Taito is a name in videogame history that’s the equivalent of natural history’s great oak trees. Not that the company is ageing, wallowing in the breeze, waiting to be chopped down and used for firewood, just that they’ve been around for enough decades to know what makes a good game. Qix is an arcade classic, a title that appeared as a 10p muncher way back in 1981, a twitch game that certainly provided plenty of pocket money fun.
Qix++ is a reworking of this very simple concept, much in the vein of other Tatio properties you may have heard of; Space Invaders and Bubble Bobble. In the case of Qix++ there are less of the bells, whistles, gloss and page three spread; it’s a make-over that almost works.
The heart of Qix has a very simple concept; the player controls a small diamond like craft, able to navigate the edges of an empty rectangle which encompasses the boundaries of the TV screen. To win, the player must claim the blanks by moving his sprite into the void and enclose the empty areas, all whilst avoid nasty critters, the Qix, who are intent on killing you. It’s a bit like drawing a continually increasing line in the sand, with the enemy provoking you to get ever closer, and ever so daring.
In order to win a level, it’s necessary to claim back around 75% or more of the entire area – it’s not always an easy ask. It’s a gamble between gaining ground and getting caught, as within the unclaimed region lurks a geometric nasty, willing to end your existence if it hits you or the trail around the area your ship is attempting to claim – think of it as turf wars in a digital and less bloody way. This cat and mouse game gets ever more frantic as the unclaimed space gets smaller. There’s less room for the player to move about, and an increased chance that your ship will be caught
Qix++ doesn’t stray far from the original formula, but it does introduce a couple of things that try to justify the ++ moniker, and the price tag. Completing a level allows the player’s ship to be upgraded in their abilities across four areas, namely; shield, speed, cutter and luck, assuming they do well enough to earn upgrade points. This is achieved by beating the coverage criteria for the level; the further over the requirement you get, the more points there are to spend on advancements. Given that things generally get harder as the levels in each section progress, it’s a great strategy to do well earlier, in order to boost the power-ups that will help those high scores later on.
Qix++ does support a multiplayer mode, in which opponents compete against each other for maximum points. Once again, and something that often seems all too disappointing, the chances of getting an online game are about likely as Kermit the Frog eating pork chops. Sadly the original arcade version of the game isn’t included, most likely because it’ll be appearing in the Microsoft Arcade later this year.
Qix is without doubt a classic arcade game, and Qix++ does its best to try and warrant the 800 MSP price tag. The trouble is there’s simply not that much content here to justify it, and although there is a little room for replayability and high score chasing, the credits roll-up in under fifteen minutes playtime. If Tatio had for done Qix as Namco has done for Pac-Man, such as include a sweat inducing time-limited score-a-thon mode, there might have been more bang-for-the-buck. As it stands, Qix++ is a hard-sell.