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Ultimate Qix (Genesis) artwork

Ultimate Qix (Genesis) review

"Qix(ing) it up a notch"

The biggest problem with talking about Qix Adventure was that the most interesting thing about it was its atypical release schedule, appearing at retail in Japan and Europe only. Other than that, it took the Qix formula of cutting a screen up into pieces while assorted nasties tried to stop you, and applied a weak RPG-lite sheen that really didnít mesh. Ultimate Qix thumbs its nose at such nonsense. Right back on track with a much more commonplace release schedule (screw Europe; if it leaves Japan at all, NA ports only!) it does away with the idea of overly fancy gimmick-work and instead asks itself how it can improve the core aspects of Qix itself.

Itís not an overly hard overwork; Qix Classic was a simple game for a simple time. Bought into the arcade scene by Taito back in 1981, it had you draw lines on a grid where completing a shape would destroy that section of the screen. You then had to delete the majority of the grid to see off the level. Out to stop you were little spark creatures that travelled your lines which you had to be constantly on the move to avoid, and a larger enemy that would roam the grid. If it happened to stray into one of your lines as you were drawing it, it would spell game over.

Itís a foundation that Ultimate Qix doesnít stray far from, but instead tries to update. Released back to the arcades almost a decade after its initial release and then finding a home on a slew of the then-current home consoles (often under the name ďVolfiedĒ, its original title for the Japanese market) it uses the upgraded hardware to remake itself into more of a spectacle. The roaming enemy used to be a series of multi-coloured and seemingly random geometric shapes against a simple or just plain black background. But now, thereís varied backdrops and matching enemy sets. Now, thereís a theme!

Set in a universe ruled by angry aliens, itís your job to visit a hostile world and rescue a bunch of your people trapped somewhere beneath the planetís surface. This is a clever idea because it means that now, rather than slowly devouring chunks of a screen, youíre digging through different layers of the planet. Claim yourself a chunk of the backdrop and what you uncover underneath is actually a section of the next stage. As such, you might find a backdrop of the planetís craggy, crater-marked surface which might give way to the fossil-rich soil underneath or the molten lava innards buried right in the planetís core.

Wherever you dig, youíll find unique enemy sets waiting to try and stop you. Youíre chased around the surface by a huge robotic hand while giant scorpions roost beneath the top soil. Floating yellow snakes, weird fire-proof jellyfish and sneering skulls in spiky helmets are but a section of the bizarre creations who take issue with your rescue mission. The last Qix gameís most creative enemy was a series of different coloured lines. Ultimate Qixís decision to mix this up means thereís finally a real sense of progression attached to the series; the ever-changing backgrounds and the new enemies that guard them makes it feel like youíre not just tackling the same puzzle over and over again. Even though thatís completely what youíre doing.

Thereís other little bonuses like a power-up that freezes everything in place or offers limited special attacks to waste on the levelís big boss creature or the smaller scattering of hostile drones each brings to the fight. Get yourself on a good run (or employ the easiest of the three settings like some kind of cube-tracing coward) and you could probably see all Ultimate Qix has to offer in under an hour. But itíll probably take you several runs to get there and, even if thereís little more than cosmetic variety for the most part, the core gameplay is simple and refreshing enough to survive multiple attempts. It could have appealed to repeat players more with a two player option, or do more to save high scores for points chasers, but its choice not to reinvent the wheel is its saving grace. It could have gone the way of Qix Adventure, over-complicating the core design with nonsense it never needed. Instead, the commendable faith it shows its foundations make it a recommendable time waster.

Even if the entire in-game soundtrack is an awful chip-tuned siren effect that you'll learn to hate in seconds. I suppose that's why we have mute buttons.


EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (December 29, 2017)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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