Review by Retro

"Weird things can be good"

We remember certain things for years to come simply because of how weird the item or occurrence was. One example for me took place in the summer of '93, while I was twelve years old. Me and my dad took a trip to the beach like we did nearly every summer, and I just had it in my mind that I was going to bungee jump before I went home! And I did, twice. I look back on that now and wonder what the hell was wrong with me. I'll be richer than Bill Gates before I'd ever even ponder doing a such thing nowadays.

Qix is another good example. I had a friend named Cory that lived a few houses away back in 1991, and we'd visit each other's house nearly every day. He had a certain game called Qix that I happened to like a lot. It was so weird and different from any other game I'd ever played that it was fun. Fast forward twelve years to the current day and I'm now an adult that recently began to experience the wonders of online auctions. Even though I only remember playing Qix a few times, those older than a decade memories stuck with me. Needless to say, I now own the strange, weird, and odd game.

Just like you do when beginning a brand new job, you start at the bottom in Qix. Above you is nothing more than a perfectly square screen that serves as the drawing board, so to say. Your goal is to use your cursor that resembles a diamond to draw boxes all over the playing field. Let's say you're at the bottom/middle of the screen. Simply keep hold of the A button and move up a little and then to the right until you reach the right border (doing so with the B button makes you move a lot slower, but you'll get double the points). The smaller portion will be filled in immediately, adding to your point and percentage totals. You must keep doing this until you fill in ever how much percentage of the screen that it tells you to.

One of the statements that makes up the dreaded Murphy's Law is that ''nothing is as easy as it looks.'' Qix definitely proves this theory true. There are two major breeds of enemies to avoid while marking your territory. The game gets its name from the huge, swirling collection of lines that resembles a broken up tornado that's always flying around in the open areas of the playing field. This Qix doesn't like you, with your diamond that acts like a pencil by drawing straight lines all over the place. This is because the areas you fill in restrict the movement of the Qix, making it suffer even more from claustrophobia than usual. On top of this relentless, amazingly haunting creature, there are two or more bug-like creatures that make a living running along the borders of the screen, including the outermost lines that you sketch. Just one touch from any 'bug' will result in the loss of a precious life that you can't get back until you score at least 50,000 points.

A Qix can touch your diamond-shaped cursor all it wants to, but if it happens to make contact with the actual line that you're currently drawing, before you finish completing it, you'll shatter into bits, losing a life. The Qix tends to hang around you, seldom moving away far enough for you to make a brave move. And when it is a good distance away, you have to keep a sharp eye on it, because a Qix has the ability to change directions on a dime, and if it sees you drawing a line, it'll fly in straight for the kill. Don't expect to be able to fill in 50% of the screen at once very often. You're forced to take baby steps instead.

It doesn't take much playing time for you to have fear in your heart while playing Qix. The Qix is moving back and forth rapidly as if each segment of its body has a mean, unforgiving eye that is watching you. To your left and right, bugs are scooting in closer with each passing second. Playing Qix is like having a group of madmen with guns chasing you. You run into a dead end with nothing but a large lake in front of you. The bad guys are a good piece behind you, but they're still coming! You jump in and swim to a deep part so you'll be fully submerged, hidden from their views. Then you're as still as a statue. Hopefully, the potential murderers will pass by, sparing you your life. You stay underneath the water's surface as still as possible. If you move much, they'll see you and send bullets your way, but you know you can't stay under there forever without drowning.

Some video games, especially older ones, are simply too hard for their own good. Qix borders on being included in that class. To get your name engraved on the high scores list, you must score at least 50,000 points. That doesn't sound like much at all, but experiencing the tough gameplay of Qix will prove to you that it is a hefty amount for this game. While the bug adversaries never seem like too much of a problem, the Qix itself is much too smothering, right from the start. It's like a little brother that looks up to you, his older brother, following you everywhere and trying to emulate everything you do.

Just the other day, I finally passed level four for the first time ever, after playing the game pretty often for a couple of months (geez, took long enough). I was taken to a city screen with realistic-looking skyscrapers and a bunch of fireworks shooting up into the air and exploding in various directions as if they were taking a stretch. That was some great graphics, but as long as it took me to get that far, it sort of gave me the impression that the game was mocking me by saying, ''Wow, Jason! You FINALLY made it this far! You better take in the views because you won't see this again for a long time, if ever!'' I expected the enemies to speed up after that point, but I wasn't ready to witness what was about to happen after this gorgeous fireworks show. The enemies somehow mated in that short amount of time, because there were now twice as many bugs crawling around the screen, and not one, but two Qixes gliding around. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

I ended that particular game with 99006 points (unbelievable for me) and it showed a man wearing a sombrero as he played a ukulele. A vulture was sitting on top of a spiny cactus (ouch!) bobbing its head from side to side to the twangy little tune as a few mountains and cacti looked on from the background. I thought that was a nice change from the usual games that just stick a GAME OVER sign up there as if to taunt you. For some reason, I also get the feeling that there are perhaps other ending scenes if you achieve a high enough score, but I may never know.

Those in-between and ending screens have excellent graphics for an early 90's Game Boy cart, especially when compared to the mediocrity of the gameplay scenery. Everything about it looks plain. The playing field is just a playing field just like your diamond cursor appears to be just that and nothing more. Being a weather freak, the Qixes get extra points for looking like tornadoes that have the ability to mesh their segments together or to spread out, not unlike those popular spring toys that we call Slinkies. The enemies I've been calling ''bugs'' flail their legs in a lifelike fashion as if they're ants trying to make their way out of a droplet of water.

Qix continues its mediocre to above average streak with the sounds and music that it has to offer. Drawing lines is accompanied by a basic humming sound, and when a section is filled in, it just beeps once. Most of the other sound effects are pretty good, though. I especially like the sound of shattering crystals it makes when you lose a life, and the flying airplane effects that seem to fit perfectly as the one and only sound of the Qixes. I failed to mention that, from start to finish, a bar graph of sorts is always decreasing in size at the bottom of the screen. After so many of these graphs disappear, more bugs will come onto the screen, telling you you need to get a move on. That sound of more enemies popping onto the playing field's edges has a way of making your heart skip a beat every time you hear it.

I wanted to love Qix, I really did. In a way, I do, because there's no other game quite like it, and it's amazing how addictive it can become. It'll take awhile to achieve a score worthy enough to be put on the high scores list, but even after you get to where you can do that nearly every game, you just know that you can do even better. That's what I like most about Qix. But the harsh reality is that I don't enjoy the game as much as I did back when I wasn't even a teenager. I'm more than glad that I remembered its title long enough to track it down and call it my own, however, and I recommend for you to do the same.


Reviewer's Score: 6/10 | Originally Posted: 05/19/03, Updated 05/19/03


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