Qix was the name of one of the most unique and challenging video games developed in the 1980's (by Taito). In its original release (1981) it was a raster based arcade game. Because there were so many variants of Qix (i.e. Super Qix et. al) and because it came out for so many different platforms (Arcade, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Genesis, etc), it can be thought of more as a concept than a game.

The premise of the game is somewhat difficult to describe to people who have never played it. Imagine a rectangle playing field (Sometimes the field was different, but mostly it just filled the monitor). You control a little moving object (it varied depending on which version of Qix you played, but often it was a spaceship) that moves around the perimeter of the rectangle. Inside the rectangle is an enemy that moves around in a pseudo-random path (in the original version of qix the enemy was just a trail of vector-looking lines, similar to the classic screensaver).

Your job is to move out off of the perimeter along the inside of the rectangle from one point on the perimeter to another, creating a line along the inside area of the field without you or your line getting hit by the enemy. Once this line is complete from one point on the perimeter to another, the area enclosed by this new line is "shaded in", and you are safe from the enemy again and can move along your new line without fear of getting hit.

The rules regarding the shading of the area are a little tricky. Let's use an example. Say you're in the center of the long side of the rectangle, and you move straight up the rectangle to the other side. This is a risky move. The chances are very high that the enemy is going to cross your path, and thus hit you and make you lose a life. Therefore, the rewards are great. Each level has a predetermined percentage of the field you must shade in before you can advance, and if you complete this risky move you'll have shaded in 50% of the field that the enemy is not on. This is key. You can't trap the enemy in a line you've drawn, the game will always shade to the other side. This is where the strategy comes in. If you trap the enemy in a box to the far, far corner of the field, you've shaded in a huge amount! The problem is that it's difficult to move that fast without getting hit. To make matters worse, little "sparks" move along the lines you've drawn (but not those that you're currently drawing), and if they hit you, you die.

In order to truly appreciate the skill and reflexes that come with being a Qix master, not to mention a good understanding of the game, one must actually play it. The very fact that it has shown up in so many different incarnations demonstrates that it was, and is, a truly original puzzle game.

Qix

Platform: Gameboy
Release Year: 1990
Developer: Taito
Players: Single Player, (Single Gameboy Multiplayer)
ESRB Rating: Everyone

Not your grandfather's Tetris...

No plot. No characters. Repetitive music.

Must be a puzzle game for the Gameboy!

Gameplay:
A line monster roams the screen. Around the screen, two blips following the perimeter of the box. You, the lone hero of Screen-ville, have to capture the line monster while avoiding his blip applies. Your only tools? Fencing. It is up to you, brave warrior, to defeat this Qix monster and get the girl.

Only, there's no girl.

Oh yeah. And that plot was entirely of my own devising. But, that is pretty much the game. You use the two buttons and the control pad to make a fence around this Qix. Both buttons make the fence, but with one of them you move slower and score higher. You get points for trapping him in the smallest area possible (the most being 99% of the screen). But, if the Qix touches your fence while it's still being made, then you're down a life.

The game is simple. But the game can go on forever, getting harder and harder. Adding more Qix's. Eventually, it's just so hard that you end up failing again and again. But damned if failing doesn't make you try again. And again. And again.

Sound:
The sound is the reason you thought of this game, isn't it? Commercials of el Mario-achi playing his little guitar so happily, right?

Oh. Right... Most people don't remember crappy commercials. Well. I do. Because I happen to have this one on tape. Sitting downstairs in my shrine to all things that I could care less about, but don't want to get rid of because I might use it some day.

But ANYWAY. The sound.

Essentially, the game's sound is there to warn you of what's going on. Of when you're moving fast, when moving slow. When the blips have "powered up" and when the Qix kills you. It's perfect. For me, it allowed a honing of concentration available in other games only by turning the volume off. And even then, it wasn't the same. Because there were sounds that helped me recognize events.

But that's not why the sound in this game is awesome.

When you lose, you get a musical send-off. It could be any number of things. From Mario. To a snake Charmer. To... Mario. Okay. So the options aren't massive. But I always felt like I had accomplished something when I got the cheery little "Game Over" music.

Graphics:
Lets be fair. The original Gameboys games weren't pretty. They were simple in visuals, usually. Good, in a lot of cases (Link's Awakening anyone?). But simple. Qix is as simple as it gets. You play a diamond that makes lines. To trap a line monster. It seems pretty silly when you hear it. But that literally makes up all of the graphics. Oh yeah. And there are two slightly different shades, for the filled in boxes.

Still, it worked. The graphics don't distract you when you are deciding what to do. This seemed a benefit to me. I could focus on the game instead of flashy add-ons. Your mileage may vary.

Fun:
Qix is a puzzle game. I am an addict. It is terribly easy for me to sit down and play games like this for hours with nothing gained in the end, except the occasional spurt of joy from moving beyond my previous records.

That being said, Qix is a good game. Hell, Qix is a great game. In the same way that Tetris was a great game. It was addicting as HELL. There is no real benefits to doing well. Hell, the game doesn't even save your high scores when you turn it off. It's a Gameboy game, for god's sake. Give it a break.

(Apparently, Qix deserved a remake. When the Gameboy Colour game out, they created a game call Qix Adventure. Apparently, it's much more entertaining. I wouldn't know. I hated the Gameboy colour and still do.)

If you like puzzle games, Qix is a must have. If not, you won't be happy with it. That about sums it up.

Title: Qix
Developer: Taito
Publisher: Taito
Year: 1981
Platforms: Arcade, Atari 5200, Commodore 64, Apple IIGS, Nintendo Game Boy, NES, Atari Lynx
Genre: Arcade
Players: One or two players (taking it in turns)

Released by Taito in 1981, Qix is a unique arcade game. While it bears a striking resemblance to an Etch-a-Sketch, it is in fact a fast, addictive game that has nothing to do with creative drawing.

Your goal is to claim at least 75% of the play area. You do this by making a sort of spider web that automatically gets coloured in. Your only enemies are the Sparx, which travel around the edge of your web and kill you by touching you, and the Qixes, which move freely within the part of the play area you haven't claimed yet and kill you by touching a new thread you're still making.

The first few levels only have one Qix each, but on later levels there are two Qixes, enabling you to complete the level by separating them into different parts of the play area by creating a thread in between them.

The scoring system works well: you get more points for building your web slowly (which leaves the new thread exposed to the Qix for longer), for separating two different Qixes, or for claiming more than the minimum 75% of the screen (which can tempt you into making very bold moves right next to the deadly Qix).

The Qix itself is one of the most fiendish enemies I've seen in a game: mostly content to wander around aimlessly, it will occasionally dart from one side of the screen to the other in order to catch you off guard. Trying to work out when and where it's safe to create new threads, and when to run for cover, is what makes Qix so exciting.

As each generation of computer games becomes more elaborate than the last, it's easy to overlook some of the lesser known golden age titles such as this quirky game. It was never as popular as the iconic Pac-man or Space Invaders, and wasn't helped by Atari releasing it on their ill-fated 5200 and Lynx consoles instead of their more popular 2600.

This game has been ported to popular consoles, however, making it relatively easy to find second hand. Personally, I like the Game Boy version as it remains faithful to the original arcade game yet scraps the odd colour scheme due to the console's monochrome screen.

Qix is easily as addictive as Asteroids or Centipede, and it won't ruin your trigger finger. If you like the innovative arcade games of the eighties, this is up there with the best of them.

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