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Qix++ (Xbox 360) artwork

Qix++ (Xbox 360) review


"These changes at first seem to provide some welcome depth to the experience, but they come at a cost: instead of allowing you to play through an endless mode—which would have been a nice challenge and would have felt true to its arcade roots—the game now replenishes your stock of ships with each new stage and switches to a credits sequence once you finish the eighth zone. Then you can complete a second batch of eight stages. Once you've done that, you're done with the single-player mode unless you feel like going back to obtain a better score."



Everything that's old is new again. Qix, an arcade title dating back to 1981, is about as old as video game franchises get. That doesn't mean that it deserves to be buried and forgotten, though, so Taito has revived the classic experience and is offering it to a fresh audience. The update boasts new power-ups, a multi-player mode and improved enemy AI, but is that really enough?

The Qix games have always been rather uncomplicated. You're asked to move a triangular spaceship across a blank canvas that presumably represents the universe. As you venture inward, you can draw boxes that clear portions of the canvas. The entire time, you'll need to avoid colliding with moving hazards that occupy the same space. Your goal is to clear most of the canvas, trapping your main nemesis in the remaining space. When you've cleared enough of the canvas, you're awarded points depending on how little of the canvas remains in place. Then you advance to the next stage.

For Qix++ on Xbox Live Arcade, the developers didn't modify the core formula a whole lot. They simply added new enemies and attack patterns, then threw in an upgrade system that allows players to enhance their spaceship in four categories so that they can more easily survive showdowns with the new bosses. These changes at first seem to provide some welcome depth to the experience, but they come at a cost: instead of allowing you to play through an endless mode--which would have been a nice challenge and would have felt true to its arcade roots--the game now replenishes your stock of ships with each new stage and switches to a credits sequence once you finish the eighth zone. Then you can complete a second batch of eight stages. Once you've done that, you're done with the single-player mode unless you feel like going back to obtain a better score. It all feels decidedly brief. That issue will someday be alleviated by downloadable content (a fact made clear by a link from the title screen), but there's no additional content available just yet and it's hard to say how much it will cost when it finally does arrive.

The short campaign irritates, but at least Qix++ retains enough of the franchise's addictive qualities that you'll want to keep playing after the credits roll. There's a strong compulsion to see just how high you can score while completing a finite number of stages. Of course, the online leaderboards already are filled with scores that seem impossible to top. Someone has already managed to clear all eight stages with a combined total of better than 790 percent, for example.

For those who don't particularly care what some guy on the Internet has accomplished, the included Achievements also do a satisfactory job of challenging your inner Qix fanatic. If you want to best every included challenge, you'll need to play through eight consecutive stages while clearing 90% or more of the field (harder than it sounds, though coming close is rather easy). You'll also need to kick butt in ranked matches.

Those ranked matches were a neat idea, but they serve as one of the game's problems for the simple reason that they're so difficult to find. Competitive players must be busy with Modern Warfare 2 or something. The online component loses its luster when no one else is playing. Ranked lobbies are frequently non-existent and even the Player lobbies feel more like ghost towns than the thriving community that you'd likely expect. That's a shame, because multi-player Qix had some definite potential. It still does, actually, but only if you can find some local buddies.

Assuming that you do manage to find and join a good match, the first thing you'll notice as you begin playing is that things jerk around a lot. Up to four players compete for the highest score as they work together to clear a given map. Each player starts from a separate corner of the rectangular canvas and everyone moves simultaneously. When one player marks off a portion of the canvas, the action halts briefly for everyone. Then it resumes until the next such occurrence, which is likely only a second or two away. With four people playing, there can be times when progress feels painfully slow as you find yourself starting and stopping more often than a garbage truck on recycle day. Sometimes you'll start to wonder if you're even in control. That's particularly true if you get stuck in a space that one of the competing players has claimed. When that happens, you'll be unceremoniously dumped onto a new portion of the canvas that hasn't yet been eliminated, which can be disorienting on the more hectic maps. It's interesting but definitely not for everybody.

Unfortunately, the same could easily be said about the entire Qix++ experience. If you're a franchise veteran, odds are good that you'll be able to play through every single-player level and unlock most of the Achievements over the course of an hour or two. Then you'll be left wondering why the package cost you 800 Microsoft Points as you stare at a link that at some point in the future will likely offer you the chance to invest even more virtual currency to play through another handful of stages. Unless you have money to burn, wait for the price drop. You know one has to be coming...

Rating: 5/10

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Staff review by Jason Venter (December 12, 2009)

Jason Venter founded HonestGamers in 1998, and since then has written hundreds of reviews as the site's editor-in-chief. He also is a prolific freelancer with game reviews, articles and fiction available around the Internet.

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aschultz posted December 14, 2009:

I was just playing the original Qix on the arcade and saw quickly 1) how lousy it was and 2) how it seemed to beg for expansion. I remember an Apple version that veered between splitting 2 Qix (for a bigger multiplier) and having 1 Qix--while the Arcade just had 2 for levels 9+.

The 99% per level seems ridiculous--I'd assume the maximum is 792% as the game seems to round down how much you have--but I suspect it points to finding ways to trap the Qix in one of several small chambers so that it can't actually move around. That's probably the most amusing part to read about, though.

Disappointing they couldn't have found more ways to spruce up Qix as it really does seem to have potential.

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