Few companies in the 1980s had as many really fantastic arcade games as Taito, most of which have been reimagined in 2008 and 2009. Qix++ takes the original gameplay and adds power-ups and bonuses galore, which changes it from a race against death to a high score challenge. Sadly, there are only two suites of levels, and it's $10 for them-- and the additional two are paid DLC.
$10 (800 MS points)
Qix++ has extremely simple gameplay. You've got this little dot, and you draw, and you need to fill up a chunk of the screen. It's basically a one-button-plus-pad funfest. It's also astonishingly easy to plow through, we finished the game's two missions in about 20 minutes. The point is that you go back and replay them for crazy bonuses and high scores-- and we did-- repeatedly-- but it is a wee bit short for the asking price. If you're playing to win rather than to score bonuses, this is an astonishingly simple title. When you try getting 95% of the screen full, that's where it gets tough.
There are a number of power-ups and bonuses, some of which last through the entire gameplay session while others expire in seconds, You can shrink or destroy your enemies, freeze time, and so on while the level is going. When you finish a level, you're granted ability points and can raise your speed, your draw speed, your shields, or your luck. Yes, luck. The game is ambivalent as to what this actually does but supposedly hints at it affecting points.
In the game, there's a big moving object called the Qix which takes the form of lines, dots, a virus-type thing, and a butterfly, to name a few. It grows, rotates, flips, and shifts around in order to hit the lines you're drawing and gum you up. If you've played any original version of the game, you basically know what to expect-- the premise is largely unchanged.
Graphics & Sound
Like Pac-Man Championship Edition and its ilk, the game has an arcadey look and feel with a lot of neon and special effects. There's a lot going on, without being too distracting. Subtle details include the background behind the Qix becoming distorted, and lots of color-changing when time "runs out." Time does not actually run out, but they're trying to get you to move along.
Stages, Multiplayer, and Achievements
The game has two "Sections" with 8 stages each. These are fairly straightforward, and as long as you don't drop dead-- which your shields will help with-- you'll finish quickly. The game is much more forgiving, allowing you to go back over your own lines, so it seems the developers went out of their way to make it very accessible, but in doing so, defanged Qix into a more cuddly, easy-to-finish clone of its former glory.
The game has onine support from the vendor, but it was a little tricky finding someone to play with-- the matching system seemed to assign us to the gamer next to the one we selected on the menu. The head-to-head (up to 4) gameplay is a race to fill up the screen, but the "winner" is the one that makes the last move. So no matter who actually fills up the most screen or gets the most points, he who moves last, wins. (Or so was the case on the few games we got in.) But it was a lot of fun, if I can convince my friends to buy this I'd probably spend a lot of time playing it with them. I really do like it that much.
We scored six achievements with almost no difficulty over the course of the first afternoon, for 80 gamerscore points. 40 of the points are dedicated to online multiplayer-- good luck-- and others are for excellence, such as maxing out the abilities on the customization screen or hitting 2 or 3 million points. We got close, but not close enough.
Is it worth buying?
I've been going back and forth on this one and delayed the review so I could really get my hooks into it, and even though the single-player experience is incredibly short, this is one of those awesome little games like Snake (in several ways) that demands to be replayed. If I had a few minutes over the past few weeks, I'd boot up the Xbox 360 and play this-- and because of the achievements concerning high scores, it's a blast to keep replaying in about 10 minutes per sitting to give it a try. Think of it like Pac-Man Championship Edition, but with Qix. It's tons of fun, the only real downer is that there are only two sets of levels packaged with the game and the extras are DLC-- which sucks.
So if you like to run for high scores, or like replaying levels just to see how much better you can do, this is one of the most rewarding experiences of 2009. At first I felt it was totally overpriced, but I wrote the review, stepped away, and kept going back to play it again and again and again. To me, that's the highest sign of a quality product-- I really can't get enough of it.
December 29, 2009