Ocean Software‘s 1983 release, Pogo, is arguably the best Q*Bert clone on the ZX Spectrum. And there were a lot of Q*Bert clones around at the time.
It was one of the very first Spectrum games I ever bought and it kept teenage me occupied for a few days, before I eventually grew tired of it.
Pogo is definitely better-programmed than Pi-Balled, Automata‘s competitor Q*Bert clone. The main character actually jumps between squares, rather than instantly moving onto one. The spinning discs actually spin, and everything moves around on the screen smoothly. Use of colour is also good, and colour clash is a kept to a minimum. The sprites do flicker and break up a little, though.
Pogo is much faster and more difficult than Pi-Balled too. The snake appears more often and chases you down quicker. On earlier levels that is not a problem as you can deal with it by using the spinning discs to return to the top of the pyramid and trick the snake into jumping to its doom. On later levels there are fewer discs, and the fact that the squares need more than one visit to make them the right colour makes dodging the snake very difficult.
Like Pi-Balled, Pogo supports the Currah Microspeech to provide barely intelligible synthesised speech. In Pogo the speech is at least a bit more varied and interesting than in Pi-Balled. The snake says “slither, slither!“, “no escape Pogo!” or “I am your friend, Pogo” as it chases you, and cries “oh nooo!” if you lure it off the edge by jumping on a spinning disc. You also get a warning when the snake is about to enter the screen, which comes in form of speech saying “Beware Pogo!“. When you earn an extra life it says “New lifefff” (the extra ‘f’s there are to indicate that it seems to stick on the ‘f’ as it says it), or when you only have one life left it says “last lifefff, Pogo“. Pogo is a game that does at least make good use of the Microspeech, and what speech there is is fairly easy to understand (there are still a couple of bits that I can’t quite tell what it’s saying, though).
At the end of the day: Pogo – just like Pi-Balled, and every other Q*Bert clone available, on any system – is limited in longevity. You can only play the game so much, before you either get bored, or hit a wall with the difficulty. It’s still a fun game to play in short bursts, though.