Lost In Translation/Q*bert

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This page is a stub for arcade games that are part of the Lost In Translation series using information based on MAME (version 0.113u2).
For an example of preferred content and layout please refer to Out Run or The Ninja Warriors.

Q*bert marquee.
No screen shot.
Q*bert control panel.
Manufacturer Gottlieb
Released 1982
4-way Joystick
Main CPU 8088 (@ 5.000 MHz)
M6502 (@ 894.886 kHz)
Sound CPU Mono
Raster (Vertical)
256 x 240 pixels
61.00 Hz
16 Palette colours
Screens 1
ROM Info 11 ROMs
69,632 bytes (68.00 KiB)
MAME ID qbert · myqbert · qberta · qbertjp · qberttst · qbtrktst

About The Game

Q*bert is an arcade video platform game.

The object of the Q*bert game is to change the colour of the top of the cubes to the Destination colour indicated at the upper-left of the screen (below Player 1's score) by hopping onto them. When all the cubes in the pyramid have been changed to the destination colour, the screen will advance to the next Round, with the player-controlled Q*bert character starting back on the top cube. At the beginning of each Level, there will be a short demonstration cycle with Q*bert hopping around four cubes to explain to the player the play action of each Level. Each Level consists of four Rounds. The current Level number and Round number is displayed at the upper-right of the screen (below Player 2's score in a 2-player game).

The game play starts with Q*bert appearing at the top of the pyramid. The joystick will move Q*bert from cube to cube by hopping in any of four diagonal directions. Q*bert can move anywhere on the pyramid, but jumping off will kill him. Hopping on the rotating disk will take Q*bert back to the top of the pyramid. In the first two Rounds of play, Q*bert will have to avoid touching the red and purple balls. These deadly objects drop randomly onto the second-from-the-top level and bounce downwards. The red balls will fall off the bottom but the purple ball will stop at the bottom and hatch into Coily, the snake which chases Q*bert. To destroy Coily, lure him to the edge, then jump unto a disk. The disk will take Q*bert back to the top and Coily will fall off, awarding 500 points and clearing the board of all other 'nasty' characters.

Starting at the 3rd Round of play, other 'nasty' characters come into play. The green characters or objects are safe to hop onto and will award points. All other 'nasty' characters are deadly to touch. In the third Round the red balls will stop falling, but two purple characters named Ugg and Wrong Way will appear at the lower portion of the pyramid and travel sideways and upwards (Ugg is the one with the snout moving from right to left on the right sides of the cubes, and Wrong Way is the one with the big eyes moving from left to right on the left sides of the cubes). They will not chase Q*bert, but will move randomly to get in Q*bert's way. In the third Round and every Round after, based on an internal timer, a green ball will appear and bounce down from the top of the pyramid. Hopping Q*bert onto the green ball will award 100 points, and freeze all the characters on the screen for a few seconds, but 'Q*bert' will still be able to move to complete the colour changes.

During the 4th Round of play, 2 green characters named Slick and Sam will appear, based on the internal timer (Slick is the one wearing shades; Sam does not wear shades, otherwise their function is identical). They will drop onto the second level from the top and hop randomly downwards. If they hop onto a cube that Q*bert has already changed the colour of, the cube will change to a different colour, to thwart Q*Bert. Hopping Q*Bert onto Slick or Sam will stop them and award 300 points.

Throughout the remaining Rounds, all the characters and objects will appear in random combinations with increasing speed.

To add variety to the game, the disks will change positions every Round, and in the higher Levels the number of disks will change.

During Level 2, the play action will increase in difficulty from changing the cubes to one colour, to changing the colour of the cubes twice. This mean: that each cube would have to be hopped on twice to change the pyramid to the destination colour, completing the Round.

Starting at Level 3 and for all remaining Rounds, and Levels, the play action will become more difficult. The object remains to change the cubes to the designated colour, but if Q*Bert hops on any cube, that cube will change colour. So even if the cube has already been changed to the Destination colour, it will change again.

