it seems like these people still somehow exist. I have no idea what you’d get if you actually gave them $10 bucks, or if your money would just get swallowed into the ether for nothing. But I’ll tell you right now, I’m very, very, tempted to find out.

I think I can see why there's only one email to the 'Game Guru'.

I think I can see why there’s only one email to the ‘Game Guru’.

Not the most flattening self-portrait, I have to admit. Sorry if you have to squint to read the text, by the way. But, yeah, Moonrock Software still exists. I think. If they do, they’ve been perenially trapped in the year 1996, and they’ve never released any other games besides Q-Bob. Still, that’s one game from my childhood I’m glad I can close the book on.

…But you know, there was this one word game I’d really like to remember the name of…

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