Here is a run-down of how all the colours change :

Legend :

S - Starting Color
I - Intermediate Color
D - Destination color
Level 1
When Q*bert jumps on S or I, it changes to D. When he jumps on D, it stays at D (NOTE : In Round 4, when Slick/Sam jumps on D, it changes to I).
Level 2
When Q*bert jumps on S, it changes to I. When he jumps on I, it changes to D. When he jumps on D, it stays at D.
Level 3
When Q*bert jumps on S, it changes to D. When he jumps on D, it changes back to S. Q*bert must start again.
Level 4
When Q*bert jumps on S, it changes to I. When he jumps on I, it changes to D. When he jumps on D, it changes back to I. Q*bert must start again.
Level 5
When Q*bert jumps on S, it changes to I. When he jumps on I, it changes to D. When he jumps on D, it changes back to S. Q*bert must start again.
Levels 6-9
Same colour pattern as Level 5. The difference is the increased speed of Q*bert and the 'nasty' characters.

There are also Bonus points awarded at the end of each Round for successfully completing the Round. The Bonus for the completion of the First Round is 1,000 points. This Bonus will progressively increase each Round by 250 points to a maximum of 5,000 points at Level 5.


Released in October 1982.

Licensed to Konami for Japanese distribution (February 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 colour 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 Q*bert saying '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 soft drink, but it was never released to the market.

As well as being a huge commercial success as a game, Q*bert also provided revenue from its many tie-in products. Toys, games, and other products bearing the hero’s likeness all sold well. There was even a Q*bert cartoon; Saturday Supercade was a CBS cartoon series which featured a number of different segments starring various video game characters. In addition to the characters from the game, the Q*Bert segment featured Q*tee (Q*bert's girlfriend), Q*bit (his little brother), and others.

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 board-game based on this video game (same name) in 1983 : Object of the game is to be one of the 'NOSER ELITE' by removing more pegs from the pyramid than your opponent (Peg plugged into cube = Starting color; Peg removed from cube = Destination color).

One player takes on the role of the hero, Q*bert, who must make his way around the pyramid trying to remove as many pegs as he can. A second player controls the 'nasty' characters out to thwart Q*bert.


  • Changing a cube to the Intermediate colour : 15 points.
  • Changing a cube to the Destination colour : 25 points.
  • Catching Slick/Sam : 300 points.
  • Luring Coily off pyramid : 500 points bonus.
  • Completing a round : 750 points + 250 points x round number.
  • End of round bonus : 50 points per teleport disc remaining.

Tips and tricks

Control Panel Instructions

Goal : Change the tops of all cubes to a new colour by hopping onto them.

Joystick moves 'Q*bert' from cube to cube. Hopping onto a disk will take you back to the top.

All green objects are safe to hit. All other objects are deadly.

Destroy the snake by leading him to the edge, then jumping on a disk.

Stay on pyramid! Only jump off to use a disk.

  • A big part of the game is waiting to see where 'nasty' characters are going to jump. You need to make sure you always time a jump at the same time the 'nasty' characters 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
Warren Davis
Video Graphics By
Jeff Lee
Programmed By
Warren Davis
Cabinet Graphics By
Terry Doerzaph
Audio By
David Thiel

Cabinet and Artwork


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)
Nintendo Game Boy Color (2000)
Sega Dreamcast (2000)
Atari 800 (1983)
Commodore VIC-20 (1983)
Commodore C64 (1983)
Commodore C64 (198?, "Hexpert")
Tandy Color Computer (1983, "Cuber")
Tandy Color Computer (1983, "Cubix")
Sinclair ZX-Spectrum (1983, 'POGO' - Ocean)
Texas Instruments TI-99/4A (1984)
BBC B ("R*THER" 1984 - Acornsoft)
Memotech MTX 512 (1985, "Qogo")
Tandy Color Computer 3 (1987, "Pyramix")
Commodore Amiga (1992, 'Q.Bic' - CodeMasters)
PC [MS Windows, CD-ROM] (1999)
Apple Macintosh (2001)
VFD handheld game (1983, Parker Brothers)

Soundtrack Releases

Album Name Catalogue No. Released Publisher Comments
Arcade Ambiance 1983 N/A[1] 2003-01-01 Andy Hofle Digital download only.

External Links


The contents of this page are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
The sources used include MAME (version 0.113u2) and history.dat (revision 1.28 - 2008-10-18).
Please see http://www.arcade-history.com for credits.